It's not great sci-fi, but it can be decent drama. Ironically, episode 7 was the most down-to-earth episode of Outcasts yet, but that worked in its favour. I'm sure many sci-fi fans will disagree (vehemently, for those still opining the absence of futuristic off-road vehicles), as this week's storyline wasn't tinged with anything particularly imaginative -- but it was the first time the show seemed to fill its 60-minute runtime without too much slack, while Daniel Mays and Amy Manson suddenly came to life.
Earlier in the series, it was teased that Cass (Mays) either isn't who he claims to be, has a particularly scandalous past only Tate (Liam Cunningham) knows about, or both. You're not along if you'd forgotten about that. Episode 7 picked up the idea, with Cass receiving an anonymous handwritten note ("I know who you really are - be in touch soon") which immediately turned him into a paranoid mess. While drowning his sorrows at the bar, Cass was approached by an attractive woman calling herself Faith (Claire Keelan), whom he slept with, only to catch her stealing his gun from the next morning. Even worse, during the theft Faith glimpsed official documents that belong to Cass, proving his real name is Tom Starling. Is Faith the woman who sent him the taunting note? If so, is she going to blackmail him? And why did she steal his gun?
Meanwhile, Tate encountered an alien double of himself in his room, which threatened the inhabitants of Forthaven with the same fate that befell the indigenous hominids. Bang goes my theory that the alien intelligence and the skeletons are actually the same species from opposite ends of the evolutionary ladder! Resolving to make contact with the aliens and get a chance to settle any misunderstanding, Tate ventured into the mountains alone, believing that AC leader Rudi (Langley Kirkwood) might be able to help him broker a lasting peace. It was almost a Biblical subplot, with a leader of men walking a solitary mountain path, to commune with the "Gods" who take the form of his dead children, encountering the "slaves" he had condemned to death.
However, the emphasis of the story was on Cass, as he was forced to investigate himself after "Faith" (aka Carla Shapiro) was reported missing by her husband (Adrian Bower) and eye witnesses came forward with accounts of Carla running away from someone matching Cass' description. Mays was a lot stronger in this episode than he's been till now, possibly because he seems miscast as a tough law enforcer but can play scared and desperate very well. It was good fun watching Cass struggle to keep the lid on his secret; trying to find Carla before Fleur, which meant having to duck out of certain situations with the official investigation before his cover's blown. The situation also reminded me of Dexter, which often has its lead character caught in the midst of a police investigation he's secretly embroiled in and trying to solve from a different angle.
The similar approach worked well here, with the burgeoning Cass/Fleur relationship also feeling more substantial and believable, as it's previously carried the whiff of brother/sister camaraderie. They're not exactly a great romantic couple, but the actors seemed to appreciate getting relatable material to tackle, and the threat of their nascent romance being nipped in the bud was heartfelt. Both actors delivered their best work on the show.
Always good to see Claire Keelan, too. She's one of those actresses who can bounce from comedy to drama with seemingly little effort, and it's a shame she's never landed a regular role in a big hit show. Nathan Barley, No Heroics, The Trip, Outcasts -- all benefited from having her around, but she has a knack for choosing projects that are cruelly short-lived. She played the role of Carla nicely -- going from apparent femme fatale to beaten housewife. The script perhaps didn't make her story into anything truly compelling, but it would have been a mistake to take the focus off Cass and onto another guest-star we'll never see again, so I didn't mind the emphasis being on Cass's personal and professional turmoil.
Overall, Episode 7 had a good central story that perhaps should have come a few weeks earlier -- if only to turn Cass and Fleur into stronger presences on the show. My biggest complaint is that, for a penultimate episode, it wasn't very thrilling and didn't leave me gasping to see the finale. Even the mystery of the note sent to Cass was explained as coming from Berger (Eric Mabius), acting on information supplies to him by the CT10 transport ship, but the reasoning appeared to be primarily for mischief.
Still, there are enough storylines in play to make for a good finale -- although it's doubtful everything can, or will, be answered before Outcasts disappears into the ether.
- If you're keeping score, last week's episode of Outcasts (the first in its new Sunday night slot) grabbed 1.52m, down from the previous Tuesday's 2.70m, and way down on the premiere's already disappointing 4.5m.
- I'm surprised by how big Forthaven looked from a new, high angle here. It's a veritable sprawling city. You didn't get that feeling from the early episodes, but since episode 4 the show has done a better job establishing the scale of the place with CGI assistance.
- Is the alien intelligence indigenous to Carpathia? If they are, that doesn't make much sense to me. So they shared the planet with those hominids for millennia, then had a war and annihilated them? Maybe. But is it feasible that a planet would have two such very different, sentient species cohabiting on it? What kind of evolution created that circumstance? It would make more sense if the alien intelligence are refugees like the humans, who settled on Carpathia and exterminated the native people. But why have they waited 10 years before setting their sights on Forthaven? And why do they have no quarrel with the AC's? Is it the AC's who told the aliens that Tate's people are a threat?
- Why did none of the eye witnesses recognize Cass by name? He appears to be one of only two PAS officers looking after the 70,000 Forthavenites!
- I was preparing a theory that the aliens killed Forthaven's children with a virus because they need young human bodies to survive in. Does that sound feasible? Why else would they only kill the kids?