Review: ‘Outcast’ offers exorcism with a special punch

Tom Long
The Detroit News

Kyle Barnes has a different approach to exorcism. He doesn’t pray until the demon comes out. He punches the demon out.

This technique has its ups and downs. Sometimes the demon emerges, sometimes not. Sometimes you end up with a small kid with two black eyes. Oh, well, it’s better than just standing around praying.

Not that a lot of praying doesn’t go on in “Outcast” which, following in the wake of AMC’s “Preacher,” is the second high profile supernatural-spiritual-huh? TV series based on a comic book to debut in recent weeks.

“Outcast” comes with a high pedigree — it’s created by Robert Kirkman, the same comics writer who created “The Walking Dead,” arguably the most popular show on television. “Outcast” is a far more restrained, even intimate affair at first, but you get the feeling that it could turn into “The Walking Possessed.”

It revolves around Kyle Barnes (Patrick Fugit), a troubled soul who seems to bring even more trouble wherever he goes. His mother was possessed, a violent problem Kyle eventually solved in an unfortunate way. Then his wife was possessed — more will come about that later — so now he’s living by himself in a broken-down shack in his small North Carolina hometown.

But wouldn’t you know it? People hereabouts have been getting possessed, as well (thanks for moving back home, Kyle). Sensing that Patrick has some innate knowledge of demons, the local preacher (Phillip Glenister) enlists Patrick’s help in exorcising a local boy who has eaten his own finger. And so it begins.

By the series’ second episode you worry that it’s going to become a possession-of-the-week show, but then things open up a bit. Where do Kyle’s powers come from, how widespread is this possession thing and does religious belief even factor into the mix.

There are side stories and supporting characters — Reg E. Cathey as the tight-lipped local sheriff, Wrenn Schmidt as Kyle’s worried stepsister, and Brent Spiner (geek alert) as some dude who may or may not be the devil incarnate.

But the show is mostly a slow-burn look at Kyle as he tries to make sense of all the damage that seems to follow — and grow — around him. He may yet turn to prayer.

Tom Long is a longtime culture critic.



10 p.m. Friday