'Outer Range' review: A puzzle with no solution

Josh Brolin stars in supernatural cowboy series that presents way more questions than it answers.

Tom Long
Special to The Detroit News

“Outer Range” is a complete mess: Senseless, pretentious, purposely obscure and wasteful.

This supernatural cowboy would-be thriller is Puzzle TV at its worst, all disjointed fragments and roads to nowhere. Puzzle TV — think shows like “Lost,” “Twin Peaks” and the recent “Severance” — commonly asks the viewer to fill in blanks, to make connections and discern truths. But as with any puzzle some of the pieces have to fit together to help point the way.

Josh Brolin in "Outer Range."

Nothing really points the way in “Outer Range.” After eight episodes it’s not even clear there is a way.

Josh Brolin stars as Royal Abbott, patriarch of a ranching family in Wyoming. One day he discovers a mysterious, seemingly endless hole on a remote part of his land. Being tight-lipped and a character in a TV show he tells no one about it.

Soon there’s a murder, a feud with a powerful neighboring clan, and a “hippie chick” (Imogen Poots) camping nearby. There’s also an inexplicable buffalo walking around with arrows stuck in its hide. Oh, and a dead baby bear. 

Did we mention that Royal’s daughter-in-law disappeared six months ago? Or that Royal just showed up at the ranch as a child? Or that his neighbor and rival (Will Patton) is trying to steal the land the mysterious hole is on?

There’s way, way more. This is a show that loves to throw out clues and plot shifts without having them lead anywhere. A show can get by on that for a while if it has a unique aesthetic or tone — again, see “Twin Peaks” or “Lost” — but there is no such aesthetic at work in “Outer Range,” just seemingly random bluster.

There are some good performers here, notably Lili Taylor as Royal’s wife and “Schitt’s Creek” vet Noah Reid as a goofy singing cowboy, but they’re for naught. “Outer Range” is simply ridiculous.

Tom Long is a longtime contributor to The Detroit News. 

'Outer Range'


Amazon Prime Video