Josh Brolin series Outer Range gets weirder and even better in season two

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Josh Brolin returns in a new season of eerie, sci-fi-tinged drama Outer Rangestreaming on Prime Video. An impressed Stephen A Russell confirms the show’s best episode yet is just around the corner.

“Nature abhors a vacuum.”

So said the ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle. But then, he wasn’t counting on the dramatic potential opened by a great big, unexplained and seriously trippy (in more ways than one) hole appearing in the middle of a Wyoming cattle ranch.

Prime Video’s intriguing mystery series Outer Range is back for a bingeable second season, with many questions still swirling around said void’s eerie perimeter.

Swirling Western duds in soap opera suds, as Dallas popularised way before Yellowstone, Outer Range’s showrunner Brian Watkins and his writing also fold in supernatural/sci-fi elements, decidedly oddball characters and unexpected musical segues, not unlike David Lynch’s seminal series Twin Peaks.

There’s a strange oil in the soil, coalescing around this hole and others, creating portals that thrust folks (or arrow-injured bison) backwards or forwards in time. An astounding fact that Josh Brolin’s fantastically named, oft-scowling cattle farmer Royal Abbott takes in his stride.

The first season gradually teased out that this stoic man, locked in loggerheads with Will Patton’s snarlingly nasty neighbour Wayne Tillerson and his clan, has known about the void’s jaw-dropping potential for quite some time. Long before Imogen Poots’ perma-grinning, possible cult escapee Autumn, who may or may not be related, pushed him backwards into it at the end of the show’s very first episode.

Fair warning: if you haven’t caught up with the dramatic season one finale, leap headlong into the show now and return when you’ve emerged from the void.

Halfway through season two, we still know almost nothing about the possible dystopian future Royal glimpsed there. Where a militarised mining corporation appeared to have gouged great swathes into the landscape around the now long-gone Abbott homestead.

The void’s a convenient place to get shot of dead bodies, like the eldest Tillerson scion Wayne (Matt Lauria), accidentally offed by the eldest Abbott lad Perry (Tom Pelphrey) in a bar fight. A dirty deed for which the finger of blame turns towards his youngest brother, Rhett Abbott (Lewis Pullman), enraging middle Tillerson son Luke (Shaun Sipos), he of the tight tops and too much testosterone. Youngest Tillerson Billy (Schitt’s Creek scene-stealer Noah Reid) would rather break out in song in his undies, but he’s increasingly swayed to the dark side by Autumn’s meddling.

As Outer Range progresses, we’ll witness how that surreal soil can stay death’s scythe. A handy bit of mineral munching seems to undo what should have been a brutal end for two key characters seriously smashed up after the dramatic season one finale flexed the ol’ Western shoot-out, swapping in pick-up trucks for horses.

The thing is, what goes missing, or almost comes a cropper, in these parts—family members, mountains, far-out starscapes—has an awkward habit of popping back when you least expect it.

For all the brotherly feuds and Autumn’s inscrutable scheming, it’s what happens in the past that really sets Outer Range a-singing. Particularly thanks to the show’s real MVP, acting Sheriff Joy, played with heart and soul by Tamara Podemski. She’s a battler who’s gunning for the top gig in the face of a rumbling undercurrent of prejudice against both her queer sexuality and her First Nations heritage.

A proud Shoshone woman, speaking the language saves her when her plunge into the void deposits Joy in 1872, slap bang in the middle of the nation’s ongoing colonial invasion. Watching her navigate painful history up close and personal is majestic AF. Season two unveils a show-best bottle episode that’s Joy’s hour to shine. It also reveals a needle in the haystack as we begin to figure out how loose threads picked way back then are woven into the fabric of the present.

Perry finally faces up to his crime in another era of the past. Leaping into the unknown, falling back to move forward, his season two arc is a bracing bit of Back to the Future magic that offers more of the show’s emotional core.

Where are we going with all this? The thing about mysteries is, the longer you don’t know, the better. Lynch fought the studio not to reveal Laura’s killer so soon in Twin Peaks. With Outer Range, you get the sense there’s no such pressure bearing down on Watkins.

Is Yrsa Daley-Ward’s Dr Bintu right when she says all this mayhem is down to unexplained science? “There’s this theory that the fabric of time and space is fluid,” she suggests. “That’s what I believe is flowing beneath the land.”

Or will Lili Taylor’s Abbott matriarch Cecilia reconnect with her faith and convince her husband a higher power is working down there? But which one? If you gaze into the pit, you might catch a fallen angel glaring back. After all, in one of the show’s uncannily timed comedy breakouts, Wayne Tillerson refers to the return of his ex-wife, Deirdre O’Connell’s scenery-chewing Patricia, in fiery terms.

“Oh hell, Satan has sent his emissary.”

We’re burning up for more on the Outer Range.