Please don’t judge harshly and never shoot the messenger, but you’re watching the wrong Robert Kirkman show. As my excellent collaborator pointed out in this article, The Walking Dead is done, down a hole so deep it may never reemerge. I offered them my advice here, but the team didn't listen. Now, it's Outcast’s time to shine. Let me explain.
Even before the premiere issue of Robert Kirkman’s new comic was debuted, word came out that it would be made into a TV show. This was unsurprising to many, as #RobertKirkman, the man behind The Walking Dead comic, had already spun off two TV shows from that source material. The Walking Dead has been a ratings and pop culture success while Fear the Walking Dead has been, well, less so. With word that the new project #Outcast would do for exorcisms what The Walking Dead did for zombies, I was intrigued.
After adding the comic to my pull list, I read through a few issues but felt a bit overwhelmed, confused, and disinterested in the comic. I wasn’t a fan of the art, and the storytelling felt a bit rushed and frenetic. When the show made its debut in June, I was interested but maintained low expectations. How could this show be a hit? It’s on Cinemax for crying out loud.
What I found was surprising, though. The tone, the look and the feel of the show really appealed to me. I was no longer reading the comic, so the content was completely novel and unexpected during the 10-episode first season. Now that spring is around the corner, I find myself being more and more excited by Outcast Season 2 and less and less excited about Season 7B of #TheWalkingDead.
To me, one thing is clear: Outcast is, and will be, the superior show from Robert Kirkman. Here’s why:
5. Stories Built For The Screen And The Panel
I don’t know this with certainty, but it is reasonable to suggest that Kirkman always knew Outcast was going to be adapted into a show. Assuming this was the case, he was able construct characters, settings, plots and conflicts with both the comic panel and the TV screen in mind, allowing for a smoother transition from one medium to the other. Using makeup, practical effects, and CGI to create a herd of zombies getting sliced in half by two cars on a hot highway seems much more labor intensive and expensive than having two guys perform an exorcism on a boy in a dark bedroom.
Having an evolving setting of different communities, locations and sets used to recreate the prison, Alexandria, the Hilltop and the sanctuary leads comic fans to be disappointed by the onscreen counterparts. What do you need for Outcast? Just a few houses in a town that looks like West Virginia. Done. The seamless translation from panel to screen makes Outcast the better product.
4. A Streamlined Cast
Where The Walking Dead has a huge cast that is usually spread out across time and space, Outcast is tight, concentrated and concise. The majority of Season 1 is comprised of a main cast of six. These six characters get enough screen time each episode to let the viewer connect with them and really understand their motivations.
Lately in The Walking Dead we get an entire episode about characters that are hardly interesting. Tara eating a salted fish and Eugene eating a pickle from an oversized jar? Don’t care. Kyle Barns and Reverend Anderson having a talk about sucking demons out of people while driving down the back roads of West Virginia? Count me in. Rather than a superficial look at nearly 20 characters, Outcast gives me a fulfilling view of a handful. Just the way my brain likes it. Another point to Outcast.
3. Stellar Acting
Of course, a streamlined cast looks pretty terrible if the acting is not there to pull off the heavy lifting. Here, the Cinemax series continues to gain serious traction over AMC’s original. In Outcast, Patrick Fugit, Philip Glenister, Wrenn Schmidt and Kate Lyn Sheil are acting circles around anyone in the current cast of The Walking Dead. David Denman and Brent Spiner offer welcome departures from their time in The Office and Star Trek: The Next Generation.
Sadly, The Walking Dead keeps killing off their best actors, only to be left with a group that struggles to make the material work and show real chemistry. As the Outcast players intermingled throughout Season 1, the chemistry was palpable, which made for a great viewing experience.
2. Fewer Episodes Per Year
Let’s think back to one of the best shows of the 21st century. Let’s remember how Lost was ruined by a team that insisted on stretching and dragging out the show. Imagine what that show could have been with a 10 or 12–episode season. Season 1 of Outcast had 10 parts that felt even and well-paced. The Walking Dead season is regularly filled with episodes that are clear throwaways that lend little to the overall vision of the plot and the characters we are expected to care about. I suppose that’s what happens when you have 16 hours to fill each year. Less is more.
1. Increased Freedom On Cinemax
How violent and aggressive would the Governor have been on Cinemax? Could we have seen more of that relationship between Glenn and Maggie? Lastly, what would Negan sound like without the restriction of censors and advertisers’ dollars? Surely, shows can (and do) work without nudity and swearing, but the increased freedom creates characters that are more realistic and multidimensional, making them more appealing and interesting to the viewers. These characters make Outcast.
Now, Outcast has some nudity and Outcast has some swearing, but that isn’t what the show is all about. These things do not make the show; they enhance the show. There is no doubt that Kyle Barnes and Rev. Anderson are far more compelling without restriction than they would be on basic cable.
Because of Outcast, I'm watching Friday night Cinemax like a 13-year-old.
Are you a fan of Outcast or a diehard dead-head?