WGN just cancelled Manhattan after 2 seasons, but is far from pulling out of the serious drama game. Outsiders, their homemade brew of Justified, Sons of Anarchy, Mad Max and The Shire, however, is not going to win them any awards. The pilot episode ‘Farrell Wine’ is mildly entertaining and even a bit pretentious.
Big & Little
No quality drama series without a big name at the heart of it. House of Cards got Kevin Spacey, The Man in the High Castle Rufus Sewell, Bosch Titus Welliver, Hand of God Ron Perlman, True Detective Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson, Fargo Kirstin Dunst and Ted Danson, Game of Thrones Sean Bean, American Crime Story John Travolta. To name only a few, of course. Outsiders got David Morse (Treme, House MD, The Green Mile) and fan favorite Ryan Hurst (Opie on Sons of Anarchy). Their characters, Big Foster and Little Foster, are part of the Farrells. Mountain folk. Cut off from the rest of the world, brewing their own moonshine, marrying their own cousins. And believing in ‘the prophecy’.
The only contact they have with the outside world, is when they do so-called ‘runs’. Either by car (they do have a car) or by quad (yes, they have those, too), they drive into the nearest town, grab what they need and off they go again. People just let it happen. It doesn’t happen too often, besides, these Hobbits from Hell are dangerous. Even the local police are scared of them. Officer Wade Houghton (Thomas M. Wright, The Bridge) has a yet undisclosed history with the Farrells, and even covers up whatever crimes he can, just to avoid going up the mountain to ask them some questions. The rule is: they don’t come down, we don’t come up. Seems to me that the first part is not quite respected as well as the last part.
Believe it or not, this has been going on for years and everybody’s okay with it. But times have changed and Big Coal has laid its eyes on the mountain. There’s money to be made, jobs to be created, so the Farrell Clan has to go. ‘Relocate’. Step 1 is bringing them an eviction notice, stapled on a tree; it’s easier to arrange a sitdown with Hillary Clinton than to talk face to face with these dirty, smelly tree huggers. They’re not likeable people. You’d assume the show would take their side, but about everything we see them do, is despicable. David Morse definitely doesn’t play the hero in this story. Big Foster’s a man who can’t wait to be in control. Lead. It’s only a matter of time before Lady Ray Farrell (Phyllis Somerville, The Big C) steps down from her wooden throne and he can do what he wants, basically.
Unfortunately for him, Lady Ray sees signs of the Prophecy coming true. It’s not time for her to hand over the crown just yet. In a somewhat predictable turn of events, Big Foster kills her. By hand. Like, holding his hand over her nose and mouth, which apparently does the trick. Because of the eviction notice, they’re going to need to defend themselves. In other words: they need guns. They know a guy who knows a guy who told them about somebody with a large gun collection. Big Foster makes another ‘run’ downhill, with his buddies and his young boy, who – another predictable plot twist – hides in the back of their pickup truck. Things go wrong. The neighbors come out with guns blazing. They escape, but Big’s son is shot dead.
This seems like a bunch of unsympathetic neanderthals are causing trouble in a small town, and yes, that is in a nutshell what the series Outsiders is. In order to root for the mountain folk in spite of everything, a hero character’s put into place: Asa (Joe Anderson, Hannibal, The River). A Farrell Clan deserter, if you will, who got a taste of the outside world, but came back. Big Foster has already tried to shoot him, so we know this is the guy we should be identifying with. It’s all a bit too much on the nose, and the premise isn’t quite exciting, so I’m afraid WGN has to go look for a new quality drama script (and big movie star) to invest in.