Friday, April 8, 2011

Review: Outcasts "Episode 3"

Non Spoiler Review:
Forthaven gets a disaster episode, as the end of the white out season promises a respite from their wacky storms, until the notes from a late scientist offer up a more ominous theory about Carpathia's environmental cycle. There are the usual catastrophe clichés—the imminent wedding of two characters, various citizens in peril—but it really makes for an effective hour, especially seeing the devastation these electromagnetic sand storms wreak as they sweep over the landscape. The crisis provides movement on many plot points—the ACs, Julius' slow rise to power (and some surprising allies), relationships between various players—all making for a very good episode.

Outcasts has won me over if it continues with this level of quality, and there are more than enough mysteries floating around, I want to see them answered. The character interactions are very reminiscent of the early days of Battlestar Galactica, getting to know these people (and their flaws). Even (the obvious villain) Julius is subtle enough to break away from the standard expectations.

One of Outcasts' strengths (and what makes it different from similar ideas that came before) is picking up the colony ten years in, rather that focusing on the initial travails of settlement. Tate says himself that after ten years they're stronger now, and it allows a lot more freedom with storylines. We still get the new colonists in the form of the CT-9 survivors, but what's interesting to watch is the history (and baggage) of the original settlers now that they're a decade in their new home.

Spoilers Now!
All is calm at Forthaven as the white out season is over (maybe). Cass is playfully flirting with an ex-girlfriend, Trix, who is getting married that day to Leon, while we find out Tipper runs the radio station and has a love for old vinyl. Fleur heads out of town on her own, avoiding Jack's inquiries as to where she's going (he's obviously interested in her but she continues to brush him off). She's got the baby (stuffed into a duffel bag), and is on a special mission from Tate to return it to Rudi. 

Stella is a bit concerned about how that will all turn out. But in the meantime, Julius has given her some notes that were passed to him on the transport during the evacuation. A brilliant scientist had been working on the white out patterns and had made an important discovery that was crucial to Forthaven. Stella can't make anything out of the theorems, but she's worried enough to advise Tate to put the community on alert just in case something is going to happen. She knows a brilliant prodigy who might be able to help—Tipper. 

And the white outs look like they might be a problem, because every other scene shows some sand getting kicked up and weird electrical discharges—while Rudi walks along the river, there's a sudden waterspout/lightning storm, and from orbit the atmosphere of Carpathia is getting nasty.

Stella gets Tipper to have a look at the data, but he's not very keen on using his child prodigy powers. He makes a point of asking if the professor was Jewish, given his last name, and Stella's family is too (an odd comment which didn't seem to go anywhere). Stella tries to get him to focus, and asks him to at least attempt to decipher the math.

The ACs and Rudi find Fleur and she tells him she's come unarmed to bring back the baby. Rudi admits that he was planning on killing everyone (but Fleur) during the hostage crisis, but he has no issue with her and asks her to stay and talk.

He explains some more of what went on back in the day, when Mitchell had taken the ACs out to kill them (on Tate's order). But he stopped and showed them pity. Then he says a big white out is coming, and he'll take her back to town (AC eyes are adapted for the storms). If she should want to talk to him again she can send up a flare.

Tipper has come to some conclusions, but what he sees is evidently not comforting. He muses about how he had to leave his family behind on Earth because he was the smart one and his sisters didn't warrant a ticket on the transport. Then he takes pleasure in making Cass wait on him while he analyzes data, but pushes him too far saying he heard rumours Cass was involved in killing an AC outside the fence. Given we already know Cass has issues about being a thug, he flips out on Tipper and storms off. When he and Stella return, Tipper is gone—Cass tells her Tipper has no desire to be the prodigy he was back on Earth.

Julius sits down in the park with Lily (they never really met on the transport), and urges her to make amends with her mother. So she goes to the command centre to let her mother know she's doing well, and offers Stella a chance to explain her choices in coming to Carpathia and abandoning them.

Tate wanders along the town wall and finds a child's cup in the bushes—one that his boys used when they were little. Jack comes out with Leon and Grant (who are off to secure the Earth beacon for the potential storm), and Tate is left wondering what's going on with this find, and  last week's bizarre moving paper.

Tipper has a meltdown on the radio as he talks about leaving his sisters behind. Trix is getting ready for her wedding day, hears what's going on and heads off to find him, running into Cass along the way. They break in and Tipper concedes he'll help them, but he wants to see his sisters again.

So Tipper explains that there is a final white out event as the cycle ends (a storm five times larger than normal). The heat will be bearable, but the size of the dust storm will be massive. With mere hours remaining, Stella orders a lock down and tells Cass to retrieve Lily. Tate is going to address the populace, but Julius wants to, as well. Stella is on his side oddly enough, but Tate insists on a secular speech and none of this crazy universal spirit nonsense.

The mountains are cloaked in white mist and the storm appears to be gathering on the horizon as Fleur returns and Cass admonishes her for not telling him she was going. Tate addresses Forthaven to advise the citizens to take cover but maintain calm. Julius then has his turn and asks the citizens to join him in a moment of quiet meditation and talks about a universal spirit.

Fleur reports to Tate about her conversation with Rudi, and he's forced again to admit it was a desperate time when he ordered the AC's execution. Fleur thinks he needs to come clean about the whole incident to the general population before it gets to big to control.

Julius has a curious encounter with Jack as his men prepare the town for the storm. He seems to want him to acknowledge him through his compliments, as he does with everyone he encounters, but Jack is too busy. Jack, meanwhile, continues to flirt with Fleur.

As the white out begins, it's Julius who delivers Lily to Stella. They sit during the storm and talk about her father, with their hope he's still alive and will one day arrive. The storm moves in on Leon and Grant as they're securing the Earth beacon, and it's upon them before they can take shelter. Grant is trapped under debris.

Then the storm massively sweeps over Forthaven while Julius leads a prayer group. Tipper and Trix wait out the storm but she (crazily) runs off outside to look for Leon. Jack brings her back in. Cass has gone out in search of the men and finds them at the beacon. Grant tells them both to go as there's no way to free him in time, so they leave him, but are themselves knocked out by the electromagnetic craziness of the white out—until someone saves them and drags them inside a shelter. It's Rudi.

The storm subsides by morning. Grant is dead. Rudi wakes up Cass, letting him know he could have killed him easily, but he kept saying a woman's name when he was unconscious. Rudi says he saved him for now.

Cass returns with Leon. Julius has gained popularity from his speech, with suggestions he should be on the general council. Stella seems to agree that he's made a real effort, and Tate concedes. He's also going to make an announcement about the ACs. They can cope with the truth now, he's decided.

Tipper invites Cass to the wedding, and suggests he bring Fleur. The ceremony's held in the hospital as Leon recovers. Afterwards, Stella asks Tipper to come with her and hooks him up to the DBV so he can see his sisters again. Stella wants Lily to live with her, even though they both know it won't be easy.

Julius visits Tate as he looks out over the town from the command center. Julius says it's a testimony to his leadership, and Tate makes an offer for him to join the general council. He tells him they are a secular society and his prayer was inappropriate, but he's pleased they'll be working alongside one another. Julius is very happy, and looks forward to doing great things on Carpathia.

The Verdict:
Another great episode, not only due to the disaster-themed storyline, but for all the bits and pieces along the way. Some explanation on what exactly the white outs are (aside from lunar influences) would have been helpful in the context of the scientist's notes. But that plotline allowed for insight into Tipper's tortured mind. The effects really worked nicely, too—some good shots of the storm rolling over Forthaven.

Okay, so Trix and Leon's wedding was a bit too cliché (though neither died), and Trix's crazy running outside bit was a little much. The only other awkward moment was Tipper's Jewish comment, which I thought was going somewhere relevant to the overall political situation (anti-Semitism is prevalent on Earth at this point?). But it ultimately was just him trying to change the subject, I guess. It was an odd choice of writing, though.

The survivor guilt of the colonists is an ongoing theme that I'm pleased the writers are dealing with. Like Tipper, most would have left behind their families and arrived at Carpathia relatively young (given fifteen years since departing Earth). There must be lots of similar issues like that, especially with the last news out of Earth that no one else could be coming.

Stella continues to grow on me too, offering a few surprises in taking Julius' side on some matters. That was unexpected, as was the rapprochement with Lily, but better now than stringing along such a minor plot all season. And again with the DBV!

On to Julius, who is somewhat likable in his sociopathic way. The notion of his universal spirit is curious in how it relates to old religions, and if his ultimate goal is to set up a theocracy of some kind in this already secular society. He's a subtle snake in forging alliances where necessary and then offers bizarre comments like his bovine reference to Jack and his men.

The jury is still out on Rudi and his ACs, but that could be an anti-clone bias on my part, and if they get some more backstory as I'm sure they will, that will help flesh them out a bit better. Right now they seem just a force of destruction (rightly so given their treatment at the hand of Tate, perhaps). Is Tate hallucinating those weird experiences?

A potential Cass/Fleur/Jack triangle is being set up. I want to like Jack, but he's such a hothead it's hard to gain any affection for the character. Cass (with his big dark secret) and Fleur (with her idealism) are an obvious pairing. But it looks like Rudi has developed a fondness for her, too.

Now three episodes in I'm wondering why they spent so much time on Mitchell. A bit of a mislead and stunt casting in promoting Jamie Bamber if he's killed and gone, along with his wife, and his child shuffled off somewhere. Given their prominence in the premiere, I expected they would have some relevance after the fact.

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