Saturday, April 23, 2011

Review: Outcasts "Episode 5"

Non Spoiler Review:
A new episode, with a new stranger walking into Forthaven. That's unusual, given there shouldn't be any strangers. This one creates a ruckus by tossing around diamonds like cash. That sparks a mystery to find out who he is and a journey to the forbidden areas of Carpathia. Cass and Fleur continue to be the dynamic duo always off on their weekly adventures, but this time Stella and Jack get to spend some quality time together, too. On the political side of things, Julius ramps up his game against Tate, who is mired by all the secrets coming out about his administration.

While offering intriguing tidbits on a variety of fronts, the plot seemed to drag out extremely long this time around. After sitting through a lot of teases of information, not a lot was revealed, leading to a disappointing conclusion. The saving grace was an ominous final scene.

Spoilers Now!
On a rainy night in Forthaven, a mystery man enters the bar (where Lily now works), sits down and orders whiskey, paying for it with a bag of diamonds he got by the ocean (which is, apparently, a closed zone rife with radiation dangers, as Tipper informs him). His name is Pack, and he quickly manages to insult Jack, prompts a bar brawl, then runs off into the night to be pursued by Fleur and Cass. Unfortunately, both are somehow knocked out.

Stella advises Tate that the jawbone is definitely hominid, which means it would be the most insane discovery in human history. But Tate tells her to take it with a grain of salt, given there were human fossils on the last transport. And, by the way, he doesn't know how or why, but his kids are back (!). Stella has little time to absorb that little tidbit when she's informed her people are missing, and so she goes to interview Lily and Tipper.

After getting the lowdown, she and Tate realize that Pack could be short for Patrick, as in Patrick Baxton, the first man to step foot on Carpathia 11 years ago, went insane, tried to kill everyone, and escaped in a vehicle that subsequently exploded in a fireball due to Carpathia's crazy radiation. Stella wants to find out and go to the ocean—despite it being in the control zone and against Tate's wishes (could he have secrets there, too?). But she wants to learn anything more she can about the fossils.

Jack, meanwhile, is not happy his people are busy looking for bones, and tells Julius that as he reports about all the diamonds Pack was spreading around. Julius advises him to keep it quiet (as knowledge is power) and it looks like the two of them together are going to be bad news.

Stella enlists Jack to head off in search of the others, but Baxter has already led Cass and Fleur to the ACs (which are always everywhere, I guess). They seem to know him and will let them pass if they give up their weapons, so Fleur reluctantly agrees, and after they pass, Baxter tosses the guns down the cliff. They have little choice but to go with him.

Stella and Jack encounter the ACs later, and Jack's man is killed, leaving the two of them to wait until nightfall until moving on. While they're hunkered down, Jack wants to know what's the big deal with the ocean. Stella wants to see the coast to see if life started there. He tells her she thinks too much.

At camp, Fleur confronts Baxter about being the first man on Carpathia, asking what really happened. He confesses the first man was actually an AC, who walked around for awhile to ensure the surface was safe. Baxter followed. But the AC died of a virus very quickly as his immune system wasn't updated. Baxter realized then the planet didn't want them.

As Fleur recounts, the story was that he killed his CO and took off in a plane. But he says nothing to confirm or deny that. They soon arrive at the site of his plane crash, where he said his legs were shattered after he ejected. Apparently his dog brought him wood for flints for his legs, though Fleur reminds him there are no dogs on Carpathia. He says he'll take them on to the sea where he wants to have some human beings around him again when he dies.

The settlement is going diamond crazy, using the few Baxter brought to trade and going off in search of their own. Tate cracks down on restricting people's movements outside the perimeter. Julius says he agrees with the lock down and is more than happy to speak to the people if Tate wants him. Tate allows him, but warns him off any talk of a universal spirit.

While Tate chastises the people for falling to avarice, Lily is mugged and has her diamond stolen. Tipper blames Julius, and seems to see through his rise to power.

At the ocean, Cass and Fleur are elated to see a beach again. Baxter watches them run off and play in the surf, and smiles.

Stella and Jack are getting close, but Jack gets bitten by a fly and appears to have an allergic reaction. She treats him and he recovers.

Baxter walks down the beach, with his dog running around him. He walks into the water and collapses. Fleur and Cass drag him out but he's dead. They opt to leave, though they don't know the way back.

Jack and Stella arrive after they're gone. The radiation levels are nearly zero, oddly enough. Jack finds the diamonds everywhere in the sand and Stella finds another fossil. She sends up a flare which does alert Cass and Fleur, and soon everyone is reunited again.

While Jack gathers diamonds, Stella finds skeletons among the rocks, but they have to leave as the tide is coming in. Stella decides to leave them there, lying together as a family. Later, Jack wonders why there are no other advanced species on Carpathia aside from flies and trees and such. There seems to be a big chunk of fauna missing. Off in the distance, a dog runs around the rocks.

When Tate denies Julius a portfolio on council he threatens he can get two thirds majority to overturn it. Tate says if he wants to remove him as president he's not going to make it easy for him. Stella reports back to Tate and discusses the proto-human fossils and the more supernatural hallucinations he's suffered, but realize all they have are questions (like us!).

In his quarters, Julius pulls out some kind of transmitter and announces himself as Alchemist to CT-10. Tate has violated his mission and has no ambition beyond utopian ideals, he says. He will ensure neither he nor his supporters will be in a position to offer resistance upon their arrival—they being another transport ship we see approaching—CT-10.

The Verdict:
There's a lot of Carpathia mysteries being bandied around this week—more visions, the radioactive ocean (or lack thereof), the hominids, Baxter's backstory—a lot of questions with few answers to be found at the end, so it was disappointing to get that after enduring a very leisurely paced episode.

It felt a bit of a cheat that Baxter got very little explanation, especially the murder of his CO and escape. So we're left with more unresolved mysteries. And again, the ACs seem to be experts on everything outside of Forthaven.

I did find it odd that the diamonds would have such an effect on the population, given they're not an essential item in the context of a day to day struggle establishing a colony on a new planet—diamonds would have no purpose outside of industrial use, and no value aside from trinkets, especially given the original settlers have been away from Earth for fifteen years. Who would even care about them?

Cass and Fleur's relationship continues to gel, and it's obvious he has a thing for her. But more important, Jack gets some time with Stella, to hopefully counteract Julius' influence. Stella remains a big wild card because everyone seems to be vying for her support and she doesn't carry all the baggage that Tate does.

The ending brought a big surprise and the promise of the arrival of another large group of people, which left me wondering what Tate's original mission was, and how closely he and Julius see things. Is civil war coming? What kind of ideals are represented on the approaching CT-10? So, a bit of an off episode in many ways, and pretty damn slow, it felt, but likely essential in setting up all these pieces. As long as they pay off.

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