Josh Brolin’s “Outer Range” combines western and science fiction

Prime Video’s ‘Outer Range’ takes the western and sci-fi genres – both currently dominant on TV – and melds them into an eight-part mash-up series headlined by Josh Brolin, Lily Taylor and Imogen Poots.

Brolin plays Royal Abbott, who runs a modern sprawling ranch in Wyoming that has been owned by his wife Cecilia’s (Taylor) family for over 100 years. In a nod to the show’s Western theme, Abbott Ranch borders Tillerson Ranch, and the two families don’t get along too well, of course. The antagonism factor is amplified when grumpy Wayne Tillerson (Will Patton) takes on Royal in a land dispute that turns ugly.

Royal has a bigger headache; After hearing a strange noise that startled his cattle, he rides into one of his pastures and discovers a huge, perfectly formed, seemingly bottomless hole with strange, smoke-like particles floating around. And… here’s the sci-fi angle… suddenly strange things start happening. A strange, free-spirited, self-proclaimed “poet” Autum Rivers (Poots), whom Royal seems to know (he has no idea who she is), shows up at the ranch and asks to camp in the western pasture. She has an agenda, natch. Royal’s eldest son Perry (Tom Pelphrey) – whose wife Rebecca disappeared nine months earlier, leaving him with the help of his parents to raise their teenage daughter – gets into a brutal bar fight with Wayne’s son Trevor Tillerson, killing him. This darn mysterious hole that appears to be some sort of time portal comes in handy while interim sheriff Joy Hawk (Tamara Podemsky) starts snooping around on Trevor – and Royal learns firsthand that he’s not in control of his own reality. Or so.

Lily Collins, Josh Brolin and Tom Pelphrey in a scene "Outer Reach." They are in a kitchen with Pelphrey seated at the table and Collins and Brolin standing behind him.
Lily Taylor, Josh Brolin and Tom Pelphrey in a scene from Outer Range on Prime Video.
Richard Foreman/Amazon Prime Vid

Outer Range certainly has an interesting premise, and it’s a novel conceit to conflate a neo-Western premise (think Yellowstone) with science fiction. The series, which premiered on April 15, is taking a while to get going through no fault of the cast, particularly Brolin, who is 54 but whose weather-worn expression suggests someone much older (he is also executive producer with Brad Pitt and others). He has that stoic demeanor you’d expect from the likes of Royal Abbott – so stoic that he often seems oddly unfazed by his up-close encounters with this huge hole on his land.

There are several subplots thrown into the mix. Royal’s younger son Rhett (Lewis Pullman) is a pretty good rodeo bronco buster who is implicated in Trevor’s murder while romance with his high school sweetheart Maria (Isabel Arraiza) – back in town and working as a bank teller, after he burned out in college. And you will eventually meet Wayne’s estranged wife Patricia (Deirdre O’Connell).

Lewis Pullman and Isabel Arraiza as Rhett and Maria in "Outer Reach." They face each other;  Pullman smiles slightly.
Lewis Pullman and Isabel Arraiza as Rhett and Maria in Outer Range.
Richard Foreman/Amazon Prime Vid

The ever-reliable Taylor does a fine job as the royal’s godly wife, bending the rules – you’ll learn more about her in later episodes – and keeping an eye out Noah Reid, who played Patrick, David’s husband and business partner, on Schitt’s Creek. He’s cast here as Wayne’s youngest son, the kindhearted Billy Tillerson, who loves to sing and has plenty to do beneath his calm demeanor.

Outer Range is a bit on its head in terms of its interest factor, but then again, thanks to the sci-fi twist that saves it from mediocrity, you’ll want to know how it ends.

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