Outsiders, Season 2, “And the Three Shall Save You”; Season 1 primer here.
This got weird. Really kind of weird.
You know when you suddenly get a sense something went down on the set of the show? This just became one of those times.
In an opening scene Sheriff Wade is trapped in a brutal nightmare of a bloody confrontation between Farells and the police, absolute slaughter on a biblical scale with massive casualties on both sides. It’s gorgeous, brutal, bloody, highlighting all of Wade’s fears and prejudices perfectly, portraying the Farells as both victims and aggressors. Wade sees his police slaughtered, gunning down Farells in turn.
Wade dies in his dream, and wakes in hospital to the less impressive news that the Farells protested pretty dang peacefully but Wade, spooked for some reason, ran off, tumbling from a cliff and into a days long coma. He had to be carried unconscious down the mountain. He’s the town laughing stock, afraid of what some are now beginning to see as a bunch of hippies.
His day gets worse when he gets back to work and learns the Governor has installed an Emergency Manager, Matt, to deal with the struggling, nearly bankrupt town, and the Farell problem. Wade, who was against ever trying to move the clan until a Farell murdered his brother in law, insists they’ll need nothing short of an army to move the people from Shay mountain.
But, as it turns out … that’s not the plan anymore. The state Governor has pumped the brakes on the whole coal deal, and while it will go ahead eventually, it’s been put on indefinite hold as they actually fix the town budgets and figure out how to deal with the five hundred or so clan members.
Wade is more than a little flabbergasted. I … guess everyone wins?
Not that any of them realise this, of course. And … interesting choice to just pause your entire central conflict at the opening of your second season.
Up on the mountain, Gwen is Bren’in in all but oath, and she’s anxious about it. It’s clear that for all she did to get the job, she may not actually want it any more. Not with the Asa problem hanging over her head, not with her having tried to fatally poison Big Foster so she could get the job.
Lil Foster, her former fiancé before she up and married his father (I know, it’s like Appalachian Days of our Lives up in here) materialises to call her on aaaall her bullshit; she poisoned Big Foster to be Bren’in, a job she’s now unsure of. She made Asa shoot Big Foster and then had his skinny ass thrown in The Box, the Farell version of prison.
Because Lil Foster should be Bren’in, he astutely points out how right now the clan is scared and angry, infighting when there should be togetherness. He tells her to preach peace and love and passes her The Oak, the hand carved wooden staff around which all their power and perhaps their strange magicks orbit.
Out in the barn, Big Foster leftovers call for war, god damn hell ass WAR, but Craic the distiller, young Hasil and other Gwen supporters call for peace and love.
A scuffle breaks out and Should Be Bren’in Lil Fos ends it easily to try and allow Gwen time to take the floor. This is her moment. Gwen steps shakily forward and tries to give the kind of speech that should inspire people, talking about togetherness, peace, about the mountain only favouring them if they work together. She bans anyone from leaving the mountain until they figure out what to do and almost at once another argument breaks out.
Her words were heard but she has no real power over them, and it shows.
Later she visits the quiet, changed Little Foster at the campsite he made himself as a home away from her and his father. This is where I start to squint at Gwen a little. I don’t like when characters just insist on others like this. Gwen asks Lil Fos to track down Big Fosters missing body, which vanished after Asa shot him in the head. She tells Little Foster he ‘has’ to find his father, or, in their tradition, he or they won’t rest or be at peace.
Amazingly, Little Foster doesn’t point out it’s not his job to clean up her fucking mess. But then, Asa didn’t tell her where to go last year, when she decided it was his job to retrieve the body of a Farell who’s death was Big Fosters fault by proxy and Wade’s fault by means of the front of his fucking car.
No, instead, Too Good For This World Little Foster agrees he’ll bring his father home. While she’s there she might want to think about dealing with Asa. Lil Fos and Asa both know she had tried to poison Big Foster and Asa might not be so content to keep shut up about it now she locked him in a fucking box for a crime she made him commit. Guys, I had forgotten Gwen kinda pisses me off.
She’s like a smarter, more capable, but still kind of Winona Hawkins like archetype, asking people to fix mistakes she made.
She claims she’ll deal with Asa so Lil Foster heads off to the grave of his tiny little brother, Elon, who died because his father was such a colossal fuck up. Big Foster lay there and bled after being shot, and Lil Foster smears the moist soil between his fingers.
This episode goes harder in on the vague mysticism of the show than any other, including Wade’s strange experiences. Lil Foster smears the bloody soil on some old bones, prays and casts them and follows whatever he sees in their shapes into the surrounding woods.
Gwen, meanwhile, has realised The Box key is missing and rushes off to see if Asa is still there.
He’s loooong gone. Gwen freaks for a moment, but then she sees something strange; the three wolves who appeared to Asa, to prompt him back to the mountain. He saw them later when he burned all the evidence of who he was in his ten years gone. The mountain is reaching out.
Asa has been hiking down the mountain for days, pausing only to cast baleful, teary eyed looks back at the peak every now and again. He reaches A Town (it doesn’t matter which one and the show doesn’t care to tell you). He tears off his Farell waistcoat, casts away his knife and even ditches his bone pendant necklace.
See, because I’d let myself been taken in by the promos, I thought to myself that hey, maybe Joe IS in the show this year.
Guys … let me tell you …. no, let me get to it, later. It’s SO dumb.
So, Emily the Elder approaches Gwen to reassure her everything is ready for the coronation, but Gwen is wondering aloud if they shouldn’t hold off, you know, until they can bury Big Foster, what with Farell traditions and beliefs in how the clan wont rest … ?
Emily, hilariously, shrugs like ‘oh honey, fuck that guy’ and waves off that Big Foster was such a monster, he’s better off the mountain than on, and whoever stole his body can have the damned thing. Gwen asks about a part of the oath she has to take where she promises to take the Oak with a pure heart or risk consequences, and what if her heart isn’t pure. Emily, again, shrugs it off like, ‘Gurl no 1 is perf u good’.
If she has any inkling what Gwen did she doesn’t care at all.
Down in town, poor clueless Hasil finds Sally Ann, the girl he sort of abandoned to protect his family, leaving her alone to wander the mountain for days. Seriously, Hasil!
She’s righteously pissed, jobless, angry and Hasil doesn’t have much to say to his own defense. She laments her own innocence in thinking it could work, and ends it for good. Hasil, clutching a hand carved wooden bird, a thing between them, is crushed.
Gwen catches Hasil returning home and she’s sympathetic about Sally Ann, but reminds Hasil they need him. He reassures her he is done with the people down the hill. He’s never leaving the mountain again.
Later at home, Sally Ann learns she’s pregnant. She freaks out, only calming when she spots the bird Hasil has indeed left for her. Aaw, Sally Ann.
Remember as well, Sally Ann has a violent, abusive brother out there in the world, another out of work miner, who doesn’t want her with white dudes anyway, but especially doesn’t want her with Hasil.
Wade is with his sister, the woman whose husband Big Foster murdered last season. She asks about the mountain and he admits he thought he saw lighting, thought he was struck like dad was.
For all Wade goofed up, it’s worth a mention, he had pretty full blown PTSD about the mountain and a petrifying fear of lighting (back in season 1); see, their father once tried to chase the Farells of the mountain. A Farell, Big Fosters father, was killed in the attempt. Not long after Wade’s father was struck and killed by lighting, leaving Wade convinced of that vague, mystical power the family seems to have.
His sister takes the news with a shrug, and he promises he’ll find Breece’s killer-he thinks it was Asa.
She begs him not to go back to the mountain. She was also pro-Farell in season 1, and one of few townsfolk rightfully skeptical of the coal peoples’ intentions, having researched how they’ll poison the whole town and won’t create anything near as many jobs as they promised. She blames the coal people and not the Clan for her husband’s death and wants it to be done, wants Wade at home.
Wade is a man on a mission though, and he will find the killer.
Remember how Wade had an opiate addiction in Season 1 and only got clean days before he led a small battalion of cops up the mountain?
Sure feels like all this new trauma and a stint in hospital, where they give you drugs, might have shaken his recovery, right? Lets see if that thread died too. And the mystery of his wife’s death.
Lil Foster is doing more mystic searching and finds one of Big Fosters long white hairs, then some friendly dogs he immediately befriend because Lil Foster is beautiful human. The dogs owner is a local hunter but refreshingly pro-Farell, believing the cops and coal folk have no right to chase them out.
As they’re on a road to town he points out Big Foster could have been found and be at the morgue or the hospital, offering to drive him to town and find out. It is not a trap, though it feels like one. Lil Foster agrees.
Later, Lil Fosters new friend has to make a stop before they continue, but unfortunately it’s a stop at a bar full out of work, Farell hating miners. Hunter guy tries to talk them down and defend Lil Foster but the miners attack and a fight ensues.
Though, I say ‘fight’. What happens is Lil Foster beats the unholy piss out of every man who approaches, breaking arms and legs in rapid succession.
Though he was entirely, completely provoked, and only acted in self defence, when Wade arrives Lil Fos is swinging a miner around by the neck, brandishing a knife longer than my arm.
That’s an arrestin’.
Gwen prays in their pidgin Gaelic over the grave of Lady Ray, the Bren’in before her, Big Foster’s mother, whom he murdered. I didn’t have subtitles if there were any, but she repeats the part of the oath she was talking to Emily about, I guess confessing she’s scared, and not sure she can be Bren’in.
Later she dreams of Elon Farell, Big Foster’s murdered son, who along with the strange silent girl we see every episode, seems to serve as s sort of spirit guide to Farell folk. He shows her the Oak and Gwen decides she’s ready to take her oaths, rushing off to tell Emily to gather everyone now. She can’t wait two more days.
Wade interviews Lil Foster, though he doesn’t care to make trouble about the fight at the bar. He wants to know who killed Breece. Lil Foster is beautiful, calm and cool, a Bren’in born. He explains about Big Foster killing Breece, then Asa killing Big Foster, even offers up that Asa is, to Lil Foster’s knowledge, locked up in a cage on the side of the mountain. He even explains they all thought Breece was killed ‘wrong’, so blessed his body, returned it home so it could be laid to rest the right way.
Wade doesn’t have much else to say. He later tells a deputy that despite not intending to press charges against the Farell, he can’t let Lil Foster go, in part because he’s a witness, but mostly because there’s a baying mob of assholes outside waiting to take the man apart.
Lil Foster will remain in custody.
And this is where it gets maybe sort of stupid;
While Gwen is sworn in to her oaths we cut back and forth from her to Asa.
Asa smashes a window and robs the checkout machine at some random store. At the train yard he asks a man who might be a hobo or a rail worker about trains heading to California, but the man spots wildness on him and asks if he’s a Farell.
Asa spits the Farells are animals and he wishes hell on them, storming off to find his own train.
While Gwen firmly repeats her oaths, Asa spots his wolves again, watching from afar only now they growl and snarl at him.
He turns from them and if he decided to go back up the mountain or not they don’t care. They’re on his heels but Asa is ready for them, and falls to his knees to accept his fate. As Gwen becomes Bren’in, the hobo/rail worker glimpses Asa between passing trains as he is apparently mauled to death by mystical wolves, who may or may not be avatars of the mountain.
Then in a final scene we see a creepy weird but modern family feeding a mystery guest they have on a bed in the basement. Big Foster. Obviously.
And, here I thought we had a show that would kill its villains and move on. Ah well. I suppose you don’t sign David Morse for one season. Because he’s David goddamn Morse.
Guys, I feel silly. I was so excited for this show to come back and even when the promos made it clear Joe Anderson was no longer on the cast, I held out hope that maybe he was, and they just wanted to have a little fun keeping us guessing. I was half right that they wanted to keep us guessing, especially when he started appearing in the most recent promos. Then I realised all those shots are from the first episode of Season 2. Uh oh.
Instead, he’s….apparently dead. We saw a lot of the three wolf mauling, enough to say we saw him die, but lets just put a pin in this one. We saw Big Foster get shot in the head at point blank range, so who knows what Asa could come back from. It is a show of ghosts, after all.
I don’t know how I feel about it. It’s always a shame if an actor leaves a show for any reason, and a few interviews with the cast about the shock exit are … brusque at best. No one mentions Anderson by name, but everyone is psyched top tell the story outside of Asa’s perspective.
But, it frustrates me more when the exit is handled poorly, and I think it was, here. It was shocking, sure, but confusing for a lot of reasons. Did the yard worker see wolves or did Asa really go under a train? Is he genuinely dead or could he comeback, somehow? It doesn’t feel that way.
Did the wolves turn on Asa because he left a second time, or was the shooting of Big Foster the step too far? And how does this tie in with the prophecy Lady Ray spoke of? Was Asa the one who would have destroyed them? It would be pretty clever if in fact, Gwen is the one who will end them all, and Asa could have saved them had they accepted them. His form of death would still be weird and awkward but it would be clever storytelling. After all, Asa did only ever act to save the clan. He only shot Big Foster at Gwen’s bidding, a Gwen who views herself as a flawed Bren’in. There’s a lot to answer and we have a whole season to see what happens.
As season openers go, it was interesting. I loved the revelation last year of the sheer numbers of Farells up on the mountain, and we’re promised even more clans may soon emerge to make themselves known. The nature of the fight is totally changed and I have to admit, I like it.
Sticking Lil Foster in jail … I’m not so sure. It feels a little Ava Crowder back in Justified and I’d rather have him back with the family, than waste time on a fish out of water trope through the US jail system. We’ve seen Farells fail to cope with the real world through Hasil, and to some degree Asa; we don’t need a third round, we get it.
On the other hand, it’s a fun choice to have had the fragile Wade, who grew so empowered last year, find himself halted in his rise to greatness by the same deep rooted issues he’s still failing to deal with in any functional way. He got clean from pills by force, trapped down a mine and briefly took that to mean he could actually take on the Farells. But, his real phobias and traumas are still there. Watching to see if he can deal with them will be one of the most interesting parts of this season. Wade could be a great sheriff, or a total screw up.
Ged Ged Yah.