WGN’s Outsiders explores an American world and community we rarely see

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WGN America’s new original drama Outsiders tells the story of the Farrell clan in the rugged hills of Appalachia. After living atop of Shay Mountain for over two hundred years, The Farrells have lived off the grid and above the law to preserve their way of life. Governed by a tribal authority of elders lead by a Bren’in (ruler), the Farrell Clan must do whatever it takes to prevent a mining company from taking their lands. The Farrells find themselves in conflict with the residents of the local town and with each other.

We’re introduced to Lady Ray (Phyllis Somerville), the Bren’in leader of the Farrell clan, and her family – Big Foster (David Morse), the power-hungry heir to the clan; Lil Foster (Ryan Hurst), son of Big Foster and giant mountain man who seems genuine but would do anything for his father’s approval; Hasil (Kyle Gallner), a outsider even from his own clan; G’Winveer (Gillian Alexy), a healer and survivor with a dark past; and Asa (Joe Anderson), a former member of the Farrell clan who rejoined the family after 10 years living among the “Losties” (the townsfolk).

We received the first five episodes of the series, and like many of WGN shows, it’s pretty addicting. The characters are really intricate and live very complicated lives and it becomes more complicated when outside forces are trying to come in. There is a strong dynamic between the Farrells and outside the mountain. Who are we rooting for? Creator and executive producer Peter Mattei explained, “The main antagonist is not a person. I think it’s an idea and the idea is power. Power and the corruption of power, because I think within the Farrell family, there are different choices of how should we deal with this oncoming threat. As soon as people have different choices, they split, divide, and somebody has more power. That becomes the biggest threat. I think it’s almost like that, as opposed to any person.”

There are so many intertwining relationships that are constantly changing – especially the love triangle of Lil Foster, G’Winveer, and Asa. Ryan Hurst, who plays Lil Foster, described Lil Foster and G’Winveer’s relationship, “It was something that we developed together. We really tried to hone and bring out. I think what was unique that came across was that it felt more like a partnership. You see a lot of different male-female [relationships] and different family dynamics, but there was a true sense of contemporary moving through this treachery landscape together.” Gillian Alexy added, “It is a true partnership. They are true equals, they respect each other. Absolutely, for all their flaws and strengths.” As for Asa, Alexy hinted, “When the Asa character returns, he is my past love. He was a past love ten years ago. I don’t think you could ever forget your first love. I think being pulled in those two directions will be quite challenging for G’Win.”

The dynamic within the mountain really falls on Big Foster and his need for power. He is devoted to his clan and only knows how to deal with situations through violence. Big Foster’s David Morse wouldn’t reveal much but commented, “I think the tension on the show is that inevitable clash. It’s there all the time – the potential for that. The people trying to survive on the mountain; people trying to survive below; and, people trying to survive in-between. That is the underlying dynamic of what is going to happen between these people.”

Overall, Outsiders is an intense drama that shows a side of a group we rarely see. There are communities living off the grid in the mountains and have their own code. The show does it respectfully as well. They don’t play on stereotypes and typical hillbilly tropes. The creative team really dug deep in the community’s way of life and wrote the storyline based on that, but of course, with their own dramatic flair. The drama really pulls you in and the evolving (and sometimes devolving) characters keep you there.

Executive producer Peter Tolan summed up the show perfectly, “There are bad people on the mountain and there are bad people in the town. It’s certainly not black and white in terms of ‘Oh, the villain is the coal company’, but the coal company is really just trying to provide power and lights on the east coast of the United States. It’s not about that. It’s about the epic struggle between one way of life and another.”

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Laura Sirikul
Laura Sirikul 1849 posts

Trekkie. Jedi. Whovian. Sherlockian. Hobbit. Sanrio. Comics. I am Spartacus. Warrior Princess. Superhero. Nerd. Follow me @lsirikul