Outer Range Is Yellowstone Meets Ozark Meets Stranger Things: Review

Josh Brolin navigates land grabs and mysterious phenomena in this haunting sci-fi neo-Western

Outer Range Review Josh Brolin

The Pitch: Stretched out over the sprawling plains and towering mountains of Wyoming, a kind of Hatfields and McCoys situation plays out between two neighboring ranch families — the Abbotts, led by firm but fair patriarch Royal (Josh Brolin), and the Tillersons, an out-there clan led by Wayne (Will Patton), an ailing land-grabber with his eyes on the Abbotts’ western pasture.

But things turn ever more complicated when a mysterious drifter named Autumn (Imogen Poots) shows up at the Abbotts’ doorstep and asks to camp on their land (and can pay for the privilege), her motivations unknown. That same day, a tractor-sized hole opens up in the ground along — you guessed it — the Abbotts’ western pasture, a bottomless black pit covered in smoke, seemingly leading to nowhere. Where did it come from? What does the hole mean? And what do any of our characters, including Royal himself, already know about it?

You Ever Heard of a Greek God Called Cronos? The neo-Western has made a bit of a resurgence in recent years, with the films of Taylor Sheridan (Hell or High WaterWind River) and the Coens’ No Country for Old Men; tales of intrigue and devastation in a modern version of the Old West, where the often harmful tropes of the traditional Western are interrogated and reevaluated.

Outer Range, the latest in Prime Video’s slate of original series, seeks to do just that, with an added hint of the supernatural to give the West’s thematic concerns additional heft. In fact, its closest sibling, besides the frontier-family crime drama Ozark (which shares many cast and crew) is Sheridan’s own mega-popular Western series Yellowstone, itself about a charismatic family of characters doing everything they can to hold on to their homestead.

Outer Range (Prime Video)
Outer Range (Prime Video)

It all centers on Brolin, though, a man with a face seemingly molded to belong underneath a Stetson: his Royal Abbott, much like Kevin Costner’s Yellowstone lead John Dutton, is a tough, stoic, old-school cowboy who hides his true feelings (and some intriguing details from his past) beneath a stone wall of frustration.

But the hole on his land, a perplexing mystery that could serve both as savior and doom to his family and legacy, brings hidden facets of his personality bubbling to the surface. Like his No Country for Old Men protagonist Llewellyn Moss, he’s a man on the brink, trying desperately to hold onto his equilibrium and understand his place in the events that encircle his particular tribe.

The rest of the Abbotts have their own crosses to bear, and some are more compelling than others. Royal’s wife, the deeply religious Cecilia (Lili Taylor), is the glue that holds the family together, keeping calm in crisis through her faith (though that will be shaken by season’s end, Taylor’s steely persona cracking in entertaining ways).

Older brother Perry (Ozark‘s Tom Pelphrey) is a headstrong, temperamental single father, struggling to care for his young daughter Amy (Olive Abercrombie) after his wife mysteriously disappeared; younger Rhett (Lewis Pullman) is a rodeo hopeful whose bright future comes into jeopardy after a deadly run-in with one of the Tillerson boys midway through Episode 1. From the start, the overriding conflict isn’t solving the nature of their supernatural predicament: it’s how the Abbotts can hold onto their fragile ecosystem against threats both natural and supernatural.


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