Demon Hunting Starts Getting Personal in Season 2 of ‘Outcast’

It is not easy work to battle the forces of darkness. In “Outcast,” now returning for a second season on Cinemax, fighting the hordes of the dark one can cost you friendships, family and your job. But hey, someone’s got to do it. Our hero Kyle (Patrick Fugit) returns home in this new season, still grappling with his condition (demonic possession) and searching for the show’s great villain. Like the first season, this one drips with gothic atmosphere in its southern settings while moving to the pace of a good comic book.

We find Kyle and his daughter Amber (Madeleine McGraw) returning to the swampy town of Rome, which surprises the locals considering all of the demonic clashes, deaths and incidents from the previous season. Kyle is both dealing with his own state while attempting to face unfinished business. The evil preacher Sidney (Brent Spiner) is still missing, leaving behind a trail of broken lives and wandering acolytes. Distraught over his own battles with Sidney is the Reverend John Anderson (Philip Glenister), who tried to end Sidney’s life by setting his house on fire, only to discover that inside was Aaron, the son of Patricia (Melinda McGraw). Anderson tries to make amends with Patricia, by offering to help her find Aaron, who has been designated as missing. But of course you wonder for how long he can harbor what he knows. The local police chief, Giles (the late Reg E. Cathey) also faces a new challenge as a mysterious, obviously possessed man starts popping up around town, escaping from Giles when cornered at a local diner.

“Outcast” is part of the recent slew of TV shows putting demons in vogue again. It has interesting similarities with FX’s own “Preacher,” which also returned for another season recently. Both are based on graphic novels and deal with men afflicted with some kind of supernatural touch fighting against Satan and his minions. Both are set in the deep south, using its humid, gothic ambiance. “Outcast” is slightly less wild and bloody, but it has the same kind of entertaining combo of action and melodrama. The actors bring an interesting pathos to a story that could easily become corny. You really get the sense that Anderson is suffering over what he did at the conclusion of season one, now he has a murder hanging over his head. There is a moment in the season premiere where he stumbles upon a strange church in the middle of the woods, where the parishioners are singing eerie hymns. When a church member tells him they’ve had enough of the dark and want to find a place in the light, Anderson replies that that’s the hard part. Kyle’s own struggles are also quite personal, especially when it comes to his sister Megan (Wrenn Schmidt), who spends much of the early hours of this season confined at home, processing everything terrible that has taken place, including to her husband Mark (David Denman), who we find in the season premiere wandering around as another possessed soul. Kyle has no choice but to face him, which will of course create an even deeper rift with his sister. We also find out that Kyle’s mother, in a comatose state for years, for reasons doctors can’t explain, is dying. Like all good graphic novels, the supernatural elements are background to the real drama, which is why “Outcast” is so watchable. A bad show would simply drown us in scenes of demonic combat. To be sure, there is plenty of that in season two. It’s both engaging and fun, although Patrick Fugit recently told Entertainment Voice, “I’m not a believer in these things, no. I mean I’ve never seen anything in real life that would make me believe.” He may not be a believer, but the show definitely is.

One great storytelling device that makes “Outcast” work well is also the sense that no one is safe. If you are going to tango with Beelzebub, then the stakes have to be raised pretty high. Kyle is now tracking down Sidney’s associates, and the first one he finds is about to give names and then decides to attempt suicide. The final shot of the season premiere makes us wonder about what chief Giles himself might be cooking, as he spies on two key characters from afar. Nothing is simply given away in this show, and it’s a smart move to keep Sidney out of the limelight for the first few episodes of the new season. He becomes a dark presence hovering over everything. Robert Kirkman, one of the main writers on the show who is known for his work on “The Walking Dead,” recently told Entertainment Voice that this season “is faster-paced” but that in terms of quality, the showrunners are thinking long term about how this show can survive the test of time. The storytelling approach is keeping that kind of pace where it doesn’t feel too calculated. This is a show that takes its time to better surprise you and ratchet up the suspense.

“Outcast” returns to take a supernatural premise and make it engaging as a gritty action drama. The demons are ghoulish, but we care for the characters. We will keep tuning in because we want to know what happens to the humans more than to the specters.

Outcast” season two premieres July 20 and airs Fridays at 10 p.m. ET on Cinemax.