Josh Brolin’s Outer Range Returns for a Hole Lot More Western Weirdness

Josh Brolin’s Outer Range Returns for a Hole Lot More Western Weirdness

Outer Range’s first season was a wild ride—a sci-fi Western about a rancher whose land contains a mysterious hole made of time itself. The Prime Video series returns with plenty of fresh weirdness, but it feels sharper—as star Josh Brolin promised—with a plot that’s less meandering this time around.

That’s not to say season two feels any less like a fever dream. We pick up immediately where we left off: the town of Wabang, Wyoming is reeling from the violent confusion that erupted at the end of season one; most folks don’t know about the hole, but it’s hard to miss a stampede of time-displaced buffalo. Season one’s main antagonists—the dangerously unmoored Autumn (Imogen Poots) and the taciturn cowboy Royal Abbott (Brolin)—strike a truce after their chaotic gun battle. She’s been battered by a barrage of hooves and needs a place to recuperate, and he’s become convinced she’s actually an older version of his beloved granddaughter, Amy (Olive Abercrombie).

How does Royal know this? He just does, he tells his wife, Cecilia (Lili Taylor), and it’s one of Outer Range’s neatest tricks that it’s able to ground intensely bizarre notions like this in very real-seeming situations. A gruff guy with a low tolerance for bullshit, Royal—as we learned last season—is actually from the 19th century, though he’s been keeping his origins a closely guarded secret for most of his life. Thanks to the hole’s peculiar powers, it seems plausible that Autumn and Amy—characters who exist within the same timeline and even interact with each other—could be the same person at different ages. Autumn, whose backstory is nearly as murky as Royal’s, isn’t so sure at first. But as we saw in season one, she’s certain that her destiny is entangled with the Abbott family, and she’s willing to ruin lives to figure it out how.


Early in the seven-episode season, we also check in with the other storylines left dangling by the first season’s high-pitched climax. These include the whereabouts of Amy’s father, Royal and Cecilia’s son Perry (Tom Pelphrey), who jumped into the hole rather than face the disaster his life had become; the journey of accidental time-traveler Sheriff Joy Hawk (Tamara Podemski), now among her Shoshone ancestors in the 1880s; and the operatic drama of neighboring ranch family the Tillersons, who are as wealthy as they are eccentric: patriarch Wayne (Will Patton), and brothers Luke (Shaun Sipos) and Billy (Noah Reid).

Those are just some of the plot threads weaving throughout season two, and suffice to say watching season one is pretty much a prerequisite. But more than last season—perhaps due to the showrunner shift, from series creator Brian Watkins in season one to Charles Murray in season two—Outer Range is careful to make sure the viewer is picking up what it’s putting down. There are helpful flashbacks, for instance, and even when characters make destructive decisions, we understand why their choices are important for the story. A big theme of season two is facing consequences—or choosing not to face them, and later having a painful realization about why that was a huge mistake. And while season two jumps around in time a lot, it’s never confusing as to which time period we’re in, thanks to the care taken with production design that keeps each setting distinct—even when it’s the same setting, albeit in a different decade.

Sheriff Hawk (Tamara Podemski) is stuck in the past.

While the tension between Autumn and Royal remains a driving force in Outer Range season two, now that we know more about them—and we understand a bit more about the hole (though it remains teasingly enigmatic, just as it should)—the series has room to bring more complexity to some of its other characters. This is most seen with Cecilia, who struggles with balancing her faith in God with the cosmic phenomena that’s suddenly shaping the things she holds dear, especially her family and her family’s land, and with Joy, whose time-slip allows Outer Range to explore Wabang’s fraught treatment of its Native American community, both in the past and the present.

Not all of Outer Range season two works; sorry, Billy fans, there are fewer random musical numbers, which contributes to the feeling that the “WTF” factor has been toned down overall. Also, a subplot involving a local geologist (Yrsa Daley-Ward) whose interest in the hole seemingly goes beyond scientific curiosity is intriguing, but ultimately feels underbaked. The romance between Royal’s younger son, Rhett (Lewis Pullman) and his new girlfriend Maria (Isabel Arraiza) also feels like it was meant to have more importance, but ended up getting trimmed down. Perhaps if Outer Range returns for a third season, these puzzle pieces will have room to expand—particularly the geologist’s story, which was teased back in season one as tying into Autumn’s future.

Royal and Autumn share a moment of peace.

Even if a third season doesn’t happen, it’s a miracle that Outer Range—an unearthly show about nature’s freakiest capabilities, featuring a yawning hole in the Wyoming wilderness, time travel, talking owls, psychedelic visions, bar brawls, cults, an unironic reverence for Led Zeppelin lyrics and Motley Crue power ballads, and some really good mustaches—even existed in the first place. That it got a chance to come back and give us more feels almost unreal.

All seven episodes of Outer Range season two arrive May 16 on Prime Video.

Need more entertainment? Pedestrian Television has launched on 9Now where you can cult classic movies like Fright Night, and homegrown content like Eternal Family and Rostered On. Watch all that and more for free, 24/7 on 9Now