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Outsiders

WGN America, Tuesday, Jan. 26, 9 p.m. ET/PT 1/25/2016 8:00 AM Eastern

I never bought into the Sons of Anarchy conceit that an outlaw biker gang could control a California town. But I fully embrace this similarly premised series — with SOA alum Ryan Hurst in the cast — about a clan of renegade families who occupy a mountain in Kentucky for more than 200 years, occasionally interacting in violent ways with townspeople below but maintaining their own culture, mythology and hallucinogenic moonshine.

 

The Farrell clan’s separateness comes under siege when a coal company buys the land and demands it be cleared of people and then, presumably, stripped bare. It’s the unhappy task of the town’s police, including troubled Sheriff Wade Houghton (Thomas M. Wright), to do the evicting. Apparently the last time the police tried, people died and Houghton doesn’t want to try again. The coal company is rallying the economically depressed townspeople with the promise of jobs, though, so someone has got to try.

 

Mostly, the story is about the Farrell clan, and there are some colorful folks up there on Shay Mountain. The clan chief is elderly Lady Ray, played by Phyllis Somerville, but she is due to pass the oaken staff of leadership to her son, Big Foster, played by the excellent David Morse partly as a cartoonish bully and partly as a sympathetic thug, especially when he suffers the loss of a child (not his oldest son, Lil Foster, played by Hurst).

 

Lady Ray isn’t sure Big Foster is ready to rule, especially when a former member of the clan, Asa (Joe Anderson), who’d left for California but has come back, seems like the fulfillment of a prophecy about a lost sheep who returns to save the flock. Asa went to college and has important skills, like reading English. But he also wants to restart an old relationship with the beautiful G’winveer (Gillian Alexy), who has since taken up with Lil Foster. So there are all kinds of tensions among the Fosters and Asa. They boil over memorably in a joust between all-terrain-vehicle riders.

 

There are several related subplots and a terrific and venal coal-company PR princess, played by Francie Swift, who’s come to town. She clashes with Sheriff Wade, who sadly has an Oxy problem. Also, there are excellent scenes involving a drone. Highly recommend this for the acting, the characters, the settings and, believe it or not, the believability.

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