The Outpost review

The Outpost airs on SyFy UK every Monday at 2am

We’ve been spoiled. Fantasy television of the 21st Century so far has upped the stakes when it comes to story complexity, visual effects and even acting. When even the latest BBC Two swashbuckler looks almost as good as Game of Thrones over on HBO, shows like The Outpost stand out for all the wrong reasons.

The show follows Talon (Jessica Green) – a warrior and lone survivor of her people who we’re told has been on a decade-long crusade to find the men who killed her family. She has some sort of special power given to her by her dying mother, and her journey leads her to the titular Outpost where she finds one of her targets.

While airing on SyFy in the UK and internationally, The Outpost was picked up by The CW in the US and critically mauled accordingly. The Outpost feels like stepping back in time in a way that SyFy (and Canadian productions more generally) trades well in, but the visuals here are more akin to Hercules and Xena than they are even to the recent Shannara Chronicles.

This said, bad effects do not a terrible show make. Heck, it’s become part of the charm of Doctor Who and it’s many spin-offs. A lack of funds can actually push writers and directors to get creative and overcome their limitations, but there seems no intention of that here.

The Outpost starts off badly with the first line uttered by its heroine concerned with a tragic backstory and a quest for revenge. The exposition is even targeted at a dopey young man we’re sure is destined to be the love interest Talon eventually doesn’t choose, but then the episode takes a turn and reverse fridges poor short-lived boy. In a flashback, another would-be sweetheart is murdered. I’m listening.

The smartest thing the show’s first episode does is introduce an intriguing mystery element. By the end, it’s not just about Talon’s mission to avenge her family and the rest of her village, but an effort to discover who would hate her people so much to commission assassins to wipe them out. Why are they so dangerous? Is Talon the special snowflake this story demands, or was she just lucky?

There is absolutely nothing original about The Outpost, but there are moments in this initial outing that hint at a darker edge yet to be explored. For example, listening to a family talk about how she’ll never survive wearing the pointy elf-like ears of her people, child Talon takes a knife to herself. It may be a drop of water in a drought, but it’s there and it’s kind of striking.

But there are too many familiar story elements to make the show truly recommendable – the hunky soldier (Jake Stormoen) conveniently dating a romantic rival when meeting Talon (even the blonde/brunette dynamic), the cheesy dialogue, the silly creatures, or the date rapey bartender who’s supposed to be endearing.

With it’s bad-ass heroine and basic story, The Outpost might appeal to younger fantasy fans, but anyone even a little bit familiar with the genre should steer clear.