After a half-dozen episodes of “Outer Range,” my reaction is that of a hung jury.
Brian Watkins created this sci-fi neo-Western thriller, which unfolds with a double dose of revelations every Friday night via Amazon Prime Video. All told, there will be eight shows filling as many hours, and like another family program in the 1970s stated, eight is enough.
In light of the new would-be thriller’s strange premise — which entails a large symmetrical hole on a Wyoming family’s property — and a slew of subplots, I am unsure what to make of the series but don’t want to stop watching.
Although segments 5 and 6 serve up intense breakthroughs, including a well-constructed brawl in the family kitchen, most viewers are prone to doze off or wave a white flag en route to the finish line.
Josh Brolin portrays Royal, who has undetectable chemistry with his spiritual wife (Lily Taylor), as they cling to the Abbott ranch in Wyoming.
Among the more controversial members of their family tree: two sons (Lewis Pullman and Tom Pelphrey), one of whom has a wife who has gone missing, while the other pursues a bank teller as his love interest (Isabel Arraiza).
The key to the west end’s inexplicable black void may be Imogen Poots as Autumn, a mysterious wanderer, appearing innocent on the surface, who sets up camp on the outskirts of the Abbotts’ land; that swath proves to be more supernatural, less Mother Nature.
Will Patton is wealthy Wayne, stirring the pot as a sinister outsider, as if sharing a kinship with the actor’s “Yellowstone” character. His sons pose as heavies, though one of them randomly sings like a bird, most notably during a burial service when he belts out an a cappella rendition of Peter Gabriel’s “Don’t Give Up.”
Last but potentially most vital is the deputy sheriff (Tamara Podemski), with her cap set for becoming sheriff though her eyes are fixated on solving a murder.
If that summary is clear as mud, good luck figuring out “Outer Range” and its optical illusions. By the time a mountain appears to vanish, we aren’t taken aback. A panoply of themes stretching on tiptoes from tradition and existentialism to superstition frequently test our suspension of disbelief.
The main reason I haven’t detoured from “Outer Range” is the presence of Brolin, who has become one of our dependable first-rate actors. As the stoic Royal, he looks at home in the wilderness, as was the case in “No Country for Old Men.” Brolin earns our attention even when the script doesn’t.
Unlike that superior movie, which focused on money being the root and undeniable motive of evil, Amazon’s sci-fi Western takes a scattershot approach.
Enigmatic filmmakers such as David Lynch and M. Night Shyamalan would probably be proud of the bizarre, implausible moments in “Outer Range,” but its dedicated spectators may conclude one season is one too many. I prefer to stay in “Yellowstone” territory.