Sunday, April 17, 2022

Outer Range, set in Wyoming, asks the question: "What is that weird hole doing in my pasture?"

I saw Josh Brolin on Stephen Colbert this past week. He was promoting his new Amazon Prime series “Outer Range.” He said it was part contemporary western and part supernatural thriller. I am all for new takes on old themes, especially if they focus on the West. Streaming services have brought us “Yellowstone,” “1883,” and “Longmire.” Wyoming and vicinity are the setting for a lot of them. They are not filmed in the state (New Mexico and Alberta get the honors) but were created by Wyomingites C.J. Box and Craig Johnson, among others. “Outer Range” is set in fictional Amelia County, Wyoming, making it county number 25 after Johnson’s county 24, fictional Absaroka County. “Longmire” fans convene every summer in the very real town of Buffalo in Johnson County. I just read some interesting and not entirely complimentary stuff about the area in Helena Huntington Smith's 1966 book “The War on Powder River: The History of an Insurrection.”

In “Outer Range,” an evil cattle baron named Wayne Tillerson, most likely a descendant of one of the bad guys in the Johnson County War, is trying to steal prime land from a neighboring cattle baron (Royal “Roy” Abbott) who is burdened with debts, a dysfunctional family, and a bottomless hole the size of a barn in one of his pastures. The hole makes ethereal noises and, if you should fall in it, you will receive visions of the past and future before the hole spits you back out. An American bison, two arrows jutting from his hide, stands by the hole and snorts.

This is not your granddaddy’s ranch.

The most interesting part of the first two episodes is a showdown between Wayne and Royal. In the olden days, a couple shots of red-eye, six-guns and a dusty street would be involved. In 2022, Dwayne is a bed-ridden invalid who wears his cowboy hat in bed. His drink of choice is Clamato juice. Royal confronts him over the land grab. Here’s their exchange:

Wayne: Roy, you’re on my land (sips Clamato juice on ice)

Royal: Let’s be honest here Wayne, no one’s stealing anything but you.

Wayne: This is Wyoming, Roy. It’s only ever been stoled since the day it got its name (knocks back the rest of the Clamato).

Roy leaves, noting that the lawyers will have to figure this out.

I had to rewind several times to get down this exchange. Wayne’s lines may be the best since Owen Wister's Virginian told Trampas, “When you call me that, smile.”

I am a fan of western movies. I gravitate to quirky westerns such as “The Outlaw Josey Wales,” “High Noon,” "True Grit," and “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance.” I like the classics too. That includes anything by John Ford. Just watched the original “Stagecoach” on Netflix. During the pandemic, I finally watched “Lonesome Dove” and loved it.

I will watch the rest of “Outer Range.” The big hole on the prairie intrigues me. I like Josh Brolin and his gruff portrayals (remember “No Country for Old Men?”). There’s some weird details in the script (Clamato?) and I like weird details. Must be the Irish in me.

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