The Outlaws – Series 2 Episode 1

The Outlaws cast (Danny Boyd; Christopher Walken; Clare Perkins; Rhianne Baretto; Gamba Cole; Eleanor Tomlinson and Steven Merchant) against a brick graffiti wall.
The Outlaws cast (Danny Boyd; Christopher Walken; Clare Perkins; Rhianne Baretto; Gamba Cole; Eleanor Tomlinson and Steven Merchant) against a brick graffiti wall. (Picture: BBC Studios)

The Outlaws returns for its second series progressing the comedic thriller but fails to make ground.

The Outlaws series two episode one was screened as part of the BFI & Radio Times Television Festival 2022 but this was written entirely by Cinamore.

The Outlaws returns for series two, with episode one picking up where the series ended, riding the wave of momentum and buzz mere months after the series concluded.

One of last year’s television success stories would be The Outlaws released on BBC Three having been streamed 11 million times since its launch.

Written by and starring Steven Merchant, The Outlaws tells the tale of a band of characters united with community service and a bag of money that appears.

With its success in part due to its casting and original storytelling, the Bristolian comedy is back for series two.

However, as the debut series was released with mixed reviews, The Outlaws series two episode one does nothing to win back those who were disappointed the first time around, and in truth, alienated me as a viewer going forward.

Every character, with their single dimension thread of personality, speaks as if a representation of Steven Merchant himself.

The jokes fall entirely flat or are far too predictable to find yourself reassured of Merchant’s established career as a comic performer and writer.

Moreover, whilst questioning Merchant’s understanding of humour, without it being more self-deprecation or a reference to his elongated height, I found myself instead dumbfounded with his, and co-writer Elgin James’ moral compass.

Speaking of the show’s inception, Steven Merchant explained what attracted him to the creation of the BBC comedy.

“The Outlaws is a long-standing passion project for me. My parents used to work in the Community Service world and I was always intrigued that the many and varied people they dealt with only had one thing in common: they’d committed a crime.

“Ever since The Office, I’ve loved finding ways to bring unlikely groups of people together and watch the sparks fly. As a writer I always include humour, but with The Outlaws I also get to add drama, pathos, crime genre thrills and say something optimistic about the common humanity that unites us all, whatever our background.

“The Outlaws’ mix of light and shade, dark and comic, middle-class angst with inner-city grit, reflects the unlikely partnership of me and Elgin. I grew up in suburbia, whereas Elgin spent his early life building a national street gang until a police investigation landed him in prison.

“Despite coming from different sides of the tracks, Elgin and I share a love of convincing characters and authentic, engaging, human stories.”

But yet, contradicting Merchant’s own words, it made me wonder as to how a writer that has established himself over many shows and movies, found his sense of morality and understanding of basic human decency so flawed.

I raise this rhetoric as the episode concludes portraying nonconsensual activities, with a male character entirely sober taking advantage of one utterly inebriated with the episode doing everything in its power to pass it off as cute and romantic.

The show’s only redeeming quality, as I alluded to earlier, is in its casting. Eleanor Tomlinson, Gamba Cole, Darren Boyd, Rhianne Barreto, Clare Perkins, Jessica Gunning and Christopher Walken are the main drivers of the show, starring alongside Merchant.

This casting I am of no doubt will attract audiences to continue The Outlaws series two storyline.

Speaking of the cast, Merchant discussed filming series two during the pandemic as part of The Outlaws preview of the BFI and Radio Times Television Festival.

“It turns out that shooting two series of a show under a pandemic is a nightmare, and I would suggest no one ever does it.

“Particularly if one of your key cast members is 79-year-old Oscar winner Christopher Walken because every day you’re on a knife-edge hoping he doesn’t get COVID.

“If anyone even looks like they’re going to sneeze near him, you jump in front of him like you’re taking a bullet for the president.”

Walken’s presence in the show is remarkable, but yet it is in fact Gunning who steals every frame with her comedic presence.

Her role of authoritative but entirely unhinged community support officer continues on the character archetypes better showcased under a Michael Schur show like Parks and Recreation; Brooklyn Nine-Nine, or The Office (US) a show that had Merchant’s hand in creating.

Creating a successful sitcom for any writer opens itself up to opportunities for further series, but in truth, I doubt The Outlaws has legs beyond this unfunny, morally dubious, and otherwise bland story showcased in episode one.

The Outlaws series two will air on BBC One on 5 June 2022 at 21.00.

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By Conor Riley

Conor is the Founder and Editor for Cinamore, a publication focused on giving power back to journalists. As a portmanteau of the word 'Cinema' and the Italian word for love 'Amore', Cinamore aims to highlight the love that we all carry for the art of the moving image.


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