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The Plot Twists to Remember for Season Two

Photo: Richard Foreman/Amazon Prime Video
It’s been two full years now since the first season of the Amazon Prime drama Outer Range, a show that asked, “Wouldn’t Yellowstone be a lot more fun if time travel was involved?” (The answer: Occasionally!) The time machine, in this case, is a bottomless hole on the west pasture of the Abbott ranch in Wabang, Wyoming. Unfortunately, there’s no real way to control the void’s destination; those who take the plunge are at the mercy of time itself, spat out at seemingly random points in time and only sometimes free to return to the period they know.
Over the course of eight often befuddling episodes, creator and showrunner Brian Watkins used this wacky conceit to spotlight the modern American rancher’s obsession with an idealized past — along with his fear of losing the last vestiges of that way of life in the foreseeable future. Outer Range primarily centers on two families: the Abbotts and the Tillersons, who live on neighboring ranches and are locked in a property dispute over ownership of the west pasture (which also means control of the hole, as well as the various black goos and minerals buried beneath the ranch that possess their own precognitive uses). Patriarch Royal Abbott has a lot to deal with from the very first episode with the arrival of a nefarious drifter named Autumn and a fight between Royal’s son Perry and Trevor Tillerson that escalates into murder.
The show could be ponderous, at times, less interested in a real mystery than general mysteriousness. But Outer Range also doesn’t feel quite like anything else on TV, from its distinct genre blend to its consistent refusal to explain certain basics of its time-travel mechanics. So before we dive into another season of rodeos and time paradoxes tomorrow, when the second season drops in full on Prime, let’s jump in the hole ourselves and travel back two years for a refresher on what these characters went through in season one.
Royal Abbott (Josh Brolin)
Royal is the traditional stoic, inscrutable cowboy at the heart of this story — the gruff but respectful family man and owner of the ranch. He has had a number of interactions with the hole: In the first episode, he used it to help his sons cover up the murder of Trevor Tillerson, then traveled to an indeterminate point in the future himself after Autumn pushed him in. In the time that Royal stepped into, the ranch had been taken over by a militarized mining operation involving a company called BY9 as well as a cult seemingly led by Autumn. Royal also reunited with a future version of his wife, Cecilia, who told him that he died in her arms two years ago — a premonition still hanging over his head now. (He later crushed the black time minerals from Autumn’s necklace and flashed to Cecilia holding his dead body.)
But it wasn’t until later in the season that we learned Royal’s original history with the hole: He discovered it after accidentally shooting and killing his father during a hunt back in 1886. The hole spat him out in 1968, and the Abbotts raised him as their own. Where we left off, Royal seemingly killed Billy Tillerson (more on him below) and almost killed Autumn — until he realized she was actually his granddaughter Amy from the future. Good luck figuring that one out, Royal.
Cecilia Abbott (Lili Taylor)
Royal’s wife, Cecilia, still knows nothing about the existence of time travel, as far as we know, but that could change after the final moments of season one when Royal came clean about killing his father and began to reveal Autumn’s double identity to her. But Cecilia has some of her own baggage to deal with, especially a serious case of Christian guilt after helping with the Trevor cover-up — a sin she punished herself by sticking her hand into the mouth of a dead bear cub. It should be interesting to see how she squares her faith with the bizarre truth of the forces at play in and around the Abbott ranch.
Perry Abbott (Tom Pelphrey)
When we last saw Royal and Cecilia’s taciturn eldest son, he’d jumped into the hole after Autumn manipulated him into confessing to Trevor’s murder (which he did do, to be fair). Perry has had a lot of anger and sadness in his life since the disappearance of his wife, Rebecca, who he still suspects might’ve intentionally left him and their daughter, Amy. We don’t know yet in which time period Perry will appear or what his ultimate objective is, but his absence at home could spell trouble for the ranch: His parents put up the property as collateral to bail him out of jail.
Rhett Abbott (Lewis Pullman)
Perry’s loyal younger brother is one of the least relevant characters in the show when it comes to hole shenanigans. He spent season one struggling to cover for Perry during Trevor’s murder investigation while building a life with bank teller Maria Olivares (Isabel Arraiza). In the finale, he finally, conclusively chose Maria over his family, sacrificing the glory of the rodeo for good after one last victory. Unfortunately, I fear their plans to leave town will be thwarted, based on both that bison stampede and everything currently happening with Perry and his family.
Amy Abbott (Olive Abercrombie)
The season finale presented two big developments with Perry’s 9-year-old daughter, Amy. First: Cecilia lost her at the rodeo when she wandered away and ran into a miraculously resurfaced Rebecca. Second: In the most mind-bending twist of the season, Royal figured out Autumn is actually a grown-up Amy, as evidenced by a scar he spots on the same area of her forehead (a scar that didn’t appear there until Amy was cut by a glass shard during a family fight two episodes before). Autumn has mentioned that she doesn’t remember anything from before 9 years old, but we still haven’t seen the specific events that will lead to that memory loss.
Autumn (Imogen Poots)
From the beginning, Autumn has always been the most mysterious character — a drifter who showed up in episode one to camp on the west pasture and almost immediately pushed Royal into the hole as an experiment. The first season often framed her as the villain of the show, a deranged conspiracy theorist whose hole fixation will eventually lead to a cult of yellow jumpsuit-clad followers in the future Royal glimpsed. (When she runs out of mood stabilizers, she turns violent fast.) In the second half of the season, she enlisted Billy Tillerson to her cause, and around that same time, she and Royal started actively trying to kill each other. That eventually resulted in a finale gunfight that killed Billy and wounded Autumn, but the recent revelation of her identity should shake up her dynamic with Royal.
Wayne Tillerson (Will Patton)
Royal’s deeply spiritual nemesis and neighbor first encountered the hole when he saw Royal emerge from it covered in black time dust as a kid. So he’s been interested in the west pasture for a while, especially since one of his laborers found a weird rock nine months prior to the events of the show, reminiscent of both the hole and the black powder from Autumn’s necklace. After rediscovering the hole halfway through the season (and also bludgeoning Royal with a rock), he had a stroke. When we last saw Wayne, he was still in recovery and immobile, and his son, Billy, was dusting his lips with that powder. Maybe its strange healing powers could be exactly what he needs.
Luke Tillerson (Shaun Sipos)
If anyone is going to mine the land for his own greedy purposes, it’s Luke Tillerson, who was digging up holes in the west pasture when we saw him last. (He’s under the heavy influence of his greedy mother, Patricia.) He didn’t exactly find oil, but he did submerge his hand in a black stream of liquid time and open up a hole that let in a whole bison herd from the past, so he’ll have a lot to deal with when season two begins. If Royal’s vision of the future comes true, Luke will be a big factor in taking control of the hole — it makes sense that whatever BY9 has going on, he’d be involved.
Billy Tillerson (Noah Reid)
The youngest of the Tillerson brothers, Billy is both the sweetest and the creepiest. He’s also the favorite: His father planned to leave everything for Billy in his will, contrary to Patricia and Luke’s ambitious designs. The season-finale gunfight with Royal seemingly removed Billy from the chessboard, but Noah Reid is set to return for season two, so maybe he’ll make an amazing recovery — or, who knows, maybe Autumn will jump in the hole and change the past to save him. This is a show where that doesn’t sound impossible, and if it means we get more Noah Reid belting out songs at inappropriate times, I’m here for it.
Joy Hawk (Tamara Podemski)
Sheriff Joy is an outlier in this cast — the one prominent Indigenous character, the one prominent queer character, and the one prominent character who isn’t an Abbott or a Tillerson. Her interaction with time travel near the end of the season is also unique: There’s no hole being breached and no black powder being ingested, but she follows a trail of black time stones through the forest until she passes into an earlier time, witnessing bison herds and Native American settlements. It’s unclear how long Joy will stay in the past when we pick back up with her, but her perspective already offers a totally different angle on time travel that would be a welcome addition in season two.

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