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'The Outlaws' Season 2: How to Sell Crack for Fun and Profit

By James Field | TV | August 22, 2022 |

By James Field | TV | August 22, 2022 |


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Our new definition of “comedy” stretches the definition to the breaking point. Often that’s to its benefit. Every time another tired, late-middle-age comic releases a standup special we’re reminded that comedy is not a lifeless monument. It must breathe or it turns stagnant as a late summer pond. It’s why Ted Lasso, Only Murders in the Building, and The Afterparty work so well. But some shows that claim to be comedies soon leave the majority of laughs behind, and that’s where the second season of the BBC’s — and now Prime Video’s — second season of The Outlaws lands. Season 1 played a delicate balancing act between drama and comedy; in Season 2, it leaps off the tightrope and lands squarely in a pool of drama pudding. Fortunately, that’s mostly a good thing.

Last season, our band of immature, close-minded, self-obsessed petty criminals were brought together by one another’s troubles and a big bag of money. Frank (Christopher Walken), Myrna (Clare Perkins), and John (Darren Boyd) took the money and put it to appropriate use. Lady Gabriella (Eleanor Tomlinson) was making a move for financial independence and emotional stability with the help of friend/lawyer/whipping boy Greg (Stephen Merchant). And Rani (Rhianna Barreto) and Ben (Gamba Cole) managed to avoid murder at the hands of Malaki (Charles Babalola) by the skin of their teeth. With only a month left on their community service time, the group thought they were in the clear until the psychopathic Tory known only as “The Dean” (Claes Bang) came looking for his drugs, money, and blood. With only seconds to think Rani comes up with a plan to get the Dean everything he wants, plus interest. The good news is they get to live, at least for a while. The bad news is they need to start selling Malaki’s drugs fast. And they need Greg to launder the money, or they’ll all end up in the ground.

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There’s a lot to like about this season. Though short on laughs, the cast all takes the opportunity to stretch their acting muscles. John, fired by his own father despite having saved the family business, struggles to find work in a technology-driven job market and he’s forced to question his own “pull yourself up by the bootstraps” bullshit as he gets a taste of what the rest of society has to do to get by. Ben, whose mother abandoned him and his sister to follow her drug addiction into the gutter, is gutted at the direction his life’s taken. Myrna, a community activist driven as much by guilt for a past tragedy as any desire to do real good, is in a similar internal conflict. Rani is shocked to find she’s got an iron core and puts her innate business acumen to work selling as much coke and crack as possible while Greg negotiates Lady Gabby’s frequent mood swings and a coworker’s obsession with catching him out, with conman Frank’s years of experience at avoiding law enforcement. Malaki, in jail for ducking his community service, tries to avoid talking to a pair of detectives (Grace Calder & Kojo Kamara) who are investigating the Dean. There’s a lot going on but none of it is difficult to track, with a tightly written plot that works. Side characters like Malaki and Spencer come into their own as well, and everyone gets a chance to shine. Diane (Jessica Gunning) gets most of the laughs and is an absolute delight as she goes off the rails. The Dean is terrifying, an ominous mix of sadism and professional efficiency. It’s not difficult to believe he’d have an entire criminal enterprise frightened to double-cross him.

Stephen Merchant’s The Outlaws pulls off a nearly seamless switch from comedy to crime drama with comedic elements. With only 6 episodes in the season, it’s well worth the time investment. I don’t want to spoil the plot for you, but it tackles social justice, cultural divides, and the realities of modern life with humor and honesty. Rani, Ben, and the rest are always engaging, and impossible to root against. The loose ends are tied up and a third season isn’t necessary, though it would be welcome. The Outlaws is well worth watching from start to finish.





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Header Image Source: Prime video screenshots