We open in a sort of Whole Middle Earth Marketplace. Ruffians, rapscallions, scoundrels. A range of British accents.
"Where's my drink?" says one dissipated customer, as a young man and a young woman huddle nearby.
"You're sure you want to go down this road?" says the man.
"I've waited a long time to find the man who killed my family," says the woman. "I'm not walking away now."
And thus are delivered the opening lines of "The Outpost," a new fantasy series premiering Tuesday on the CW, arriving to counter this recent apocalyptic heat with dark forests, banks of fog and a heaping helping of post-production twilight blue. And a lot of kicking and twirling and hacking and stabbing and pounding and chopping and screaming and running, sometimes in slow motion and not long in coming.
Talon (Jessica Green), the woman speaking above, is a Blackblood, which will sound enough like "mudblood" to stimulate the Harry Potter receptors implanted in your brain while you slept. (Indeed, she is called a "filthy Blackblood.") But she is more clearly what Frodo would have recognized as an elf, the decimation of whose childhood village a viewer who stayed awake in history class might see as a reflection of the genocidal imperialism of the American West, though perhaps I am getting overexcited here.
To make a not particularly long story even shorter, Talon, who has survived slaughter in a plot point lifted from "Snow White," learns that one of the men on whom she hopes to get revenge has been seen at a certain outpost "halfway across the realm" and lights out to find him. There is a war going on, though I am not sure exactly who's fighting whom, and over what and who's just around to enjoy the mayhem.
These parties include Grayskins, who are computer-generated giants whose culture would seem to consist entirely of club-swinging, though this impression may be a function of their limited screen time. Perhaps they have dance and theater and fiber arts back home; we may never know. There are also “plaguelings” — zombies, basically — from whom Talon is rescued by one Capt. Garret Spears (Jake Stormoen).
"You have to get them in the mouth to kill them," Garret tells Talon, which translates as "I am the handsomest man you have ever seen."
"I had it under control," replies Talon, which translates as “So you say."
The series is the work of Jason Faller and Kynan Griffin, producers and writers whose previous crowning achievement is the five-film low-budget film series "Mythica," which got Kevin Sorbo off the couch. On the other hand, if you had told me that it was written after school by five teenagers throwing a 20-sided die, I would not immediately disbelieve you. On yet another hand, I would not be surprised to learn that the story was lifted whole from some Akira Kurosawa or John Ford film I have forgotten for the moment.
That is to say, it's a self-aware stew of ingredients you have tasted in similar combinations before — that gray-bearded dude in the corner at the Nightshade Inn couldn't scream "older Aragorn" more loudly were it emblazoned upon his cowl. You will not be surprised to discover that the blonde at the medieval poker table (Imogen Waterhouse as Gwynn) is a wayward aristocrat.
That is not exactly a criticism: It is a short hop, after all, from "genre" to "generic" and "The Outpost," which might fairly be described as “multiply derivative,” is careful to fulfill all the implicit contracts with an audience that, broadly speaking, wants to be challenged only so much. Every so often, it's true, some new work of fantasy or science-fiction will come along to shift the paradigm; but "The Outpost" is a follower in this respect, not a leader.
The series, which is humorous enough and romantic enough and as bloody as it needs to be for the international market, is not completely predictable. Characters you might expect to stick around for season-long adventuring are dead by the opening credits, and the first episode ends on a mildly surprising note. Still, Talon is protected by the most powerful spell of all, that of being the star of a potential multi-season television show. Fancier genre shows, on HBO or AMC, might sacrifice a beloved character to "realism." This is not that sort of franchise.
Where: The CW
When: 9 p.m. Tuesday
Rating: TV-14-LV (may be unsuitable for children under the age of 14 with advisories for coarse language and violence)