The first season of Amazon’s The Outlaws had a bit of an identity crisis. Was it a serious thriller with silly characters or an ensemble comedy trying to be a crime drama?
Season 2 of The Outlaws has no such problem, and it delivers an increasingly tense, fast-paced conclusion to the lead characters’ saga that’s lighter on laughs but filled with strong performances and smart twists.
Co-created and largely written by Emmy winner Stephen Merchant (The Office) along with Elgin James (Mayans M.C.), the British series picks up its sophomore arc exploring how the events of season 1 left the group of lead characters: Still serving community service together, but now unlikely allies united by a stolen bag of money. The new season forces them to confront the very real danger posed by their decision to keep the money, and they end up on the wrong side of the sadistic drug dealer who wants his money back — with interest. In order to pay him back and protect themselves and their loved ones, they need to get even more comfortable operating in the criminal underworld.
Season 1 of The Outlaws ended on a somewhat unsatisfying note, with the group finally showing solidarity but their lives still in very real jeopardy. In hindsight, the episode that ended that season feels more like a typical midseason finale, offering a tiny taste of what the characters could accomplish together while raising the stakes in the story to come.
In contrast, season 2 delivers a thoroughly satisfying arc that effectively wraps things up for just about everyone in The Outlaws in one way or another — even when their concluding chapters suggest their stories aren’t quite over. It does so at a surprisingly efficient pace, too, with the season’s six episodes rarely detouring into the smaller, funny subplots that peppered season 1.
Right from the start, season 2 is full-speed ahead on the characters’ descent into criminal life and the rapid unraveling of their lives the deeper they go.
While this shift in tone makes season 2 of The Outlaws a significantly less funny experience, it does deliver an extremely compelling, tense narrative, darker than just about anything Merchant has worked on so far. As crime thrillers go, The Outlaws checks all the boxes and offers a little something extra with the humor Merchant and the cast provide along the way.
Season 2 continues to do a nice job of spreading the screen time around, too. Where the first season of The Outlaws bounced the characters off each other in entertaining ways, the second season spends more time diving into their respective solo arcs, exploring how the people and events transpiring around them have changed them — and not always for the better.
At the end of season 1, the characters were fascinating together. When season 2 ends, they’re just as fascinating individually, too.
Although Christopher Walken got top billing — and deservedly so — to launch the series, the Oscar winner takes a bit of a backseat in season 2, getting involved in less of the action, but still delivering a great performance when given the chance. His costars all step up admirably, and it’s difficult to call out any particular performance above the others due to how wonderful each actor is in the series and the excellent chemistry they show with each other. Alongside Walken and Merchant, Rhianne Barreto, Darren Boyd, Clare Perkins, Eleanor Tomlinson, and Gamba Cole all get time to shine in season 2 and take full advantage of the opportunity.
Joining them, Jessica Gunning (Back), who plays the group’s community-service supervisor, delivers some of the show’s biggest laughs across both seasons, while Claes Bang (The Northman) gives the season a truly terrifying villain as the drug dealer known only as The Dean.
More satisfying than the season that preceded it, season 2 of The Outlaws does a great job of exploring the world it introduced in season 1 and fully realizing the paths the story put its characters on. Anyone who left season 1 feeling a bit underserved by the series will likely find the show’s second — and possibly final — set of episodes more rewarding, even without as many laughs.
Season 2 of The Outlaws premieres August 5 on Amazon’s Prime Video streaming service.