Black Mineral & Time Travel In ‘Outer Range’ Explained: How Does The Hole Work?


We have seen various kinds of time-travel devices and machines in movies and TV shows. There’s the TARDIS, the DeLorean, the phone booth from Bill & Ted, the three-way tunnel in Dark, and so on and so forth. Outer Range gave us a hole. It randomly opened up in the west pasture, near the Abbott ranch and the Tillerson ranch, and started affecting the lives of the people of Wabang. The first season of the show didn’t really give a very clear idea as to how this void on the ground worked. Royal briefly traveled to the future, and it was revealed that he was a time traveler from the 1800s. Those who came in contact with the hole got to see visions of the future. Sometimes it disappeared and reappeared at the same spot. And it transported animals and natural land masses. Overall, things were pretty random. Has the second season offered some more clarity about the way time travel works in Wabang? Let’s find out.

Spoiler Alert

How Does the Hole Work?

In the universe of Outer Range, time is a physical thing that exists underneath the surface of Wabang, much like oil. Why does it exist? That’s still a mystery. Based on some of the imagery and the conversations between the characters, I’d say that it’s a natural phenomenon that occurred during the creation of the universe and the planets. Now, the hole opens and closes at various points in time at the same geographical spot. But the biggest question is, how does it determine where the person who is jumping into it is going to land? Also, what’s going to be the time difference between the moment they leave and then return? 

Royal goes from the 1800s to the ’60s, and then he goes to the future and then comes back almost instantaneously. Joy spends four years in the 1800s, even though she goes missing for only a few days in the present timeline. To make things even more confusing, Perry travels to the ‘80s and then ends up in a branched reality where Trevor survives and an alternate version of Perry dies and is replaced by the time-traveling Perry. Well, my theory is that it has something to do with the last person that the hole-jumping time-traveler meets. 

Perry talks to Royal before jumping into the hole, and he ends up in a time period that is pivotal to Royal. Amy is in contact with Autumn (who is the older version of herself) when she is pushed into the hole, so she ends up in the time period where Amy officially becomes Autumn. Joy is in contact with the child version of Royal, and she comes out of the hole when Royal is standing near it. But then there’s the curious case of the youngest version of Royal, who is in direct contact with Joy while jumping into the hole, and when he comes out of it, he meets a young Wayne Tillerson, which is a moment that goes on to define the rivalry between the Abbotts and the Tillersons. Maybe the exception proves the rule? 

That said, it’s totally possible that there’s no set rule and the oil-like fluid that creates the hole organically and spontaneously meddles with reality for the sake of self-preservation and the maintenance of the fabric of time and space. Time, in the show, is like the Earth’s immune system, and it attracts certain people to the hole to create some form of stability. Then it’s up to the people how they wish to use it (which is something that Royal alludes to while talking about God, which is time, according to Dark). If the time travelers don’t deviate too much from their path, then the cycle is maintained. If they do deviate drastically from their path, like Perry did, it sends them to a different reality. As for the frequency of the opening and closing of the hole, I feel that it depends on its internal mechanism for maintaining the timeline of Wabang. Once a person’s arc in a timeline ends, it disappears. When the time comes to start an arc, it opens, and it stays that way until the requisite character has reached the end of their arc. I know, it’s confusing.

What is the black mineral?

As mentioned before, time in Wabang exists in the form of a black, oil-like liquid. If you dig into the ground, you can extract it in its original liquid form or in the form of black, grainy stones. The liquid gets absorbed into the time traveler’s body, while the stones can be consumed or absorbed by rubbing them on one’s lips. This element allows the user to peer into the future. Since destiny is an ever-changing aspect of the characters’ lives, the vision may or may not be accurate. 

The element has healing powers, but only if it’s ingested. We see that it heals Autumn’s scars when she consumes the stones and also fixes Wayne and Billy. But the scratches on Royal’s back, Perry’s wounds from his fight with the young Wayne, and the gunshot wound on Joy’s leg aren’t healed despite traveling through the hole and absorbing the material. 

The black mineral allows the user to connect with various versions of themselves, regardless of where or in which time period they are. Autumn connects with Amy, and the old Wayne connects with the younger Wayne, and both of them manage to extract information from the consciousness of their younger selves. 

The mineral has some negative side effects too. When a kid time-travels through the hole and absorbs the minerals, it messes with their memory. They vaguely remember stuff from their time period. For example, Royal knows he is from 1886 and that he is responsible for the death of his father in a hunting incident. But he doesn’t remember that he killed his father to save a time-traveling Joy. When Amy falls into the hole and comes out of the other end, she remembers Autumn’s name and the Abbott Ranch logo. It’s only after Autumn mind-melds with Amy that she remembers everything about her life. As for the adults, the black mineral doesn’t have any immediate psychological or physiological side-effects. However, it tends to weaken the heart, the brain, or both, which causes a ringing sensation in the time-traveler. Royal, Perry, and Joy explicitly suffer from this affliction, and Royal even suffers a heart attack or some kind of stroke. His recovery is faster than that of a regular person who suffers a regular stroke, and that can be due to the mineral coursing through his veins. 

Although we get just a glimpse of the future, it’s evident that, much like oil, this time fluid and the black mineral can be extracted from the grounds of Wabang and then distributed accordingly. It can be used as a drug. It can be used to manipulate people, like Autumn is probably going to do to her followers. And it can be used for time travel.

How Does Joy Time Travel?

Although the concept of time travel in the Outer Range is still a little vague, based on what I’ve seen in Season 2, I can say that it doesn’t follow the Back to the Future rule. As in, if the time traveler meddles with stuff in the past, then it’s going to have an immediate effect on the present. Instead, it sort of follows a rule of its own. As mentioned earlier, there’s a set cycle that governs the timeline of Wabang. The hole sucks in and spits out certain people from various points in time based on what is needed to maintain the stability of this cycle. But Joy ends up finding a different way to time travel. 

Joy finds a black line leading into the woods. She keeps following it until it disappears, and she finds herself in the 1800s, near a Shoshone village. Joy does come back after spending four years with her ancestors, via the hole in the time period that she had disappeared from. However, her entry into the 1800s proves that the hole isn’t the only way to time travel in Wabang. Sometimes, a black line (that probably signifies Joy’s indigenous roots) can take a character to a specific time period. 

What is that black line? Well, I suppose it’s the mineral that exists in the grounds of Wabang, and someone (it can be Frank, because he kept pestering Joy about the dinosaurs in Wabang) has used it to create a rift in space and time. To be honest, traveling through time with the help of that line is way more seamless than jumping into a hole. This process apparently compresses time too, because Joy goes missing for a few days, but she spends four years in the 1800s. That’s not the case while jumping through the hole. It takes them to a different time period altogether, and if the time traveler is meant to return to their original time period, they get to do so, and there’s not a lot of difference between the time they left and the time they returned. So, that’s another thing that the time travelers in Wabang have to figure out.

What Time Periods and Alternate Realities Are Explored?

Joy traveled from 2022 to 1882. She lived there for four years and then returned to the 2022 time period. The youngest version of Royal traveled from 1886 to 1968 and stayed in that timeline until he was pushed into the hole in 2022. That’s when he briefly traveled to 2024, where Wabang was being mined by BY9 and the cult led by Autumn, and then he returned to 2022. It’s unclear what the time period was in which Amy landed after being pushed into the hole in 2022. I am assuming that she went to a point in time when Amy wasn’t born yet, i.e., 2012. By the way, given how the place where Amy appeared didn’t look at all like Wabang, we can speculate that the hole doesn’t exclusively open and close in Wabang; it can transport people to different geographical locations too. Perry went from 2022 to the 1980s, and then he landed to an alternate version of the 2020s, thereby proving that the hole not only had the ability to shift back and forth between a singular timeline, but it also had the power to create a branched timeline based on the time traveler’s actions.

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Pramit Chatterjee
Pramit Chatterjee
Pramit loves to write about movies, television shows, short films, and basically anything that emerges from the world of entertainment. He occasionally talks to people, and judges them on the basis of their love for Edgar Wright, Ryan Gosling, Keanu Reeves, and the best television series ever made, Dark.

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