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First Impressions of The Outsider on HBO

BY Shannon Entin

Published 2 years ago

Have you started watching The Outsider on HBO? This supernatural murder mystery stars Jason Bateman, Ben Mendelsohn, Cynthia Erivo, and more.

The Outsider is a 10-episode miniseries airing Sunday nights at 9 pm ET on HBO. It premiered with two episodes on January 12, 2020. It’s an adaptation of the 2018 Stephen King novel of the same name. I have not read the book and have been trying to stay away from any spoilers online!

First Thoughts on The Outsider

In my opinion, a show is a winner when I’m literally cringing and tense every moment! The first two episodes of The Outsider packed a powerful one-two punch of death and seemingly impossible mystery.

The show has a lot of classic Stephen King elements that give me feelings of apprehension and curiosity. I think we’re going to get themes of grief, sorrow, rage, and guilt.

The acting is excellent and I was drawn in immediately. The story, while not without some unexplained elements, is pretty clear-cut so far. There’s no confusing timeline or excessive characters to keep track of.

It’s a dark show, for sure, in terms of theme and coloring. Cinematically, it feels similar to Ozark. And that’s not surprising considering Jason Bateman directs both series.

A couple times I thought I recognized an actor, but couldn’t quite see their face well enough. I did eventually confirm that I was seeing Marc Menchaca (Russ from Ozark) and Summer Fontana (Hope from The Originals). Mare Winningham and Julianne Nicholson also star.

What Happened in The Outsider

In episode 1 we immediately discover the rape and murder of 11 year old Frankie Peterson. Evidence quickly and conclusively points to Terry Maitland (Bateman), with eye witnesses placing him with the boy, as well as around town covered in blood. Terry’s fingerprints are all over the boy, the van, and the crime scene.

Terry, an upstanding citizen and Little League baseball coach, is arrested on the baseball field in front of basically the entire town.

Problem is, Terry was at a literary convention 70 miles away at the time of the murder. And there’s TV footage of him at said convention.

How can a man be so conclusively in two different places at the same time?

Mendelsohn and Bateman in The Outsider on HBO.

Episode 2 begins as detective Ralph Anderson (Mendelsohn) is trying to make sense of the dumbfounding evidence. He visits Terry in prison and they have an emotional conversation, partially as friends, partially as detective/accused. There’s a wonderful struggle and give-and-take in this scene with Bateman and Mendelsohn skillfully keeping their emotions just bubbling under the surface.

The next day Terry is transferred from prison to the courthouse for his arraignment. As he’s walking into the courthouse, a gunman emerges from the crowd. Shots are fired, Terry and several police officers are hit, and Ralph fires back. He kills the gunman, who turns out to be Frankie’s older brother.

Terry is shot in the neck and he dies.

Shortly after, we see Frankie’s father try to hang himself. He survives and is in the hospital, but likely brain damaged.

WOW. That’s a lot of tragedy and tension for only two episodes. We’ve gotten a little bit of character development, mostly about detective Ralph. We know that his son is dead and he is still dealing with the grief.

After the shooting, the police department puts Ralph on leave and asks him to see a counselor. He can’t stay away from the case though, becoming more and more obsessed with the strange details.

He learns about the white van with the NY plates. This is the van Terry supposedly drove Frankie to the woods in, and drove again after the crime. But it didn’t belong to Terry. Where did that van come from?

It was stolen by a 12 year old boy and ditched in Dayton, OH… on a day when Terry’s family happened to be in town for a family trip. But they flew both ways. This just gets mysteriouser and mysteriouser!

There’s also the creepy hooded figure we see 3 or 4 times during these episodes. This is obviously someone we are meant to consider as the cause of all this evil. In one frame I got a closer look at the face and it looked… twisted? Deformed? Alien? (I’m crossing that last one off because Stephen King doesn’t usually use aliens in his stories.)

Meanwhile, we see Terry’s daughter Jessa multiple times staring into space, or yelling at an imaginary man. In one instance, we see what looks like blood or wet footprints on the bedroom floor where she was staring.

When Ralph questions Terry’s wife Gloria (Nicholson) about the trip to Dayton, she brushes off his questions, annoyed that he has the nerve to talk to her after what he did to Terry.

But Terry’s older daughter Maya (Fontana) overhears the conversation and mentions that her dad got a cut on his wrist during the trip. Apparently this happened at Terry’s father’s nursing home when Terry slipped on a wet floor and bumped into a nurse.

Episode 2 ends with a boy – a character we haven’t met yet – in a barn as he discovers some bloody clothes and a big belt buckle tossed on a pile of hay bales. These are the clothes Terry Maitland is seen on security footage wearing after Frankie’s murder.

Anyone else getting a Castle Rock Season 1 vibe here? The Outsider seems not nearly as convoluted as the story of The Kid, but I am definitely getting the feeling that the creepy hood guy is an evil that spreads through the town or possibly thrives on grief. Or is he a shapeshifter?

Share your thoughts in our TV and Movie Discussion with Stinger group on Facebook!

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