Warning: This post will contain spoilers for the first two episodes of The Outsider.
HBO aired the first two (Jason Bateman-directed) episodes of The Outsider last night, and so far Team BMD's having a helluva time with it. Based on Stephen King's 2018 novel of the same name, The Outsider is an unusual beast, equal parts police procedural and supernatural horror tale, and so far they're leaning very heavily on the former.
In these early episodes, The Outsider feels a little like The Night Of (co-created by Richard Price, who also shepherded this one onto the network) and a little like True Detective, with the series following a grisly, small town murder investigation involving a young boy. To Detective Ralph Anderson (a reliably great Ben Mendelson), it appears to be a fairly open and shut case: multiple witnesses place beloved local baseball coach Terry Maitland (Jason Bateman, also good) near the scene of the murder, as does a mountain of forensic evidence - fingerprints, blood, and the like are all over the damn place. Trouble is, Terry's got multiple alibis, not to mention security camera footage that places him in an entirely different city at the time of the murder. On paper, it really appears that Terry was in two places at the same time. But that just isn't possible...is it?
Getting to the bottom of that question will be the engine that drives The Outsider, but anyone expecting an elaborate and scientifically-sound explanation may come away disappointed. This is, after all, a Stephen King adaptation, and before this is all said and done I imagine we'll see some of King's greatest tropes trotted out onscreen. It will be very interesting to see how audiences who aren't familiar with the source material respond to the back half of this series.
Reviews for The Outsider have been all over the map. Some say the show's hard to follow (we didn't have that problem), too dark to see (again, not a problem we encountered), and that it spins its wheels a bit once it gets near the middle of its ten-episode run (this is entirely possible; we've only seen the first two episodes), but so far we're loving the look and feel of this series, and delighted to see Mendelsohn fronting this cast. His Ralph Anderson makes for an interesting take on the classic embittered, grizzled detective character, and Bateman's Terry Maitland proves an interesting counterpart in these first two episodes. They're backed by a cast comprised of many excellent character actors and That Guys (hey, look, it's Bill Pope! And Paddy Considine! And Mare Winningham!), all of them delivering dialogue that's just as sharp as it needs to be while still maintaining that small-town Stephen King feel.
The two-part premiere ends with Terry Maitland dead, the family of his victim completely wiped out, and a discarded stack of clothes covered in...some kind of gross substance...sitting in a barn. Ralph knows that something's amiss about the case and unwilling to let it die with Terry, but where will this investigation lead? How many more will die along the way? And, most importantly, how long until Cynthia Erivo's Holly Gibney shows up? We'll get some of those answers next week. Until then, we've got this space to discuss the show's first two episodes. Let us know what you thought in the comments below, and stay tuned for further coverage on The Outsider as we work our way through the rest of the season. Gonna be an interesting ride.