HBO recently sent out advanced copies of the first six episodes of their upcoming series, The Outsider, for review to select media outlets, 25YL included. In this article, I will be giving a spoiler-free look at those six episodes. Then when the series starts on January 12th, we will be providing a week to week episode analysis in our trademark fashion.
The early release trailers and press releases for HBO’s upcoming series, The Outsider, gave me some definite True Detective and Twin Peaks vibes. Small town, creepy atmosphere, appeared to be a murder mystery. Jason Bateman acting and directing? I’m sold already. Knowing that it was based on a Stephen King book (which in full disclosure, I haven’t read) made me even more excited, as there were likely to be some supernatural elements, which was also implied in the trailers. Needless to say, I was excited to begin watching.
Episode 1 had me hooked right away. The Outsider quickly flexed its muscle, displaying the ability to not only create an intriguing atmosphere through lighting, sound and performance but also with top-notch acting. Without giving anything away, there’s a scene in the final moments of the first episode between Ben Mendelsohn (Detective Ralph Anderson) and Jason Bateman (the accused, Terry Maitland), where the subject matter was so powerful and the acting so great that I sat stunned, now knowing what this show was capable of.
The series takes the viewer for a thrill ride in episode 2, where they not only build upon what was established in the first episode—including several truly heart wrenching scenes which will undoubtedly leave a mark. But also some left turns in the narrative which are bound to get the armchair detectives intrigued. From episode 3 onward, the expectation has been established that this show is daring, really well acted and downright creepy. I can’t say enough good things about how well the show handles the horror elements.
There will be a lot of inevitable comparisons between The Outsider and other shows. There are moments when they really nail emotional anguish the way the first two seasons of Twin Peaks did. From a mood and tonal perspective, the comparisons to True Detective Season 1 are justified and deserved. Looking at the show through a horror lens, it is simply one of the best TV adaptions I’ve seen thus far. The show’s ability to use grief as a cornerstone and then intertwine the supernatural really deserves to be applauded. It’s not an easy task. It’s much less in your face about it than Netflix’s The Haunting of Hill House, which just couldn’t get the formula right ultimately. The Outsider relies on a raw, gritty feeling that carries from episode to episode and allows moments of silence to tell a story, something that is also incredibly tough to pull off.
The cast is what makes this concept take off. Ben Mendelsohn’s quiet, yet filled with anguish presence serves as the show’s glue. While I can’t say enough good things about Jason Bateman playing a really complex role, Cynthia Erivo, Mare Winningham and Julianne Nicholson, among others, each deserve equal credit for rounding out a terrific ensemble. Nicholson portrays her emotional anguish as the wife of accused child murderer Terry Maitland (Bateman) perfectly. Cynthia Erivo changes the dynamic of the show as Holly Gibney, a character that deserves to be written about and analyzed on her own once we can discuss specific plot details.
The Outsider stands out in today’s age of “Peak TV”. If you’re on the fence about giving this show a shot, don’t be. It’s unique, original and everything that it sets out to do, it does well. When 2020 ends, we’re going to be talking about The Outsider as a show of the year contender, provided the final four episodes are as strong as the first six, which I’m fully expecting them to be. The Outsider is a show you don’t want to miss.
The Outsider starts Sunday, January 12th on HBO, airing episodes 1 and 2 back to back. 25YL’s analysis will be available as soon as the episode ends.