A riveting season of television has been completed. The Outsider will have its critics but I am not one of them. The pace might not have been what we’re accustomed to and the show certainly played by its own rules but there’s nothing wrong with that. It told its story the way it wanted to and that included a satisfying conclusion that could both serve as an ending or merely the ending of a chapter. With that being said, let’s get into The Outsider S1E10, “Must/Can’t”.
The episode picked up where the previous week left off with the shoot out in the woods, right outside of Bear Cave. The Outsider was many things between its supernatural, thriller and police procedural elements and here, we added an intense action element. The shoot out captured a feeling of unpredictability and genuine concern over who all could wind up being a part of the overall body count. As a viewer, I didn’t expect Ralph or Holly to be killed here but everyone else felt like fair game and that feeling made for a tense, edge-of-your-seat television experience. After Andy’s death, Holly walked out in the middle of danger, almost knowing that she wouldn’t die. Sitting here a few days after this episode aired, I feel more curious about this than anything else. She knew that the shoot out was about to end, and that Jack was about to die. More on this later.
Jack, while shooting down people he was co-workers with just a few days ago, was obviously still battling the presence inside him. Jack didn’t want to do this—he was being forced to do this. When he saw Holly, he stopped. Did Jack’s humanity take over here or was he being released? Was “El Cuco” cutting his tie with Jack and sending the snake to finish Jack? I tend to think the sight of Holly and her fearlessness as she walked out in the line of fire was so intriguing to El Cuco that he was done with his old toy and ready for something better.
We finally entered the cave, with Ralph and Holly, and it was here that the show really played to its strengths. The Outsider was at its best when the show was creating a mood. The show did an excellent job of reserving certain musical cues for the creepiest of moments, complete with the dimmest of lighting and sparse dialogue. As we followed Ralph and Holly in the cave, the moment felt important. The story, while not traditional and often plodding, had led us to this showdown, and here in the finale, this showdown was treated with the importance it deserved. Of course when El Cuco finally spoke to them, all bets were off.
The actual face to face between the Ralph and Holly and the monster they had been hunting all year long was also handled well. This is a scene that easily could’ve been ridiculed by viewers had too much or not enough been said. The balance was right, with Holly asking the questions we at home also wanted to know and Ralph still on the defense. The dynamic here between El Cuco and Holly was instantly captivating. When he asked her why it was so easy for her to believe in him, it was a genuine curiosity, almost like she made no sense to him. The monster wanted to know more about the woman hunting him, which plays into the discussion earlier about him stopping Jack before discarding him.
While it’s easy to focus the attention on Holly, Ralph’s turnaround here was especially noteworthy. Here we have this man, so paralyzed by an inability to discuss let alone believe in anything outside what was tangible to him for most of the year, now helping lead the charge to kill the monster. When Ralph went back, knowing El Cuco wasn’t dead, it was a crucial moment for him. He was a police officer to his core and that attention to detail in this situation served as an anchor of sorts. Even though he was stepping completely into the unknown, he was still himself. The things he knew were still valid and he could still be rooted in his reality—it’s just that the world really was bigger and more complex than he ever imagined.
Watching El Cuco try to shapeshift before what appeared to be his death was telling. One of the faces he attempted to take was indeed Holly’s, which happened right around the same time she came back to see what Ralph was doing. El Cuco was making a last-ditch effort for his survival and he saw Holly as a viable option. Or maybe she was the ultimate goal?
The episode then shifted for several scenes of all of our living players attempting to create the cover up designed to clear the name of Terry Maitland. This would be my one complaint about the episode. Clearing Terry’s name was essential and I’m happy they made that decision but the execution was clunky, especially after the intensity we had just witnessed in the cave. Had it been condensed to a few, more tightly packed scenes in a montage, it would’ve felt more effective. The clearing of Terry’s name should have had more of an impact, but here, it felt a little flat.
The ending saw Ralph and Holly have their goodbye moment, with Ralph expressing a desire to work together again and asking Holly what else was out there. It was one of many great moments for Ralph in the finale, showing exactly how far his character has come. We would see more of this in his conversation with his wife that followed where they discussed their deceased son and both truly seemed like they were in a place of acceptance. Ralph’s story arc this season wasn’t without its challenges, but it was so deeply satisfying to see where he wound up.
Holly’s parting words to Ralph, about how an outsider recognizes an outsider, are still playing through my head. She wasn’t afraid of El Cuco because the unknown doesn’t scare her. El Cuco was captivated by her because she too was different. Which makes the post credits scene exposing Holly’s scratch that much more intriguing. An entity such as El Cuco doesn’t seem like he can be killed. Could the recruitment of Holly via this scratch indicate that this story goes on? Or was this merely something to keep our minds going? Could a potential second season be about the intuitive Holly trying to fight off El Cuco’s control of her? Or if she gave in, could her powers combined with El Cuco be a force that couldn’t be stopped? My mind’s racing thinking about the possibilities.
The Outsider told a scary story filled with intriguing characters and was filled with genuine human emotion. From the pain of the Maitland family, to watching the Andersons continue to grieve, pain was the backdrop to a supernatural tale that managed to keep the creep factor up without ever going over the top or cheesy. That’s a really hard line to walk and The Outsider nailed it. Whether or not there’s a second season, this holds up as a really well done 10-episode series that made for unique television that won’t soon be forgotten.