‘The Outsider’ Review and Recap: Stephen King’s Version of ‘True Detective’ Is Your Next Obsession

Here’s our review and recap for the first two episodes of “The Outsider,” which debuted on HBO on Sunday night…

By Damon Martin — Editor/Lead Writer

SPOILERS BELOW IF YOU HAVEN’T SEEN THE FIRST TWO EPISODES OF “THE OUTSIDER”

HBO loves a grim detective story and “The Outsider” is the latest example of that.

Based on the Stephen King story of the same name, “The Outsider” debuted on Sunday night with the first two episodes of a 10 episode special engagement. The series features plenty of famous names behind the camera as well as penning the screenplays including Emmy award winner Jason Bateman, who directed the first two episodes as well as stars in the series.

“The Outsider” begins with a young boy in a small town in Georgia named Frankie Peterson being found butchered and mutilated and it doesn’t take local police long to zero in on their suspect. A string of witness interviews, surveillance footage coupled with damning blood evidence and fingerprints paints a target directly on the back of Little League baseball coach Terry Maitland (Bateman).

Detective Ralph Anderson (played by Ben Mendelsohn) leads the investigation but after collecting so much evidence in such a short matter of time, he’s convinced the police have their murderer.

He orders police officers to arrest Terry in the middle of a baseball game in full view of 100 local townspeople not to mention his wife and children. Ralph wants everybody to know that this beloved coach is actually a cold-blooded killer.

As more and more evidence begins to pile up — including surveillance footage where Terry appears to look directly into the camera as well as a cab ride from a strip club where he makes sure he’s recorded inside the vehicle — makes Ralph being to wonder if this guy was just begging to be caught.

Unfortunately, Detective Anderson’s slam dunk case begins to unravel after Terry claims that he was out of town on the day and time when the little boy was murdered. To make it all even stranger, Terry has witnesses who will give him a rock solid alibi that he was 60 miles away at a teacher’s conference. The landslide continues after Ralph retrieves television footage shot at the conference that shows Terry speaking during a meeting with his fellow teachers.

Ralph even manages to recover a book from a gift shop inside the hotel that contains Terry’s fingerprints, further proving that he was more than an hour away at the exact time when the little boy was murdered.

It’s a confounding case that doesn’t speak to logic.

The evidence shows beyond a shadow of a doubt that Terry Maitland killed this boy but there is irrefutable proof that he was nowhere near the town much less anywhere close to that child when he was kidnapped and butchered.

When tragedy strikes and Terry is killed while in custody, Ralph is put on leave after killing the gunman — who is Frankie Peterson’s older brother — and he can’t absolve himself of the mystery surrounding this case. Based on every piece of tangible evidence, Terry Maitland killed this poor child yet he was nowhere near the crime scene when it actually happened.

The tragedies continue to pile up after the entire Peterson family is dead inside a week after the mother dies of a heart attack, the eldest child is shot dead after killing Terry and the father hangs himself.

As much as the district attorney wants to close this case and put it all behind them, Ralph can’t let it go, especially after seeing what happens in the aftermath of this murder. He’s forced to turn to the Maitland family for help as they struggle to move forward following Terry’s death.. The Maitland’s issues are only compounded after their youngest daughter Jessa begins being tormented by haunting visions of a strange man stalking her every night.

Bateman, who has really become an incredible director in recent years, gives the first two episodes of “The Outsider” a truly creepy vibe — a grim and dark corner of Georgia where even the sun shining seems eclipsed by the shadows. The brutal murder of that little boy hangs over this town like a noose with dread lurking around every corner.

The performances in the show are also particularly strong, especially Bateman as the man who supposedly killed this child as well as Mendelsohn, who can’t be sure if he has caught the killer or not.

This being a Stephen King story, it’s safe to say that there will be a supernatural twist that will undoubtedly contort your mind into a few different directions. King is a man with a million different ideas and this one revolved around a simple story about a guy who is in two places at the same time and then trying to figure out how that could happen.

The first two episodes really being to hammer home that plot, especially with more questions than answers regarding Terry’s involvement in the murder when he was nowhere near the town when it happened. It’s an interesting whodunit except unlike a film such as “Knives Out” that asks you to be the detective, the killer has already been revealed.

The problem is you can’t trust your own eyes because there’s no doubt that Terry Maitland killed this little boy yet he was nowhere near the scene when it happened.

“The Outsider” moves at a rapid speed through the first two installments, which means the momentum will eventually have to slow down as the investigation continues. If Terry Maitland was the murderer, how was he literally in two places at once? If Terry Maitland wasn’t the murderer, then who was the heinous perpetrator behind this horrific crime?

The investigation will certainly lead Detective Anderson down some strange paths and the mystery will surely only suck you in even further.

Two episodes don’t tell the whole story but if “The Outsider” can continue building on the tension and mystery this entire season, it’s safe to say this will become appointment television over the next eight weeks.

“The Outsider” airs Sunday nights at 9 p.m. ET on HBO.

 

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