HBO's The Outsider is a taut adaptation of Stephen King's book; here's what you need to know about the series
HBO's The Outsider brings yet another spooky Stephen King story to the small screen, starring Jason Bateman. Here's a spoiler-free lowdown to get you all caught up with the episodes out so far.
What we're watching: The Outsider
Where does it air/stream: HBO/Hotstar
When: In India, a new episode is released every Monday at 8.30 am
What's it about: When a little boy in Cherokee City, Georgia, is found raped, murdered, and partly cannibalised, the police investigation quickly pinpoints a suspect — Little League coach, English teacher, doting husband and father, and all-around upstanding citizen Terry Maitland (Jason Bateman). Eyewitnesses saw Terry with the victim, Frankie Peterson, before the estimated time of death, and later, drenched in blood. DNA and fingerprint evidence also establish that Terry was involved in the crime. But Terry insists that he's innocent, that he wasn't even in town on the day of the murder — and he can prove it. Investigative officer Ralph Anderson (Ben Mendelsohn) is flummoxed by how one man could be in two places at the same time.
Sounds interesting. Is it? Oh yes, it is. Over episodes 1-3 the tension keeps ratcheting up as the police noose tightens around Terry, and tragedy radiates outwards from the Ground Zero of Frankie's murder to engulf the Peterson and Maitland families. Bateman directs the first two episodes, in addition to starring in them, and they set up the mood, sense of dread perfectly. Which is important for you to be completely engaged in what's to follow.
What's to follow? A supernatural thriller with all the hallmarks of a Stephen King tale.
This is a Stephen King adaptation? Verily. It's based on the book of the same name.
And the series is the same as the book? Well, for the most part. The HBO series changes around some things, including the location, a few character names, and the sequence of certain events, but hews quite closely to King's original, except for two major deviations: 1. Ralph Anderson and his wife are shown to be bereaved parents in this TV adaptation; it's the loss of his son — who Terry once coached — that makes Ralph so personally invested in the Frankie Peterson investigation (and clouds his judgement disastrously). 2. Holly Gibney — the private investigator Terry's lawyer calls in to help clear his name — diverges in many ways from her literary source. She's even played by a different actress than in the other screen adaptation involving her character, the Mr Mercedes TV series.
Huh? Holly Gibney first appeared as a character in King's Bill Hodges trilogy, comprising the books Mr Mercedes, Finders Keepers and End of Watch. A troubled but gifted young woman, she helps retired police detective-turned-private eye Bill Hodges to unravel the mysteries contained within these three tomes. In The Outsider, however, she is managing the detective agency alone (Hodges having died in End of Watch). She'll play a crucial role in the episodes yet to come, as it is Holly who finds a lead indicating the whole investigation is much larger than the one murder concerning Terry — and beyond Ralph's understanding of 'reality'. While Cynthia Erivo plays Holly in The Outsider, Justine Lupe portrays the same character on Mr Mercedes.
Beyond Holly, Ralph and Terry, who are the other major characters? Howie Salomon (Bill Camp), Terry's lawyer. Alec Pelley (Jeremy Bobb), his investigator, and the one who suggests Holly be called in to help clear Terry's name. Glory Maitland (Julianne Nicholson), Terry's wife. Yunis Sablo (Yul Vazquez), an officer from the state police who's liaising with Ralph on the investigation. Bill Samuels (Michael Esper), the DA who is prosecuting Terry. Jack Hoskins (Marc Menchaca), Ralph's colleague at the Flint Police Department, who has an alarming encounter with even more alarming consequences.
Do things get spooky? Oh you bet they do. Think children being 'visited' at night by a hooded "burnt man" who also likes to hang around places where violence is about to be committed. Most horrifying of all — the premise that a perfectly ordinary life can be upended and a family devastated, within the space of a few minutes.
Is the show as good as the book? Fans of Holly Gibney from the books may or may not like the changes in her personality made by showrunner Richard Price or the (needlessly grim?) backstory introduced for Ralph Anderson, but the first three episodes have been taut and thrilling, with a Fargo-like quality. Also, Jason Bateman!
So, tune in? With all possible speed. Episode 4 is out Monday morning (IST).
Watch the trailer here —
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