Two Places At Once
Stephen King adaptations usually go one of two ways – they’re either really good or disappointing. So far at least, The Outsider feels like the former, spinning a deliciously twisted tale that begins as a simple crime drama before diving into a nightmarish supernatural tale that could go anywhere given how this one ends.
Episode 1 of The Outsider begins with a man out walking his dog. On his route, he spots splashes of blood dotted around before uncovering something horrific – a young boy has been murdered. Phoning the police, they rush to the scene to investigate further while the man walking his dog is interviewed.
The murder rocks this town, as our lead investigator Ralph signs a paper and continues to interview the locals, including Mary who tells them of a white van driver who spoke to the child, offering him a trip home in the same white van the dog walker described previously. With two witness statements mentioning the same white van, as well as another for a little girl who spots a bloodied man in his woods, the police head down to the ball game and arrest a dumbfounded Terry Maitland.
While they do, his wife Glory phones Howard, their lawyer, and he advises her not to say anything to the police. Terry is driven to the station where he tells them he wasn’t even in town that afternoon. As we jump back in time again, we see Ralph reviewing the CCTV footage where things don’t seem to add up. The footage they’ve found from outside the alleyway, along with a couple more witness statements, seem to point to Terry wanting to be caught, constantly glancing up at the camera and lingering his face there for several seconds.
Kenneth Hayes, the DA, arrives at the police station during our present-day timeline and begins questioning Terry, who refuses to talk until his lawyer arrives. He asks him for help clearing the case up, just as Howard arrives and berates the police for the way they arrested Terry. As they catch him up on the case, Terry’s house is searched while a strange, hooded man watches on from afar.
In the interview room, Terry talks and tells them he was in Cap City at a school conference during the time of the murder. While Ralph and Kenneth go and follow up the Cap City story, reviewing yet more CCTV and interviewing those who claim to have seen him, Terry is thrown in jail.
In the middle of the night, Terry’s daughter stares at a seemingly empty spot in her room, claiming someone is in her room saying bad things. When Glory rushes into her room however, she snaps out of her trance and throws her arms around her. To make things even more unsettling, the Cap City footage shows Terry clearly asking questions at the conference. So if that’s him… who’s the man from the other footage?
Howard heads to the jail and tells Terry the news about the footage and believes they can win the case. In order to do so however, they’re going to need forensic evidence. As they start to piece together a case, Ralph does the same, heading to the hotel and sifting through the footage before heading to the gift shop and finding a book Terry grabbed that hasn’t been touched since. Ralph uses it to do fingerprint forensics and it turns out they have a match – both for the crime scene and also in Cap City. How can Terry be in two places at once?
As the episode closes out, Ralph looks over the footage once more and sees Terry giving the middle finger for the footage from the alleyway while the rest of our characters prepare for the upcoming court case. In prison, one of the inmates promises blood for blood as Terry’s life hangs in the balance.
As far as season openers go, The Outsider roars into 2020 with a stunning episode, one that showcases masterful editing as we swing back and forth between interviews and our present-day timeline. Added to that is a really solid dose of unnerving tension that has all the makings of a must-watch crime thriller here. The supernatural elements feel naturally included and both Jason Bateman and Ben Mendelsohn bring a real energy and chemistry to the fold that help add to the realism.
Thankfully HBO have released two episodes back to back today but this already feels like a show where the weekly wait is going to be absolutely agonizing. So far so good though, The Outsider looks set to become one of 2020’s brightest stars. Whether it can keep this up however, remains to be seen.