“You know the definition of a witness, Ralph, right? A person who thought they saw something.”¬†

In HBO’s THE OUTSIDER, when the badly mutilated body of a young boy is found in the Georgia woods, police detective Ralph Anderson (Ben Mendelsohn) must overcome personal tragedy to handle the investigation into the gruesome crime. Signs point to a family man within the community – Terry Maitland (Jason Bateman) – a local teacher and baseball coach. Evidence and eyewitnesses lead to an ironclad case. Still, when Terry has a perfect alibi and is seemingly innocent, the situation quickly veers into darker territory that will have you questioning what is going on and who, or what is responsible.

“Getting the goods on the fucking Boogeyman, that’s your plan?”

Based on the novel by Stephen King, the HBO miniseries is one of the best examples of an adaptation of King’s work, ever. Through the last several years, King’s work has become increasingly adaptable due in part to miniseries and streaming formats.

Throughout the ’80s and ’90s, it became a significant point of frustration for King’s avid fan base as film after film seemed to disappoint, failing to capture the author’s style and build. But THE OUTSIDER‘s Executive Producer and Showrunner Richard Price has taken great care to adapt the novel, providing real characters that are hard-pressed to accept the supernatural, even when confronted with it head-on.

The ten-episode series is brilliantly executed. Each episode builds momentum, plunging us towards what appears to be a genuine horror. Jason Bateman directs the first two episodes and is quickly becoming a surprising, yet welcome force in the genre. Every actor in this series brings a side of our own uncertainly at the possibility of the supernatural. Are the things that go bump in the night real?

The investigation leads to a pattern that involves other victims across the United States, and detective Anderson brings in an unlikely source for help… a savant spiritual investigator, Holly Gibney (Cynthia Erivo, Harriet, Bad Times at the El Royale).

“My advice, while you’re out here, you should belive so too.”

Ben Mendelson is simply fantastic, creating a haunted character living in the pain of a past traumatic event. His wife is played by Mare Winningham, and you really feel their pain as they navigate the death of their son, and the feelings this new case dredges up.

The rest of the cast features a master-class in acting, specifically Cynthia Erivo‘s performance as Holly Gibney. The actress brings such incredible empathy and heart as she helps investigate the devastating crimes and the insidious nature behind them.

And as the pieces start to fall together, you realize that you are truly living in a world where the supernatural exists and is hungry. This is a fantastic adaptation of King’s work that almost succeeds in being better than the book. It is a slow burn, with thrills and chills that will leave you unsettled. Everything from the camera work to the design to the soundtrack is top-notch. Do yourself a favor and rent or buy the first season of this series. It is a perfect treat during the trick of what has become 2020.

THE OUTSIDER: THE COMPLETE FIRST SEASON arrives on Blu-ray and DVD tomorrow, July 28, 2020.

J. Michael Roddy
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TV Reviews

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