The Outsider

The latest Stephen King adaptation opens strongly, but signs of the writer’s predilection for left field plot turns suggest it won’t end that way… [Three episodes watched for review]

Tv Review by Tom Charles | 17 Jan 2020
  • The Outsider
Title: The Outsider
Series Creator: Richard Price
Starring: Ben Mendelsohn, Cynthia Erivo, Bill Camp, Jeremy Bobb, Julianne Nicholson
Platform: HBO

Based on Stephen King’s novel of the same name, The Outsider follows a seemingly straightforward investigation into the gruesome murder of a young boy. But as a supernatural force edges its way into the case, it leads the seasoned cop in charge (the ever-reliable Ben Mendelsohn) and an unorthodox investigator (Cynthia Erivo, who deftly fleshes out a character who could easily just be a bag of quirks) to question the foundations of the world they thought they knew.

The first two episodes show just what King can do with a well-worn genre like the procedural. They’re darkly compelling, digging into the warped nature of the crime, along with the culprit’s peculiar indifference to covering their tracks. Mendelsohn’s cop has the case handed to him on a silver platter, but his due diligence as he interviews witnesses and sifts evidence casts an eerie pall. What he finds suggests a world knocked out of whack. Everything seems clear cut and incontrovertible, and yet it also feels wrong.

It’s as it enters its third episode that the usual King warning signs begin to appear – and if this follows the book exactly, the problems will only be compounded as the series goes on. Something supernatural is definitely afoot, and that’s fine. What’s less fine is that here – as with other King adaptations (and their source material) – you get the overwhelming impression that he’s no more sure about how his ‘entity’ (and its abilities) than we are.

Broadcast on Sky Atlantic and Now TV