Based on the Stephen King novel of the same name, The Outsider is a mystery thriller about the investigation into the murder of a child where a respected local, Terry Maitland (Jason Bateman), is convicted of the harrowing crime. As the investigation unfolds, it becomes clear that this isn’t your run-of-the-mill murder case as conflicting evidence leaves local police speechless.
There’s no hiding the fact that The Outsider is a very slow burn. It’s never rushing towards the finale, rather, it spends every minute at a slow, calculated pace gradually building tension and slowly unfolding the mystery at hand. The story is captivating right from the get-go, it hooks you with the initial murder mystery and gives you more questions and revelations to run over with each passing episode. The slower pace is necessary for the story being told and leaves plenty of room for character growth dependent on each new revelation during the investigation. As the narrative unfolds, the reach gets a little bigger, going to places a little further than just your average local town murder. But at no point does it lose its focus, constantly coming back to the original series of events that thrust the story into motion.
I will say that despite the slow pace really working well, at the half-way point it begins to feel like it’s running a little too slow and nothing is being furthered in the mystery. It essentially comes down to us knowing more than the characters, and in a mystery, that can typically be quite frustrating if it runs on for too long. But from there it picks right back up again, building suspense as it approaches the final episode and leading into that with an incredible penultimate episode. The penultimate episode should almost always be the biggest of the season, and that is absolutely the case here. It’s the season’s best episode and both brings together everything prior and sets up what’s to come. From there, the finale is good but it doesn’t have the gravitas of the rest of the season. Still a strong end-point though.
When it comes to the performances, the series leads an all-star cast including, but not limited to, Jason Bateman, Ben Mendelsohn, Bill Camp and Cynthia Erivo. The entire lead cast is incredible, playing into the mystery and delivering stellar performances that really sell the fear and dread of everything they’re going through. Ben Mendelsohn leads the investigation and is a fantastic actor in his own right. The show’s events are viewed from a number of character perspectives, and having Mendelsohn at the forefront elevated every scene he was in, especially when he’s interacting with those who actively contest his view on the situations unfolding. Those accompanying Mendelsohn are also great, especially Bateman who expertly sets the tone for the rest of the series by directing the first two episodes.
The unrivalled star of the show is Cynthia Erivo, she is phenomenal across every single scene and is the reason it is so engaging. Her performance as Holly Gibney is absolutely riveting, the character is endlessly fascinating and that gives Erivo plenty of room to flesh out the quirkiness of the character. The mystery is strong and it’s a thoroughly entertaining story, however, the main draw of the show and the reason it is so riveting is because of Cynthia Erivo. With each passing episode she has more and more to do and that only means it just gets better and better.
Aside from a few minor quarrels here and there, The Outsider is a fantastic series boasting a thrilling slow-burn story and top-notch performances led by the immensely talented Cynthia Erivo. It goes to some pretty dark places, playing into a bunch of horror, thriller, mystery and crime elements that continuously build suspense. Being a Stephen King property, you should know what to expect in that everything is never as it seems. I would recommend this show if rewarding slow-burn mysteries are your thing, and you’re not opposed to a touch of horror.