When I found out that one of my favourite authors had written a new story, and that it was being serialised on tv, I knew I had something good to look forward to. Having to wait for each episode might stretch my patience into a wafer, as I don’t like to stop reading when enjoying a good book, but I was already hooked.
Stephen King is best known for horror stories like Carrie, It, and The Shining.
Based on the first two episodes, The Outsider is a classic King story and in structure and tone, it feels more like a murder mystery than a horror story. Mild spoiler alert: it’s both.
What’s the story about?
The Outsider tells the story of the gruesome murder of a young boy in the fictional town of Flint City, Oklahoma. Detective Ralph Anderson (Ben Mendelsohn) investigates, though it’s not a tough case to crack as mountains of forensic and eyewitness evidence point to beloved local teacher and baseball coach Terry Maitland (Jason Bateman, who also executive produced the series and directed its first two episodes). But Maitland has a solid alibi for the crime, which means that it looks like Frankie was murdered by a man who was somehow in two places at once.
The series is loyal to the novel’s dryly grim tone, with Mendelsohn perfect as the weary but honourable small-town cop and Jason Bateman coolly moving as a man who’s watching his life explode in front of him. The first two episodes play out pretty much like the beginning of the book, slowly unfurling the mystery: after the discovery of Frankie Peterson’s body, witness after witness can tie local coach and family man Maitland to the crime. He was spotted offering the kid a ride in his van, and then later seen covered with blood. The crime scene is finger-painted in his prints, his blood type was present, too. But Maitland was also captured on video in a totally different town at the time the crime was committed, attending a teaching conference with countless colleagues who can all vouch for his presence. And his fingerprints are found at the conference site, too.
It would seem that the coach was in two places at the same time, but this can’t be possible, even for Stephen King. The title begs a question too, who is this outsider?
I will be reviewing The Outsider when the series ends…