Photo: Ben Mendelsohn and Yul Vazquez in The Outsider.. Image Courtesy Bob Mahoney/HBO
HBO’s The Outsider, based on Stephen King’s book of the same name, premiered on HBO on Jan. 12, 2020. Here’s what happened in the premiere. Spoilers ahead!
The first episode of The Outsider, which is based on Stephen King’s best-selling novel of the same name, opens with a man walking his dog while dramatic music plays in the background. There is no dialogue, and in fact, there is little dialogue throughout the entire episode. Instead, the series relies on action scenes and an excellent score.
The viewer is given flashes of scenes and glimpses as clues. The dog walks by a white van, and there is a smear of blood on the side panel. They continue walking and the dog finds a patch of blood near a tree root.
Detective Ralph Anderson (Ben Mendelsohn) is notified of the crime, and then you see a bunch of flashing red and blue lights. Anderson arrives at the scene, and you catch fleeting looks at a dead child, Frankie Patterson (Duncan E. Clark).
You don’t see the entire crime scene, but you do get a look at the blood and see the expressions on the CSI people and Anderson. This combination tells you that it was a horrible death that slowly enrages Anderson. He questions a woman who was shopping, and while putting her groceries in the trunk of her car, she had seen Terry Maitland (Jason Bateman) pick up Frankie Patterson and his broken bike while driving a white van.
Another witness at a dive bar places Terry at the bar soon after Patterson’s presumed time of death with blood on the front and back of his jacket. The taxi driver remembers picking Maitland up at the bar and drove him to the Amtrak station. A camera at the station shows him facing the camera in a very obvious way. It’s almost as if he wanted the camera to see him.
While Anderson was questioning the witnesses, there is a side scene showing Maitland preparing for a little league game. It was like watching two shows at once, but it’s not presented in a confusing way.
The first scene showed Anderson being driven to the little league game, where they plan to arrest Maitland in front of all the spectators. Between the eyewitnesses and the forensic evidence, they are convinced that he is the murderer. However, Maitland is an upstanding and popular citizen of the community. He is an English teacher who also coaches little league baseball, including Ralph Anderson’s son.
Anderson is plagued by thoughts that Maitland may have assaulted his son who has died from cancer. This is what prompted him to arrest him in front of all of his friends and co-workers.
The second scene reveals Maitland coaching the kids and calling players to their positions while his wife and daughters cheer in the stands. The music tips off the viewer to what is going to happen.
Maitland is arrested and put into the back seat of Anderson’s car. Everyone is convinced that he is totally guilty, and they are not giving him the benefit of the doubt. Granted, the evidence points right at him, but he has been a pillar in the community. They didn’t even ask him where he was during the murder because they were so convinced.
He tells his wife Glory (Julianne Nicholson) to call their lawyer Howie Gold (Bill Camp) and fill him in on what’s happening. Maitland is booked in the local prison and threatened for being a child murderer.
Howie meets with Maitland, Anderson and the District Attorney (Michael Esper) and discovers that no one bothered to even ask him where he was when the crime was committed. Maitland explained that he was in another town 70 miles away during the incident. He was attending an English conference with numerous other teachers who could verify his alibi.
While Maitland is in prison, Howie calls a private investigator who goes to the town to see what evidence he finds. The PI discovers that a local TV station had been taping the conference, and the video clearly shows Maitland at the conference. In fact, it shows him standing up asking a question of the panel, so there is no doubt that it is him.
The big question then becomes how can he be in two places at once? All the forensic evidence points to Maitland, but so does the videotape of the conference. Now, Anderson isn’t so sure about the evidence or even if Maitland is guilty. He begins to question everything he thought he knew, and that’s where episode one ends.
I read the book and episode one follows the novel almost perfectly, but how they follow it is a little unique. The novel is pretty lengthy with 560 pages and full of important dialogue. The series would rather show than tell us how these characters feel. I think it worked very well and added depth and emotions to the episode.
Rather than Anderson saying that he was concerned if Maitland touched his son, you saw scenes of his anguish while visiting his son’s grave. You felt his anguish, doubt, and betrayal that someone he knew and trusted could have done this to his son.
Worse, he hadn’t known, and the thought his son suffered in silence is what drives him. At the end of the episode, he isn’t so sure anymore about Maitland killing the Patterson boy and begins to question everything, including himself.
This episode was less about the death of the Patterson boy and more about Anderson’s son, but it sets the scene for episode 2. The second episode is now streaming on HBO NOW.