Although HBO's The Outsider is actually based on a Stephen King novel, one could easily imagine the show to have been designed to fill the gap between two seasons of True Detective, because the shows are similar tonally, visually and narratively. It certainly seems as though Jason Bateman and Richard Price have drawn plenty of inspiration from the HBO classic that blew the minds of many back in 2014.
The dark, the brutal and the bizarre culminate in a malicious tale of murder, rebutted evidence and pure evil, which does result in slow pacing at times, but, as a whole, proves that HBO has once again mastered the art of creating interesting crime stories.
The Outsider takes place in a small town in Georgia that's been shaken by the brutal murder of a child. The evidence seems solid at first - numerous eyewitnesses, fingerprints on the body and tons of surveillance material establishing an indisputable timeline. It all points to local baseball coach Terry Maitland being the murderer, but it quickly turns out that the evidence stating the innocence of Maitland is equally as strong as that against him, prompting an exciting pursuit for a truth that seems to not add up.
Painting the picture any clearer would surely rob you dear readers of some of the series' killer moments. Not only that, but the series relies on the viewer going in relatively blind and joining the cast in asking questions until finding out what's really going on in Cherokee City. The Outsider is a 10-episode series, and thus, has no prospect of a continuation or more similar stories to come and that solidifies the narrative. The whole series drags itself across the finish line at last and the at times lopsided pace helps build up a lot of excitement, but it also gets a bit too slow at times and you're left wanting more adrenaline-pumping scenes.
That said, however, The Outsider manages to keep one interested throughout each episode and consistently follows up loose threads in a satisfactory way as the series expands its narrative and the series also brings several solid characters to the small screen along the way. It is, ultimately, a series for those who appreciated True Detective, where the patient viewer is rewarded with full conclusions instead of haphazard exposition. We're certainly intrigued to see where it's going.
The series truly shines on the actor performance front with Jason Bateman, Ben Mendelsohn, and Cynthia Erivo particularly noteworthy; all three anchor their scenes with credible human emotion. The events of the series, which sometimes lean a little too much towards the bizarre, are always seen over the shoulder of a character who is just as confused but also as keen to learn the truth as the viewer, and with four episodes still left to run we're still guessing at what's waiting for us around the corner.
The visual focal point is darkness and if you're not a fan of dark contrasts and shadowy aesthetics, you probably won't enjoy The Outsider's overall "look". However, it's truly pleasing to the eye and there are some dual Stanley Kubrickesque shots that work to great effect. The visuals are accompanied by composers Daniel Bensi and Saunder Jurrian's masterful, eerie score.
In fact, in the end, there's not much that keeps The Outsider from being among HBO's best crime shows, although so far we'd have to say that the pacing isn't for everyone. If you liked True Detective, however, you'll be hardened to this style of pacing. We will, of course, follow this review up with a full review once all ten episodes are out.