HBO “The Outsider” series review: Typically Stephen King
Considering all the shows that premiered January 2020, HBO’s The Outsider was the one I wanted to watch and review the most. It was the combination of Stephen King and HBO’s financial clout which made it stand out. Plus, its cast and crew appeared stellar.
Two things to know about this review:
- We aim to be 100% spoiler-free.
- This review is based on the entire series.
The Outsider is unmistakably a Stephen King story. It shuffles from its shocking real-world setup to a gathering of colleagues that must beat a supernatural foe in a brutal showdown.
The series starts big, with the first 2 episodes being unmissable when watched back-to-back. It’s the kind of start that gets a show added to your watchlist. However, it isn’t all positive.
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Drawn-out for TV
The series suffers from unfortunate pacing. This is most apparent when watching episodes weekly, but even when binge-watching, the series can quickly get dull. It’s a shame because The Outsider is a must-watch story trapped in a series that does just enough to keep you engaged per episode.
TIP: If the first 2 episodes of The Outsider don’t grab you, stop watching because the next 8 episodes only have about 4 episodes of content worth watching.
This pacing problem begins at around episode 3 and continues up until the finale. It’s easy to see where the series goes wrong. Too many pointless lingering cinematic shots and scenes of characters procrastinating or being dismissive. Plus every episode has at least a couple of cut-aways showing Ben Mendelsohn smoking or looking perplexed. He’s a great actor but this series needed more purpose and less filler.
Despite the pacing issues, don’t dismiss The Outsider. It is a Stephen King adaptation that comes together to create a story worth seeing. None of the episodes are bad, plus every character is interesting and likeable. The best of the bunch is Holly Gibney (Cynthia Erivo). She is the saving grace during the slow episodes and brings a supernatural intrigue to the series overall.
Other standouts include Jason Bateman as Terry Maitland, his understated and restrained performance fits the bizarre events surrounding his character perfectly. Ralph Anderson (Ben Mendelsohn) is the struggling detective unable to come to terms with the tragedy in his life and the supernatural evidence.
The character Holly Gibney is also in another Stephen King series called Mr. Mercedes. It ran for three seasons on the Audience network and is now available to stream on STARZ.
HBO Now and Go do not support 4K, HDR, Dolby Vision, or Dolby Atmos. It is expected than HBO Max will support these features and that The Outsider will be available in 4K come May 2020 when the new streaming service releases.
We’ll update this review of HBO’s The Outsider with a verdict on how good the 4k version of the series is.
The Outsider verdict: Chill
- Streaming on HBO Now and HBO Go
- Created by Richard Price and Stephen King
- Starring Ben Mendelsohn, Jason Bateman, and Cynthia Erivo
After watching the first three episodes of The Outsider I rated the show as binge-worthy. However, as the series progressed it has kept me engaged, but only just. Therefore HBO’s The Outsider gets a downgrade to Chill status.
When updating this review of HBO’s The Outsider and comparing it to Netflix’s I Am Not Okay With This, there is a clear difference of objective. The Outsider needs to fill a TV time slot and that means filler shots, scenes et al. This is why The Outsider gets a Chill rating and I Am Not Okay With This is a Binge.
The Outsider has a better story and performances but it’s stretched out over a 10-hour series. I Am Not Okay With This just focused on the story and characters, no filler. If The Outsider was 6 episodes it could have been one of the best shows of 2020.
You can stream every episode of The Outsider on HBO Now and Go. Expect The Outsider to be HBO Max when it launches May 2020. Check out The Outsider official trailer below.