January 25, 2020

HBO “The Outsider” review: Typically Stephen King

Credit: HBO

Considering all the shows that premiered this January, 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:

  1. We aim to be 100% spoiler-free.
  2. This review is based on the first three episodes only.

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Typical King

The Outsider is unmistakably a Stephen King story. The show has a pace and pattern to its events, shuffling us along from its shocking real-world setup to a supernatural conundrum.

By the end of Episode 3, we haven’t quite got into the nooks and crannies of King’s magical imagination, but we’re teetering on the brink. It’s exciting to wonder where it goes next. One third into this limited series, though, it’s impossible not to feel this show is a little slow getting to the point.

For example, the first two episodes directed by Jason Bateman feel a little too Ozark in pacing. As a massive Bateman and Ozark fan, that wouldn’t be an issue if The Outsider was more than nine episodes in total. My point: Episodes 1 and 2 could have been combined. It would have zipped along at a pace and definitely ended on a cliffhanger.

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Gripping Performances

Despite how it sounds, the first few episodes set up what currently seems like a brilliant story that I cannot wait to continue watching. The slow pacing is masked with brilliant performances and exceptional cinematography. It’s just unfortunate we cannot stream the show in 4K with HDR.

Jason Bateman as Terry Maitland is understated and restrained, fitting the bizarre events surrounding his character perfectly. Julianne Nicholson (Glory Maitland) is powerful, commanding, and becoming the gatekeeper to an investigation led by Ralph Anderson (Ben Mendelsohn),

In all honesty, Mendelsohn wasn’t on my radar when The Outsider was first announced. I’ve seen him in other shows and movies but never has he grabbed my attention and stood out. However, his performance in The Outsider is everything fans of moody, broken detectives love — just delivered at an award-winning level.

This is without a doubt a binge-worthy show. The only way it could be better was if HBO made The Outsider available to watch fully (and review) without having to wait for episodes. In this age of streaming, it’s just frustrating.

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4K/HDR/Dolby Atmos

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.

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The Outsider verdict: Binge

SNIPdaily Review
  • Streaming on HBO Now and HBO Go
  • Created by Richard Price and Stephen King
  • Starring Ben Mendelsohn, Jason Bateman, and Cynthia Erivo

Three episodes in, and I can confirm there isn’t one bad scene, that the acting is fantastic and the story is going places. However, it’s easy to see why early critic reviews of HBO’s The Outsider called it slow.

For those interested, the character Holly Gibney (not the actress Cynthia Erivo) is in both The Outsider and Mr. Mercedes. The latter is another Stephen King adaptation that ran for three seasons on the Audience network and is now available to stream on STARZ.

You can watch new episodes of The Outsider on Sundays at 9 pm on HBO. Alternatively, you can stream episodes the day after they premiere on HBO Now and Go. Expect The Outsider to be HBO Max when it launches May 2020.

Check out The Outsider official trailer below.

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