The Outsider: 1.03 Dark Uncle
After the scene-setting of the first two episodes, The Outsider settles into its stride. Granted that stride is more of a sedate stroll but when the scenery is this good, it’s worth slowing down to enjoy. The setup and mystery have been revealed and now it’s time for some meat to be added to the bones of the story. As we’re in Stephen King territory expect that meat to be well and truly rotten.
Character development is the name of the game in Dark Uncle and we really get to know our main players in more depth. We are also finally introduced to another of the show's protagonists. The opening scenes follow Ralph Anderson as he visits his late son’s grave. Little has been said about the passing of Detective Anderson’s son but his quiet reflection at his graveside speaks volumes. Ben Mendelsohn’s performance is superbly nuanced and he really anchors The Outsider. I suspect as things get more fantastical his grounded performance will really come to the fore and provide the anchor for the audience.
There is also some beautiful work from Mare Winningham as Ralph’s wife Jeannie. The couple visit the Maitland family at the request of the late Terry’s daughter Jessa. She’s been having nightmare’s and claims to have been visited by a mysterious figure during the night who has a message for Ralph. There is some lovely work as Jeannie puts Jessa at ease and reassures her that her nighttime visitor cannot hurt her. That’s probably not completely true in a story such as this but it’s a really nice moment anyway.
We also get to know another of Ralph’s police officers better, Jack Hoskins. Jack is a complete and utter A grade arsehole. The kind of cop who’d rather go and hassle strippers at his local dive than drive out to check on potential evidence relating to Terry Maitland’s child killer case. When he eventually makes his way to the barn where Terry’s clothes have been found, it’s late and all the other police have left. Cue some creepy goings on and a return of the mysterious hooded figure that we’ve seen previously hanging around wherever things seem to be getting bad. Something attacks Jack, wounding him on his neck and thus beginning the next stage of The Outsiders story.
The more genre-specific elements of the story are starting to appear now. A residue is found in the barn that appears to defy scientific identification but even more interesting are the fingerprints found on Terry’s belt buckle. Some are normal prints but others look like they belong to a Terry that is well advanced in years. Still others look blurry and unformed. Combine this with Jessa’s description of her nighttime visitor looking a bit like her dad and then later looking more unformed, and you start to build a picture as to what The Outsider may actually be about.
The main part of this episode is the introduction of private investigator Holly Gibney. Holly originally appears in King’s Mr Mercedes books, making The Outsider a pseudo sequel. In the TV adaptation of Mr Mercedes, Holly is played by Justine Lupe and although I have yet to see the show all indications point to it being an excellent piece of work and Lupe’s depiction being a particular high point.
With The Outsider being produced by another studio we get a different performance of Holly from Cynthia Erivo and what a performance it is. Holly is hyper-intelligent and probably somewhere on the autism spectrum. When we first meet her she is watching traffic out of her window and listing the makes, models and years of all the cars she sees. As several characters remark during the episode, Holly is a unique individual. With the story becoming increasingly intriguing, it will take all of Holly’s unique abilities to stay one step ahead of The Outsider.
The show continues to impress with its consistently beautiful cinematography. Many shots are framed through a doorway or window, with sometimes only one character visible as they converse with an unseen partner. A particularly poignant scene is when Ralph pays a visit to his therapist and is discussing the impact of the death of his son. Most of the scene is shot through the office doorway and all we see is Ralph’s head from behind as he bares his soul. Even when we move into the room, a short focus is used keeping Ralph sharp whilst the therapist is blurred in the background. The music is also very strong with an almost percussive nature. Eschewing melody for more tonal qualities, the soundtrack to The Outsider fits the slow burn and somewhat disturbing nature of the show.
With all the main players now in place and the story beginning to reveal itself The Outsider is definitely one of the better offerings currently available.