The Outsider: 1.04 Que Viene el Coco
Holly Gibney takes centre stage in this episode as she uses her unique talents to backtrack the trail of clues. She retraces the steps that lead from the Maitland family holiday to the inexplicable murder of a child. A murder committed by a man supposedly in two places at once. Along the way, she uncovers more murders supposedly committed by people who had solid alibis and we start to get an idea of where exactly the story is heading.
Cynthia Erivo gives an engaging performance as the neurodiverse private investigator. She plays Holly’s condition very subtly, far more understated than I imagine a lot of performers would have approached it. She gives Holly just the right amount of quirkiness without resorting to big moments of what could be construed as “Emmy bait”.
The TV show appears to be fleshing out the character of Holly a lot more than the original novel, as we see her interacting with potential witnesses. We also get glimpses of her childhood where she underwent a lot of invasive procedures to investigate her neural disorder. More than just invoking sympathy though, we are shown what Holly has had to overcome and it makes her strength and resolve even more endearing.
Holly travels to Dayton, Ohio which is where the Maitland’s went on vacation and also where the van originated from which was used during the murder of Frankie Peterson. It is also where Terry Maitland’s father lives in a care home it is here where Holly discovers a large piece of the puzzle.
It would seem that an orderly who works at the home was found guilty of the murder of two little girls. His mother, however, claims he was visiting her at the time and couldn’t possibly have been involved. The plot takes another bizarre twist as Holly continues digging and discovers the hospital orderly took a vacation in New York and no prizes for guessing what also occurred there. A woman with no prior convictions has been remanded for the murder of a boy. Again she has an airtight alibi and witnesses showing she couldn’t possibly have done it but DNA and CCTV evidence absolutely prove otherwise.
Taking a bit of a backseat in this episode of The Outsider is Ben Mendelsohn. Much of the running time is quite rightfully given to Holly and her investigation in Ohio. When we do see Detective Ralph Anderson in action, he is still on administrative leave but also following up his own leads. He obsessively combs though the CCTV of Terry Maitland over and over again looking for any clue that might unlock the mystery. Ralph is obviously haunted by the decisions he has made, first the arrest of Terry and then having to shoot the older Peterson boy in self defence.
The death of his young son also plays an important part in defining Ralph and Mendelsohn plays him with a relaxed melancholy. On the surface he appears to be a well balanced man, an excellent husband and police office. Underneath though lay demons and torment. Character studies are the name of the game in The Outsider. The slower pace allows us to be introduced and get to know backstories of all the major players. I suspect this will be used to full effect when our characters are put through hell later in the season. Stephen King always says you need to care for a character before you can torture them, that’s where the emotion stems from.
A very interesting aspect of Que Viene el Coco is the exploration of the fallout surrounding the various murders. Not content with the initial killings it’s almost as if a miasma of death surrounds the victims with a brutal effect on the families. Terry Maitland is shot, quickly followed by his killer. Frankie Peterson’s father hangs himself, ending up in a coma. The orderly accused of killing the twin girls slashes his throat in prison; this is after his mother commits suicide by deliberately crashing her car. Finally we see the grandfather of the other victim killing the father and uncle of Maria, the accused woman currently being held in custody. Ripples of tragedy emanate outwards from wherever the Outsider strikes. We get more hints as to their exact nature as Holly delves into tales of doppelgängers and other creatures in folklore that seem to fit the pattern emerging. The more supernatural aspects of the story are starting to come into play now which, as a Stephen King fan, I am very happy about.
The cinematography continues to be exceptional. Like previous episodes, the framing of shots is very well put together. The camera is quite often static or moving only minimally through a scene. In a few instances everything is quite blurry until eventually a character moves towards the camera and comes into sharp focus. It’s an effective device, as is the use of long shots where the action is happening right in the background. One prime example of this technique is the scene where Terry is accosted by the hospital orderly. We see the events unfolding right at the other end of the corridor from the low camera perspective of a janitor’s mop and bucket. As I’ve previously stated, it’s a fantastic style that allows the viewer to observe almost as a voyeur.
We watch the events unfold before us. We are helpless to intercede but are forced to watch, knowing the outcome is only going to be one of tragedy...