The Outsider: 1.05 Tear-Drinker
I said in my review of the first episode of The Outsider, that I thought maybe a 10 episode count might be a little high. Having read the original novel, I hoped that there was enough story to be fleshed out across the whole season. Now whilst Tear-Drinker isn’t a completely filler episode, it does feel somewhat that the show is treading water.
Holly Gibney continues her investigation in Dayton while Ralph and his friends are piecing together the puzzle back in Cherokee City. After the last episode’s revelations, Holly is definitely coming to the conclusion that it might not be something totally human that is committing the atrocities. Ralph will take more convincing, but even he can’t deny the evidence stacking up around him, most notably the messages being passed to him through the dreams of those around him. That message is a simple one; drop the investigation or else.
After last week's more Holly-centric episode, this time out things are much more balanced with the running time split evenly between the two investigations. Ralph will still not let the mystery of Terry Maitland go, even though he is on administrative leave. With Holly sending him strange requests, including asking him to go out and take photographs of Maitland’s grave, Detective Anderson is finding himself embroiled deeper and deeper into a situation he doesn’t fully understand. With Holly’s theory that the killer is not just interested in the victim but also in feeding off the grief of those surrounding them, maybe Ralph really should be concerned about those he loves.
Ben Mendelsohn and Mare Winningham once again show themselves as The Outsider’s emotional core. As Ralph and Jeannie Anderson, they portray a strong relationship that has been rocked by the death of their son and almost faltered. A flashback scene in this episode shows the immediate aftermath of their loss with each of them dealing, or not, in their own way. Jeannie has withdrawn into her self, whereas Ralph has turned to drink to help him cope. Performances from both are raw and filled with emotion. Later each of them get to shine separately, as first Jeannie is visited in the night by the mysterious hooded figure, then Ralph is haunted by the memory of his son telling him he has to let him go. Possibly both of these visitations are dreams, except for the physical evidence left by Jeannie as she steps on broken glass and leaves a trail of blood back to her bed.
Also having bad dreams is new mother, and Ralph’s colleague, Tamika who has visions of her baby being taken in the night by the same hooded figure. When she wakes everything is fine but you’ve got to be concerned for all of Ralph’s immediate friends and family. If he ignores the warnings to stop, is The Outsider going to start feasting on the grief of everyone he loves? Also not to be ignored is Jack Hoskins’ increasingly erratic behaviour. After being attacked out at the barn where Terry Maitland’s clothes were found, the infection on his neck seems to be getting worse. More worrying is the deer he’s been hunting and leaving as sacrifices out in the woods along with all sorts of bits of household appliances. He seems a man on the edge, dangerous and unpredictable.
Marc Menchaca plays him well, there’s definitely something amiss with him but at the same time he manages to imbue him with a sense of sympathy. He knows something is not right with himself, his refusal to hold Tamika’s baby is a sign that he has some control left. Exactly how he ties into The Outsider is still unknown; possibly he serves him in some way or acts as its vessel. Hopefully more information will be forthcoming soon before things start to feel too dragged out.
The direction, acting and writing in The Outsider continue to be excellent. The feelings of dread and unease permeate every slowly tracking shot. Characters are continually shown small in frame as we watch from a distance. Everything is designed to instil a sense of foreboding and it absolutely works. It just feels like the audience is now one step ahead of the characters. It has become obvious that something unnatural is happening and that the killer can’t possibly be completely human. Holly has started to accept this and hopefully in the next episode she’ll return to Cherokee City and convince everyone else. Things really need to start taking a step forward to stop the show becoming stale. Hopefully Tear-Drinker is just a slight miss-step. For a show of such a high calibre, I’m willing to give them the benefit of the doubt.