The Outsider: 1.07 In The Pines, In The Pines
I think it’s fair to say that this episode of The Outsider could be perceived in two ways. It’s either a tension filled masterful piece of television that sets up the next stage of the story, whilst also giving Ralph all the information he needs to finally accept what he can’t understand. Or it’s another filler episode. For me it’s mostly the first option with a little bit of the latter thrown in. The performances and direction are as assured as we’ve come to expect, but just possibly, the show is beginning to drag its feet a bit.
The first half of In The Pines, In The Pines is dedicated mainly to Holly and the predicament she finds herself in with Jack Hoskins. The cliffhanger from the last episode found them both driving off into the woods, Jack under the thrall of the malevolent entity. The ever perceptive Holly has now realised Jack has been chosen as The Outsider’s servant for this latest incarnation. So the stage is set for a high stakes game of cat and mouse, albeit one confined to the claustrophobic interior of a car. It this physical proximity between the two wary combatants, combined with fantastic performances from Cynthia Erivo and Marc Menchaca, that really ramps up the tension.
Holly knows she is very likely being spirited away to her death and that there isn’t much she can do to stop it. Erivo’s note perfect performance as she tries to maintain a civil conversation with her would be killer is a joy to watch. For me though, it is Menchaca who really shines as the conflicted Hoskins. Driven to perform nefarious deeds against his will, you really get a sense of the turmoil raging inside his head. It helps that the make up team have done an excellent job. Things have taken a toll on Jack and he’s not looking his best. After last week's events where he was beaten up by his dead mother, or inflicted a lot of abuse on himself depending on your point of view, Jack’s face is swollen and bloodied. It certainly helps give him an extra air of menace.
Intercut with Holly and Jack’s fearful car ride, are Ralph and Alec’s attempts to track them down. This does slightly undercut the tension somewhat as they quickly figure out what has happened and set off in pursuit pinging Holly’s cell phone to get a fix on their position. It is also somewhat anticlimactic when Holly suddenly escapes from her predicament in a pretty basic fashion. Apparently a seasoned police office like Jack, combined with an evil doppelgänger entity, didn’t think anything untoward could possibly happen by allowing their prisoner to go and use a gas station toilet unattended. Rookie mistake. Soon Holly is back in the safety of her friends and Jack is left to lament his failure, alone in the pines with a gun in his mouth. It is testament to Menchaca’s performance that he makes Jack a sympathetic character despite what he is doing; you can feel the conflict within him. Unfortunately for him, The Outsider hasn’t finished with him yet.
The second half of the episode is back to familiar territory. Ralph is still dragging his heels and refusing to believe what is right in front of his eyes. Like a rock in a river, immovable as the water flows around him, Ralph is stubbornly unable to act despite the evidence touting up around him. Things come to a head when Yunis shows Holly a mugshot of Claude Bolton. Initially she doesn’t quite recognise him but later realises why he looks so familiar. He is the inevitable next image in their series of witness sketches depicting the doppelgänger’s transformation from Terry Maitland. In another excellent scene, Holly lets rip at Ralph, accusing him of now being a hamper to the investigation. He has all the facts in front of him but still refuses to believe what is happening.
Ben Mendelsohn continues to shine as the reluctant police officer, physically shrinking as Holly berates him. You are actively willing Ralph to accept the truth; you are as frustrated as those around him. Mendelsohn makes you feel for Ralph and all that he has been through whilst simultaneously wishing he would come to his senses. Even after Ralph goes to see his therapist again and talks through his doubts and beliefs, he doesn’t seem much closer to acceptance. I suspect it’s going to take something undeniable happening right in front of him before Ralph becomes a believer. His stubbornness can best be summed up by my favourite piece of dialogue that comes from a conversation Yunis has with Ralph.
"Here's the difference between you and me. You need this whole thing to make some kind of sense that you can live with. I just want it to end."
Stubbornness is also something Glory Maitland is familiar with. Brushing off Howard’s suggestion that she should sue everyone involved in Terry’s killing, she instead returns to work as a realtor. This has less than stellar results as the very first couple she shows a house to just gawp awkwardly at her, the spectre of her late husbands accusations hanging heavy. Blowing up in rage at them, and then having her boss tell her maybe it would be better if she moved away with her family, make Glory have a rethink. Perhaps suing the police force might be the way forward.
With all the tragedy surrounding both the Maitland and Anderson households it seems the Grief Eater has any number of victims at its disposal. Also Andy, the ex-detective Holly met in Ohio, turns up unexpectedly to help. Good-natured sweet old Andy. I’ll put money on him not making it to the end of the series, especially if Holly’s blood-curdling scream that emanates after she wakes from a nightmare is indicative at all. Ralph had better come to his senses soon and everyone had better gear up and ride out, especially as we see Claude Bolton quit his strip club job and light out to parts unknown.
I may be mistaken but I don’t recall the whole car episode with Holly and Jack being in the original novel and I suspect it was concocted just for the show. I have no problem with source material being altered to fit a different medium or to expand upon certain story elements. My only concern is that there are now only three episodes of The Outsider left and there is an awful lot of story left to tell. I hope they haven’t left themselves with too much to do in the limited time they have left. For a show that moves along at such a deliberate pace, it would be an awful shame if the ending was then rushed. We shall soon see if this is the case anyway as Ralph doesn’t really have much choice now but to accept what is happening and go after Claude Bolton to see things through to their conclusion.