For the penultimate episode of The Outsider the show’s makers decide to throw us a curve ball in the shape of some subtle misdirection. As the episode opens we follow a couple of little kids who have decided to go and explore in the woods. Not wishing to pay the entrance fee to visit some local caves they sneak in by squeezing through a hidden, and hard to access, fissure in the rocks. After eventually realising his children are missing their father also enters the cave system to search for them. The tension is high as we watch the lost children and their father stumble around in the dimly lit passages because, as we now know from last episode, our old friend El Cuco has made the caves his home. You are on the edge of your seat as you wait for the doppelganger to make its presence known in what will undoubtedly be a violent and bloody way. Just as you’re convinced another couple of innocent children are about to become victims we are suddenly back with Ralph, Holly et al in a direct continuation from the end of the previous episode.
After Ralph’s epiphany, when finally faced with indisputable proof, that Holly was right all along we spend the bulk of the episode in Cecil, Tennessee as the band of investigators do their best to tack down El Cuco. For Ralph and Yunis this means talking to the witnesses from the attempted child abduction at the previous night’s celebrations. For Holly and Andy it means taking a visit to the scene of the crime itself. This leaves Howard with the job of keeping Claude out of the loop and out of the way by accompanying him to get “the best damn fried chicken in two hundred miles”. Keeping Claude deliberately in the dark about their plans is apparently of vital importance as Holly states that El Cuco automatically knows anything that Claude knows. I was quite surprised by this information as I don’t recall it being mentioned before but it does add another element of danger to proceedings so I’m willing to give them the benefit of the doubt.
Throughout Tigers and Bears we cut back and forth between the various groups and also the story of the child and their father in the caves. As the dad goes off to fetch help you start to get the feeling that maybe things aren’t exactly as they seem. The phone he uses to call for assistance is an old rotary style one, subtler still is the fact that the entrance fee to the caves is only twenty five cents which seems very cheap indeed. It is only when the local townsfolk turn up to help that you realise you’ve been duped slightly. The style of the cars gives the game away that these events are unfolding decades before the current timeline. It is a really effective device that pays off superbly when Claude’s brother Seale tells the tale of how his grandfather and several others in his family lost their lives trying to rescue some boys lost in the caves. An unfortunate cave in meant dozens of townsfolk lost their lives in the doomed endeavour and the cave was sealed off. This answers the question as to why Holly can’t locate El Cuco’s lair, it no longer shows on any of the maps. Luckily Seale knows the location so a plan to confront the entity is put together.
The Outsider continues to be a somewhat frustrating watch as it tends to move along in a very sedate manner. This episode, along with the last one, have both been quite slow affairs which are then suddenly brought to life as they reach their conclusions. This is not too much of a problem as the performances of all involved combined with the gorgeous cinematography still make for fascinating viewing.
I mentioned in my last review that I was pleased the writers had decided to veer away from the source material with the introduction of the Cavestock celebration and all the tourists in attendance. I thought this opened up plenty of potential paths for the story to develop. Also as someone who has read the novel I personally liked the fact that there would be a sense of the unknown ahead. I was therefore slightly disappointed to realise that with the lost children and sealed off cave plot we are now completely back on track and in line with the book. This is not necessarily a bad thing, I was just hoping the writers had planned a few surprises. We’ll see how things pan out.
As I mentioned previously this episode follows in the same vein as its predecessor by suddenly erupting into life in its final moments. After Seale foolishly decides to tell his brother of everyone’s plans, thus passing this information straight onto El Cuco, he has put everyone in danger as they converge on the monster’s lair. In a gripping climax we see Jack Hoskins with his sniper rifle zeroing in on our group of heroes. In the final few seconds he takes aim, a shot rings out and blood spatters across Ralph’s face. The screen goes dark and we just hear shot after shot after shot. It is a stunning way to end the episode and ensures anticipation levels are well and truly raised for the finale.
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