The Outsider: “Fish in a Barrel”/”Roanoke” Review

With It: Chapter 2 coming and going in September and Castle Rock Season 2 ending in December, Stephen King fans didn’t have to wait long for another adaption of his work.  The latest is HBO’s newest miniseries, The Outsider, based on King’s recent 2018 novel.

Spoilers Ahead – You’ve Been Warned!!!

Frustratingly Unexplainable
The series begins with the gruesome discovery of a young boy’s murder scene.  Poor Frankie Peterson is killed in a sadistic fashion, leaving the police in complete shock and rage; particularly Detective Ralph Anderson (Ben Mendelsohn).

Usually known for his villainous roles (Rogue One, Ready Player One, Dark Knight Rises, Captain Marvel), Ben Mendelsohn really pulls off the deeply conflicted character that is Detective Anderson. It will be very exciting to watch him grow explore this character over the season!

After collecting forensic evidence, as well as testimony from several witnesses, the police believe that local English teacher and baseball coach Terry Maitland (Jason Bateman, who’s also the director of both episodes) is their prime suspect.

To make a bold point, they arrest him in public, at one of his crowded baseball games.  Maitland vehemently denies any involvement with the crime, and even claims that he was in another city when the murder took place.

Despite having his fingerprints and DNA at the scene of the crime, his alibi holds up, which drives Detective Anderson insane, as he doesn’t like something he can’t explain.  Tragedy then strikes as Terry is shot dead on his way into court by the victim’s older brother.

In some ways, Terry Maitland seems like the sadder, alternate universe version of Andy Dufresne from King’s “Shawshank Redemption”. Both were innocent, but while Andy spent decades in prison, at least he got to escape and live a happy life afterward. Which is something that Terry never got a chance of.

In the wake of the epic mishandling of this case, Anderson (who’s now on administrative leave) attempts to dig deeper into this mystery.  All the while, a strange figure looms over the town itself, seemingly unnoticed by everyone.

This won’t be the last we see of him!

Beautifully Bleak
There’s very little that’s pleasing about these episodes, but honestly that’s very much the point.  Between the muted color palette, solemn performances, and overall tense atmosphere, Bateman’s directing perfectly demonstrates just how harsh a situation this is for everyone involved.  And that’s what makes this story so compelling.

Everyone has their own agenda and will stop at nothing to see it through, whether its Terry and his family and lawyer in proving his innocence, or the DA in proving his guilt, or Detective Anderson in trying to understand the paradoxical evidence.

Directing oneself in a leading role can prove to be very challenging, but Bateman does a great job at both, even utilizing creepy, voyeuristic camerawork to emphasize this mysterious “visitor” lurking around town.

There’s also this really impressive and tense long take scene.

The only minor issue with him is that for some fans, it’s hard to take Bateman seriously, given his frequent comedic roles.  Especially because many of those are very sarcastic in nature, so it can often feel like he’s ramming up to a punchline.  But that’s not necessarily an issue with his acting as it is an issue with audience’s perception of him.

Bateman has also directed episodes of Arrested Development and Ozark, as well as the upcoming Clue remake (which he will also star in).

Getting King Right
Aside from a few minor details here and there HBO’s miniseries is extremely faithful and accurate to King’s novel (at least thus far).  Many lines of dialogue are directly lifted from the book, and it makes a strong case that most (if not all) Stephen King adaptations could be better handled by miniseries rather than theatrical films.

To be fair, this was very much the case in the early 90’s (It, The Langoliers), but the cringworthy cheesiness of the 90’s is over, and TV takes itself much more seriously now.  And in this format, HBO can explore and adapt all of King’s novel.  Perhaps it’s too early to definitely make this call, but they’re certainly off to a good start.

What did you think of this week’s episode?  For book readers, what are you most looking forward to seeing in later episodes?  Let us know in the comments below!  And for more reviews, rankings, and other fun horror content, follow Halloween Year-Round on Facebook and Twitter!


2 thoughts on “The Outsider: “Fish in a Barrel”/”Roanoke” Review

  1. I have not read the book. I do like the miniseries so far though! Can you suggest any other TV shows or movies similar to this that I can watch while waiting for the next episode to air?


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