Features

What You Need to Know About HBO’s The Outsider

TV’s latest Stephen King adaptation features an all-star cast and all the twists and turns we’ve come to expect from the legendary author.
  • Jason Bateman and Ben Mendelsohn star in The Outsider. (HBO)
    Jason Bateman and Ben Mendelsohn star in The Outsider. (HBO)

    With a new year comes new Stephen King adaptations, and first out of the gate in 2020 is HBO with The Outsider. Based on King’s 2018 novel of the same name, the new ten episode miniseries is the latest in a long line of King film and television adaptations that have seen a recent surge following the success of 2017’s It. Part crime-thriller and part-supernatural horror, The Outsider is quintessential King, with an A-list cast and creative team that we’ve come to expect from HBO. Here’s everything you need to know about The Outsider ahead of its premiere this Sunday.

    What’s The Outsider About?

    Set in the fictional Flint City, Oklahoma, The Outsider begins with a gruesome discovery: the rape, murder and mutilation of an 11-year-old boy. Evidence overwhelmingly points to beloved teacher, baseball coach, and family man Terry Maitland, and without so much as asking around for an alibi, Detective Ralph Anderson and his team make a very public show of arresting him.

    This seemingly ironclad case becomes twisted when new evidence places Maitland in an entirely different city the night of the murder, raising questions that no one is able to answer. Is it possible that despite scientific proof and multiple eyewitnesses that Maitland really is innocent? What begins as a chilling crime thriller evolves into something much more mysterious. With all the terrifying twists and turns you’d expect from a King story, The Outsider tells the kind of nightmarish tale that makes you question everything.

    How does The Outsider connect to other King adaptations?

    The Outsider bears some similarities to King’s previous works (It, for one), but its most direct link is to Audience Network series Mr. Mercedes, based on King’s Bill Hodges trilogy. Holly Gibney (played on The Outsider by Cynthia Erivo) also appears in Mr. Mercedes, played there by Succession actress Justine Lupe.

    Gibney’s unique background allows her to be of particular help to Anderson as he investigates Maitland in the world of The Outsider, and her history is further colored by the events that take place in Mr. Mercedes.

    Who stars in The Outsider?

    Ben Mendelsohn (Bloodline, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, Captain Marvel) stars as Detective Ralph Anderson, a straight-laced cop who truly believes he’s doing the right thing. (Quite the turn for Mendelsohn, who is typically typecast as villains). With support from his loving wife Jeannie (Mare Winningham) and nudges from unexpected places, Anderson is forced to reevaluate everything he’s come to know about the natural world as the truth behind the Maitland case unfolds.

    Jason Bateman (Arrested Development, Ozark) stars as Terry Maitland, aka “Coach T”, the beloved father, teacher, and little league coach accused of brutally murdering 11-year-old Frank Peterson. While his family is harassed by their once-friendly neighbors, and DNA evidence proves Maitland is absolutely guilty, he firmly maintains his innocence.

    Cynthia Erivo (Harriet, Widows) stars as Holly Gibney, the protege of late private investigator Bill Hodges. When those closest to the Maitland case begin to wonder if there might be something more mysterious at play than they can comprehend, Gibney and her unique background come in handy.

    Bill Camp (The Night Of, The Looming Tower) as Howie Gold, experienced defense attorney and friend to the Maitland family. Gold is no-nonsense and believes in his client’s innocence, utilizing old friends to help him prove Anderson is wrong - until it becomes clear that maybe neither of them know very much after all.

    The Creative Team

    Famed author and HBO mainstay Richard Price adapted the series from King’s book. In addition to penning several thrillers of his own, including the screenplays for Sea of Love and Ransom. He’s also written for hits like The Wire, The Night Of, and The Deuce. Price serves as the show’s executive producer alongside Jason Bateman. Bateman, who was nominated for an Emmy in 2018 for directing Ozark, directs the show’s first two episodes. Karyn Kusama (Jennifer’s Body, The Invitation, Destroyer) is among the other directors helming episodes.

    The Outsider premieres with two back-to-back episodes this Sunday Night at 9:00 PM ET on HBO.

    People are talking about The Outsider in our forums. Join the conversation.

    Jade Budowski is a freelance writer with a knack for ruining punchlines and harboring dad-aged celebrity crushes. She was previously a reporter/producer at Decider and is a member of the Television Critics Association. Follow her on Twitter: @jadebudowski.

    TOPICS: The Outsider, HBO, Mr. Mercedes, Ben Mendelsohn, Bill Camp, Cynthia Erivo, Jason Bateman, Karyn Kusama, Mare Winningham, Richard Price, Stephen King