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Monday, January 13, 2020

The Outsider 1 & 2: Two Places at the Same Time



What do you get when Stephen King writes the novel and Richard Price the screenplay?  You get a television series as slap-in-the-face riveting as it comes.  The first two episodes of The Outsider on HBO tonight were that and more.

Here's what we have so far, in terms of narrative.  A boy is brutally murdered.  The suspect's blood is on the victim, and reliable witnesses put him near the scene.  But a video shows him at an academic conference many miles away, and his fingerprints on a book he handled at the hotel where the conference took place are confirmed as his.  Too.

The "too" is the key and paradoxical point here.  There's an old Yiddish saying, with one tuchas you can't dance at two weddings.  In the supernatural police story that is The Outsider, Detective Anderson (perfectly played by Ben Mendelsohn whom I last saw in Bloodline) realizes that, of course, one person cannot be in two places at the same time - the same person can't have committed a horrible murder at the same time he was video-recorded at at academic conference miles away.

As an academic, I can testify that I've been to some conferences that are so boring as to be maddening.   But not to the point of making someone commit murder, and certainly not at a place miles away from the conference at the very same time.

So, what's going on?  Since Stephen King wrote the novel (which I haven't read), there has to be some kind of supernatural element.  We do see a person with a hood, standing at the edges of some of the tragedies.  We don't yet know what his story - assuming it's a "his" - is.  Maybe some spirit or monster than assumes the shape of an innocent person and employs that shape to commit murders?

I'm looking to seeing how this plays out, against the grit and dialogue that is itself a fine example of a film noir police procedural.

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