Murder mystery is so hot right now. Seriously, it’s the one sustainable resource on television. Netflix is filled with an endless assortment of documentaries and shows on it, and British television has made a cottage industry out of it. With that in mind, it should be no shock that the HBO adaptation of the recent Stephen King novel became a hit.
Adapted by Academy Award nominee (The Color of Money) and Emmy Winner (The Night Of) Richard Price, and starring recent Emmy Winner Jason Bateman who also directs the first two knockout episodes The Outsider actually grew in viewership week to week similar to Game of Thrones? Why is this?
Well for one, what the critics knocked it for: its slow pace actually worked in the shows favour as it was a good combination of people discovering it on its own and a limited ten episode event. No one would ever feel too far behind on The Outsider if they couldn’t catch up, and the recaps drew everything toward the never changing central question laid out in the trailer: Did Terry Maitland (Jason Bateman) kill that kid (Franky Peterson)? And if he didn’t… who, or in the case of Stephen King what did?
The audience was able to follow along with character Holly Gibney (Cynthia Erivo) a King mainstay also present in other novels and shows of his like Mr. Mercedes. There were no or relatively hardly subplots on the show that received any substantial development. Virtually all of them were reflected by Holly, an Outsider herself, against a skeptic audience surrogate Ralph Anderson (the great Ben Mendelsohn). This was a show that really knew its audience. The older males who would watch it represented by the lead detective, the minorities and women who review it (I imagine more women review these shows than men, just a hunch). And Jason Bateman pulling double duty, well liked by all pulling everyone in with the HBO name.
It’s safe to say this is a show that has already learned the lessons of serenity that Westworld continues to fail at. It does not pretend to be smarter than it is and it focuses on consistently telling a straightforward story with a lot of the fun elements that everyone already likes. It is not as good as the night of. It is not as fascinating as True Detective. It is not as remotely as buzzworthy as Watchmen. But it is reliable and consistent entertainment, and that’s what the world needs right now. In a world, questioning itself on the brink of seismic change, where a lot of people are scared, feeling left out (FOMO) or in the dark The Outsider provides creature comfort.