Television

The Outsider: “Fish in a Barrel” & “Roanoke”

HBO’s newest limited series, The Outsider, an adaptation of the Stephen King book of the same name kicked off last Sunday with a two-episode premiere. Catch up here, but really you should just be watching the show, this is prime television.

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Ben Mendelsohn, Mare Winningham.
photo: Bob Mahoney/HBO

Episode 1: “Fish in a Barrel”

When the body of an 11-year-old boy is found in the Georgia woods, detective Ralph
Anderson (Ben Mendelsohn) launches an investigation into the gruesome murder. With
eyewitnesses and physical evidence pointing to local teacher and baseball coach Terry
Maitland (Jason Bateman), Ralph makes a very public arrest but is perplexed by Terry’s
seeming indifference to hiding his crime. After Terry’s wife Glory (Julianne Nicholson)
calls their attorney Howie Salomon (Bill Camp) for assistance, a bewildered Terry
produces an ironclad alibi during interrogation. Meanwhile, Howie calls in his PI Alec
Pelley (Jeremy Bobb) to look into Terry’s side of the story.  – HBO

Written by Richard Price; directed by Jason Bateman.

First I need to praise Jason Bateman’s director. It’s incredible, the way he captures the eerieness of the small town. He displays it all in a deeply unsettling manner. I remember a rumor that he was directing all the episodes. I wish it were true because these first two were wonderfully directed.

In Cherokee City, Georgia a terrible murder is committed. The mutilated body of Frankie Peterson is found. An unspeakable act was done to the young boy who was also found covered in saliva and human bite marks. Detective Ralph Anderson finds various eyewitnesses that all identify Terry Maitland, a local teacher, and little coach. One woman saw him pick up the Peterson boy, another saw him leave the woods covered in blood where the body was found, another saw the van he was seen picking the boy up parked near the crime scene and another saw him change inside a local strip club and take a cab to the train station where he was then seen on camera flipping the camera off and then he disappeared.

The evidence is overwhelming and Det. Anderson along with district attorney Kenneth Hayes they believe they have a slam dunk. To further fuel the fire, Anderson’s late son was coached by Terry. The idea of Terry laying hands on his son enrages him and causes him to make a rash decision. He chooses to make a public arrest of Terry at a little league game, just about everyone in town sees it. Terry is confused and of course, upset at the arrest being done in front of friends and family. He insists that he is innocent and Terry’s wife, Glory calls the family lawyer Howie Salomon, he, in turn, hires private investigator Alec Pelley to track down any evidence proving his innocence. Pelley is able to corroborate Terry’s ironclad alibi. The day Frankie was murdered Terry was at a two-day school conference. At this conference, Terry was recorded for the pubic access channel asking a question. Along with the video evidence, other faculty members confirm his attendance and a gift shop employee let him look at an expensive book which when Anderson gets to it still has Terry’s prints.  All the evidence contradicts each other.

Terry is left in jail to wait for arraignment. At the Maitland house, a hooded figure with a possible deformed face is seen outside. Inside the house, Glory finds their youngest daughter Jessa suffering from a nightmare claiming there is a man in her room telling her “bad things.”

During all this Maitland drama, the Peterson family is grieving for Frankie. Frankie’s mother has an emotional breakdown which leads to a heart attack, her older son and husband watch in disarray.

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Ben Mendelsohn, Yul Vazquez.
photo: Bob Mahoney/HBO

Episode 2: “Roanoke”

During a surreptitious late-night visit with Terry (Jason Bateman), Ralph (Ben
Mendelsohn) admits to being baffled by conflicting physical evidence. The next day, an
unexpected tragedy throws the investigation into a tailspin, and ornery detective Jack
Hoskins (Marc Menchaca) is forced to cut his hunting trip short to return to work and pick up the slack. Meanwhile, Glory (Julianne Nicholson) tries to soothe her daughter Jessa (Scarlett Juniper Blum), who says she’s been visited by a strange man in her room at night. –HBO

Written by Richard Price; directed by Jason Bateman

All the conflicting evidence leads to Ralph being somewhat uncertain about Terry.  Ralph has a late night meeting with him at the jail, where Terry again claims his innocence and shares a heartwarming story of coaching Ralph’s son, Derek.

The next day, Joy Peterson, Frankie’s mom dies at the hospital and so does Terry. That’s right, Terry dies. While being escorted into the courthouse for his arraignment, Frankie’s older brother opens fire on Terry and the escorting officers. Ralph shoots the boy, killing him. Terry is fatally wounded and dies in front of Ralph. He uses his last breath to insist he is innocent. The same hooded man from outside the Maitland’s house is among the crowd at the court house watchign the chaos.

There is now one living member of the Peterson family, Fred Peterson. He attempts to hang himself in his home. The suicide attempt fails and he is left in a comatose state. The hooded man was also seen outside the Peterson house.

Meanwhile, Ralph is put on administrative leave after the courthouse disaster. Because of that Detective Jack Hoskins is called away from his vacation to return. He was hunting boar and wasn’t very happy to have to come back to work. It is interesting and possibly important to mention there is a long period of time where the camera lingers on a mutilated boar.

Ralph even though he is on leave continues to work on the case as it gnaws on him. Ralph and Detective Yunis Sablo investigate the mysterious van from New York. It turns out the van was stolen and abandoned in Ohio, which is coincidentally where the Maitlands went on vacation a few weeks ago. It was even discovered the same week they were there but the Maitland’s flew both ways and that is confirmed. Again an ironclad alibi. This new discovery troubles Ralph more and he arranges a meeting with the reluctant Glory who is accompanied by Alec and Howie. He questions here about the trip in Ohio, all he gets out of her is that they were there so Terry could visit his father in a nursing home. But Terry’s oldest daughter, Maya has some interesting evidence to share. At the nursing home, Terry received a strange cut on his wrist from a male nurse. Might be nothing, might be something.

The episode closes with a young man on a farm discovering a pile of clothes in a barn that looks a lot like what Terry was wearing and they’re covered in some strange white goop.

The Outsider is on Sunday nights at 9 on HBO.

 

 

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