“Roanoke” moves this terrifying story along, sifting through the major players, and continuing to keep the audience in the dark.
This recap of The Outsider Season 1, Episode 2, “Roanoke”, contains spoilers. You can check out our thoughts on the previous episode by clicking these words.
When HBO decided to drop the first two episodes of its new limited season thriller The Outsider on the same night, you’d think that the audience would be given a bit more clarity about the ins and outs of this murder mystery. Instead, director Jason Bateman and writer Richard Price held off from showing their cards, dropping clues rather than revealing secrets.
The Outsider Episode 2 brought just as much firepower as the premiere, and after the first fifteen minutes of fireworks, the hour-long show simmered down to just a few characters sitting and talking. Bateman continues with a clear sense of direction, showing his still incredible transition from comedy into drama. HBO makes riveting television and “Roanoke” is just another example of that.
Giving us a little bit of context, the episode takes a step back with a conversation between Terry Maitland and Ralph Anderson. Maitland (Bateman) chats about teaching Anderson’s son how to bunt, with the cop asking him if he murdered Frankie Peterson. Maitland’s denial casts more doubt in the detective’s mind and continues our own questioning of this case.
“Roanoke” then jumps right into the day of the arraignment, leading to a more-than-violent encounter. With Maitland walking next to Anderson, the older Peterson child walks out from the angry courthouse crowd firing bullets at both the cop and the accused. His mother, dead earlier from some sort of heart attack/stroke, and his brother killed days earlier, the boy gets shot in the head by Anderson. Hitting his mark before he dies, he kills a still-denying Maitland, whose last words are directed towards his innocence.
The misshapen man in the hoodie appears frequently in the episode. His presence coincides with death, a common occurrence in this follow-up to the premiere, popping up at the courthouse and at the Peterson home as the final member of the family, the father, commits suicide. One family has already been broken by this case, and another is heading in that direction with Maitland’s daughter starting to see a strange man each and every night in her room. Everyone, except the amorphous hoodie man, is struggling.
The rest of the episode focuses on the van with Maitland’s prints found by the dead body in the forest, and how that van came to be in this small town in Georgia. We see a cop on a hunting vacation, Jack Hoskins (Marc Menchaca), come back into the fold, Anderson head to therapy, and lots of talk about Dayton, Ohio.
For the most part, the audience still lives in the darkness, as many aspects of this story haven’t been revealed. The last shot of the episode shows that as fact, as we see a barn, some bloody, dirty clothes, and a chill that extends beyond the wind.
Aside from creating an atmosphere of mystery, The Outsider thrives in the unknown of human capabilities and human reasoning in the beginning of this season. It gives its characters unexplainable situations and feelings of anger towards that confusion. Like many of us, these characters want the truth yes, but more than that, they want clarity and explanations. They want an answer, and an element of closure, and the death of Terry Maitland will not inch them any further in finding those answers.
In terms of the cast, Cynthia Erivo remains the big question mark. Not introduced yet into the show, much of the show’s star power without Bateman will rest on Erivo’s shoulders, ones newly Oscar-nominated for Harriet. This ensemble and its audience still have a murder to solve, though, and by the looks of it, this spree of community deaths has no plans of slowing down.
Based in Brooklyn, NY, Michael is a regular critic for Ready Steady Cut and also writes for Cinema Sentries, The Film Experience and Film Inquiry.