The Outsider episode 5 recap – “Tear-Drinker” loses some energy

February 4, 2020
Jonathon Wilson 0
TV, TV Recaps
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As it reaches the halfway point, The Outsider slows to a crawl and becomes less economical in “Tear-Drinker”, though promising moments still emerge.

This recap of The Outsider Season 1, Episode 5, “Tear-Drinker”, contains spoilers. You can check out our thoughts on the previous episode by clicking these words.

While watching The Outsider Episode 5 I thought, perhaps for the first time, that the show was making a mistake. The previous installment was a slow, careful hour of mythologizing, but it tempered its unhurried pace with a helping of genuinely intriguing reveals. “Tear-Drinker” moves at much the same clip, but with fewer of those moments, leaving the show at its halfway point with suddenly much less of an idea of how to get where it’s going.

The sudden lack of economy in the storytelling is notable because the first three episodes of The Outsider were tightly-paced dynamite, drawing heavy inspiration from King’s novel but filmed with enough verve and freshness to propel audiences into this wide-ranging supernatural mystery. Now, confined to the same threads of investigation, despite its burgeoning otherworldly scope the case feels narrower. Holly (Cynthia Erivo), still compelling, returns to Dayton in search of a man with the same tell-tale neck wounds as Jack Hoskins (Marc Menchaca), but really only uncovering the same kind of overwhelmingly miserable fate that has befallen everyone else inflicted with this evil so far.

In a technique that has been deployed a couple of times throughout the first half of the season, The Outsider Episode 5 opens with a scene that it later returns to in full, for additional context, though I don’t feel anything of note is really gained from this structural flourish. “Tear-Drinker” is much better when it leans into pure tension-building. Its highlight, or one of them anyway, is a scene in which Collins (Hettienne Park) dreams of her baby being taken by what one assumes is the hooded man thus far consigned to the background of various atrocities – it’s a fantastic, legitimately creepy sequence, and follows on the back of a conversation she has with Hoskins about his fears of passing on his misery to others. That personal element is what’s truly scary about this idea; someone you know gradually becoming someone you don’t.

What’s also scary is that we don’t know for sure exactly how much influence this hooded figure has over the community; we don’t really know how much of Jack offering to help Ralph (Ben Mendelsohn) with the investigation is instruction from his new puppeteer, and we don’t really know how “real”, for want of a better term, the figure is when he appears to Jeannie (Mare Winningham) and instructs her to warn Ralph away. What irked me about this, though, is that Ralph, given all he’s seen so far, doesn’t take the warning anywhere close to seriously enough – this is his wife, after all.

Yunis Sablo (Yul Vazquez) cautions Ralph against discrediting dreams in the kind of understated dialogue scene this show does really well, but I’m not sure it takes. Ralph’s the kind of guy who likes more concrete leads, so the one Holly turns up is better for him, finding a connection to the buildings right beside the graveyards where the victims are buried. One, close to Terry’s grave, yields his clothes.

As is obvious, some interesting things happened in The Outsider Season 1, Episode 5, and it boasted some interesting dialogue and some effective scares. But it took its sweet time to deliver those things, and what was previously slow, creeping dread is gradually being met with an impatient tapping of the feet. Ten episodes suddenly seem like a lot. Halfway through a season, I’d like to see a clearer direction beginning to emerge, one that leads directly to the finale; stakes should be raised, intentions should be clear, and so on, and so forth, but “Tear-Drinker” didn’t really show any of that. What it does it still does excellently – but is it doing enough?

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