As The Outsider draws closer to completion, the group grows nearer to its villain and starts looking toward a slam-bang finish.
This recap of The Outsider Season 1, Episode 9, “Tigers and Bears”, contains spoilers. You can check out our thoughts on the previous episode by clicking these words.
The Outsider went from a high-intensity flashbang of a series into a slow burn within a couple of episodes. The middle of the miniseries turned into a drama concerned with facts and historical myths and legends, with a lack of noise and a lack of firing power. This isn’t to say that the series became any worse, but it felt like a long cry from the initial death and morbidity of its first two episodes. It lost a bit of its luster. This week’s The Outsider Episode 9, “Tigers and Bears”, reverts back to this creepiness and violence, even if it only appears in the episode’s final five minutes.
The ninth episode of HBO’s series shadows two parallel stories, as we learn about the caves surrounding the small town and how they came of importance. The show follows two boys as they go into one of the bear caves, only to get lost and inspire a search party led by their father. You don’t learn that this storyline is a flashback until the back-half of the episode, a smart decision by the writers’ room. The cave collapsed on the search parties and became closed off from the rest of the world, hinting to the audience that this might have become the home for El Cuco. Introducing the caves in this way actually becomes compelling and suspenseful, as we are learning about their history at the same time as the main characters. We understand the shock in the same way that they do.
In the present day, authorities Ralph Anderson (Ben Mendelsohn) and Yunis Sablo (Yul Vasquez) question the witnesses surrounding the attempted kidnapping of a little boy during the cave festival. They don’t learn much, instead opting to go and investigate the caves as a group, hoping for a chance to contain the Grief Eater, or if forced, to kill the monster. Claude Bolton (Paddy Considine), El Cuco’s newest puppet, hangs with lawyer Howie Gold (Bill Camp) and learns of his situation at-hand, traveling to the cave with his brother and Gold, armed with shotguns.
The rest of the investigators head to the caves after several intergroup conversations, most of which just support earlier facts and earlier character dispositions. When they arrive, though, officer Jack Hoskins (Marc Menchaca) is waiting for them, with a sniper rifle ready to fire. Hoskins continues to be at the mercy of El Cuco, and his storyline feels likely to end in death one way or another. As the episode ends, we finally see another (somewhat) central character’s death in Alec Pelley (Jeremy Bobb) getting shot in the head by Hoskins. Cutting to black, gunshot after gunshot can be heard, suggesting that bullets are flying on both sides.
The newest episode of The Outsider still didn’t produce the fireworks present earlier in the season, but it was a welcome sign of action after a suspenseful, yet slightly dull last few episodes, especially for those already aware of the adapted story. Though the production value remains top-of-the-line, the series needs to advance its storyline and retain the action of its final five minutes, giving viewers continued reasons to watch this group of people battle El Cuco, an entity we still know little about. With only one episode left in the season, wrapping up the story of El Cuco feels like a tough task for creator Richard Price. Sooner rather than later, we, along with the heroes we’ve started to admire, will have to face the monster, the Grief Eater, the outsider.
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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.