HBO’s The Outsider
Directed by Andrew Bernstein
Written by Richard Price
* For a recap & review of the penultimate episode, “Tigers and Bears” – click here
From atop his perch, Jack Hoskins fires round after round at the people coming for his master, el Cuco, while the creature in Claude Bolton’s skin hides down below in the caves. Dt. Ralph Anderson, Dt. Yunis Sablo, Holly Gibney, and Andy Katcavage take cover as they try to fire back. Jack continues firing, occasionally just blasting Alec Pelley’s dead body, and then Howie Solomon pulls up with the actual Claude and his brother Seale, who’s determined to do some shooting of his own. Unfortunately, Seale takes sniper fire right to the chest, going down hard. The place is like a war zone now with a couple corpses laying in the middle of the vehicles.
In his grief Claude runs for his brother, so Howie helps him and they drag Seale out of the line of fire. Poor Yunis takes a bullet, as well. Worst of all there’s no cell coverage to help them. “Advance or die” is the only option left, and it’s Andy who decides to make a move for his vehicle. He starts it up and manages to back up a ways before Jack fires on him and the vehicle slows to a stop with Andy slumped behind the wheel. After that, Jack shoots the gas tank. Holly tries to rush to Andy, but Howie stops her and gets blown away when the sniper lights an explosion screaming “Mother Nature!”
A truly horrifying scene. Holly wanders towards the fire in a daze as she comes into the sniper’s target. She screams at him and Jack stops briefly. But el Cuco keeps on calling, bidding Hoskins to do his will. So what does Jack do? He lets a rattlesnake bite him, willing “no more” death at the hands of the monster. That still leaves el Cuco in the caves, along with Yunis, Holly, Ralph, and the real Claude left to pick up the pieces.
Next step? Find the monster.
Ralph and Holly are ready to head for the caves when Yunis spots Jack stumbling from the trees with a body swelling up from the snake’s poison. Jack tells them to “kill it” and puts the barrel of the gun in his mouth, pulling the trigger. Yunis and Claude remain outside while Dt. Anderson and Ms. Gibney venture down into the old bear cave. It’s like the pair are descending into Hell itself. On the way, they notice hand prints along a railing, which Holly suggests means the creature’s “afraid of falling” like a human, in turn meaning it can somehow be killed. Not quite sure if that’s soundproof logic, but I’ma trust you, lady! Why not? Holly’s been right about everything so far.
Eventually they see hand prints everywhere, almost like how the bears would sharpen their claws on the cave ceiling and walls. They see where all those people were trapped in the cave all those years ago. And there are animal carcasses everywhere, on which el Cuco’s been feeding.
Holly and Ralph hear fake Claude speak to them from out of the darkness, giving advice on how to navigate the cave. The monster chats with them casually, wondering why Ms. Gibney believed in him so easily and how she convinced a “cowpoke” like Ralph to believe in her theory. Dt. Anderson doesn’t care for any of the creature’s ramblings. He pulls his gun, but el Cuco gets loud and threatens to cave the place in on them. Holly wants to ask more questions, particularly “why children?”, and the monster simply tells them they’re sweeter to the taste. It makes Ralph angry, prompting more rumbling in the cave’s structure. Suddenly, the real Claude steps out of the shadows with a shotgun, and the situation’s becoming more tense. Two Claudes, face-to-face, and one of them is grieving the loss of his brother. Not good. A shotgun blast sends el Cuco flying, and also begins a collapse in the cave. The detective and the private eye run for safety as the place falls down on their heads.
“They’re here, you know— the dead.”
Holly and Ralph make it free of the chamber’s destruction, though Claude gets knocked around good. Nevertheless, they’re alive. But what about el Cuco? Fake Claude was impaled in the collapse, lying motionless when they find him afterwards. Holly isn’t satisfied, so she takes Ralph’s knife and stabs the creature directly in its heart— smart! The surviving trio then make their way out of the bear cave together.
Except Ralph sees dead faces, Ollie Peterson and his son Derek, waiting for him on their way. He turns back while Holly and Claude keep going. He knows el Cuco isn’t dead, “playing possum.” He knows the creature is weakened, though. He tells the thing he could basically make an exhibition out of him for tourists and scientists. He’d rather rid the world of el Cuco so nobody knows it ever existed, and he smashes its head in with a rock. It took a long time for Ralph to believe. Now he knows the truth intimately.
The monster is dead. So are family and friends just outside the cave. The creature has left many families and many friends grieving in its wake. Holly feels guilt for what happened to Andy. Right now, she and Ralph have to focus on telling a coherent story in the aftermath of this catastrophe, as the sirens are heard wailing nearby. The detective remains behind while Holly and Claude drive off with Yunis, who makes a call to Kenneth Hayes, explaining how Jack shot the place up on orders for “the alpha“— the man who murdered Frankie and tried snatching another boy in Cecil. This is followed by Ralph telling the story to investigators. It’s all a way, ultimately, to help clear Terry Maitland. Telling lies for a noble cause, and also so they don’t look insane.
They need Jeannie’s help, too. Ralph asks her to go see Glory, and Jeannie tells the widowed woman not to mention “anything about shapeshifters” or anything supernatural. Glory understands, especially in the name of making sure they’re able to prove Terry’s innocence. Jeannie also takes that chair out of the house and burns it, to cauterise any bit of evidence el Cuco had ever visited them. The next day, Glory discovers Hayes is reopening the Peterson boy’s case.
Holly and Ralph are saying goodbye, for now. She tells him her answer to el Cuco asking why she was so able to believe in it so easily: “An outsider knows an outsider.” This leaves Dt. Anderson with new perspectives on existence. He starts to believe that maybe next time his son visits him it’ll be his actual son’s spirit. Jeannie suggests that, one day, they might hopefully see him again on the other side.
“What else is out there?”
There always had to be this type of ending to show the results of all the supernatural madness and how it’s affected the real world. This was never fully about el Cuco or the creature’s implications, it was a story about how a fantastical, evil thing could infiltrate the lives of flesh and blood people, and what that means in regards to the law, to policing, and for the victims of such an entity. For my money, The Outsider was a great series and the finale was the only way I could’ve imagined everything coming to a close. A beautiful, sensitive finish.