THE OUTSIDER is a new HBO series with a truly awesome cast. It’s based on the Stephen King book of the same title, which I really loved. More than halfway through the series, I’m still not sure the adaption is to my liking. Episode 1 is a downright mess. Read our The Outsider review here!

The Outsider is a new HBO series based on the Stephen King book of the same title. I read the book this past summer since I knew the adaption was coming, so I’m watching it with the knowledge of the entire plot. After watching episode 1, I was very happy that I knew the whole story.

Honestly, the first episode almost made me give up since it’s so messy. There are flashbacks all over the place, but with no knowledge of the story or the characters, you can easily get lost. Fortunately, it does get (somewhat) better by episode two and the series premiere by airing both episodes on HBO.

We’ve watched the first six (out of 10) episodes for this review. Continue reading our The Outsider series review below.

From Stephen King novel to HBO series

Admittedly, I have been very excited about this new The Outsider HBO series since I loved the book it’s based on. Yes, it’s Stephen King once again and these days, he very rarely misses. Though the adaptions of his books are not always on point.

For one, I really didn’t care for the new Netflix movie that was based on a short story by Stephen King and Joe Hill (his son). It was called In the Tall Grass and featured some huge diversions from the original story. This can be both a necessary and good thing… it just wasn’t in that case.

Do check out: Our review of In the Tall Grass here >

When it comes to The Outsider, this HBO adaption is very loyal to the book which is good. However, there are elements that I suspect will be very difficult to understand without having read the book. The other recent TV series adaption of a Stephen King book was Mr. Mercedes which was a really solid adaption that made necessary changes but was loyal to the core story.

You might like: Our take on the Mr. Mercedes series based on a Stephen King trilogy >

Readers of The Outsider will also know that one key character from that former trilogy appears in this new story. And yes, she is also in the series adaption – of course. But this time, she’s portrayed by a new actress who does an equally impressive job.

The Outsider: Season 1 Review - HBO Series

A truly impressive cast

There’s no doubt anymore that the age of television is once again upon us. This means the casting of series can consist of Oscar winners as well as Emmy winners and everything in between. Of course, this being an HBO production, they have long been making productions for TV on a feature film production quality level.

For The Outsider, we have Jason Bateman (Netflix’ Ozark) as Terry Maitland. He’s both a main character and a supporting character in the overall story. Terry plays a key role in the plot but doesn’t actually have that much screentime. However, Ben Mendelsohn (Netflix’ Bloodline) plays detective Ralph Anderson who is in a lot of scenes and does a great job.

Also, we have Cynthia Erivo (Bad Times at the El Royale) as Holly Gibney, who is the character we know from the Mr. Mercedes universe. Yes, Holly is now a black woman, which I love. The character is exactly the same since Cynthia Erivo manages to create a portrait of her that (at least) matches the brilliant one Justine Lupe did for the Mr. Mercedes series.

Finally, I have to mention Marc Mechaca (Every Time I Die) and Yul Vazquez (I Am the Night) in smaller, but very important, roles. The same can be said for Jeremy Bobb (Godless) and Julianne Nicholson (Eyewitness). Basically, every single actor in The Outsider makes this a series worth watching.

The Outsider: Season 1 Review - HBO Series

Watch The Outsider on HBO

Jason Bateman directs the two first episodes of this HBO series and it’s not without issues. Especially episode one has many flashbacks but you won’t know which is past and present until later on. I knew the story from the book and still got lost during this episode. However, by the second episode, things are already getting a lot better in terms of storytelling.

The series is written by Richard Price (based on the book by Stephen King, obviously) and stays very loyal to the book. Whether this works for an adaptation is still up in the air for me. I love that few changes have been made but really question whether people will get all the details in the plot.

Richard Price himself is certainly a screenwriter who knows his stuff. He won an Oscar for The Color of Money (1986) and created the brilliant HBO mini-series The Night Of from 2016.

My recommendation of The Outsider is definitely to watch it, but if you haven’t read the book, I would wait until I can binge-watch the whole thing. Personally, I am very much looking forward to watching the final four episodes! That should tell you that I definitely think it’s worth watching. Also, do read the book. It’s awesome!

The Outsider premieres with its two first episodes on HBO from January 12, 2020. We’ve watched the first six (of 10) episodes in the series for this review.


Directors: Jason Bateman, Charlotte Brändström, Andrew Bernstein
Writers: Richard Price (based on the novel by Stephen King) 
Stars: Ben Mendelsohn, Jason Bateman, Cynthia Erivo, Marc Menchaca, Jeremy Bobb, Bill Camp, Yul Vazquez, Mare Winningham, Paddy Considine, Julianne Nicholson, Hettienne Park, Michael Esper


The Outsider explores the investigation into the gruesome murder of a local boy and the mysterious force surrounding the case.

I write reviews and recaps on Heaven of Horror. And yes, it does happen that I find myself screaming, when watching a good horror movie. I love psychological horror, survival horror and kick-ass women. Also, I have a huge soft spot for a good horror-comedy. Oh yeah, and I absolutely HATE when animals are harmed in movies, so I will immediately think less of any movie, where animals are harmed for entertainment (even if the animals are just really good actors). Fortunately, horror doesn't use this nearly as much as comedy. And people assume horror lovers are the messed up ones. Go figure!
Karina "ScreamQueen" Adelgaard
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