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The Outsider - Must/Can't - Review



The Outsider’s ending picks up from where episode nine left off, with a bloodbath that goes full Quentin Tarantino in taking out half of the surviving cast one after another. The ruthless Jack, under control of El Cuco, lashes out at the small band of protagonists who are gunned down under fire. He takes out Pelley, Howie and most tragically Andy, who was too good for this world, with the latter two being killed in an exploding car. His desperate bid to call the cavalry was shut off when his car pulled to a halt in a clever bit of directing from Andrew Bernstein, who made the most out of the tension created by Richard Price’s script, with the veteran writer returning for the finale. Stephen King novels aren’t any less stranger to endings like this – but it still hurts to watch, and the comparisons to D-Day and the “advance or die” mantra feels appropriate.

Must/Can’t felt like an episode of two halves – the first was the resolution to the main storyline and the second felt like an epilogue. With El Cuco cornered and running out of options, Jack stands up to his controller and tells the survivors of the desperate final showdown where El Cuco is hiding before blowing his eyes out – he does his best to stand up and resist when Holly walks out into the open, and his final act of defiance to El Cuco shows that there’s more to Jack than we ever knew – unlike Henry in It, remember, he didn’t willingly seek out the help of the creature – instead, Jack was possessed by El Cuco, and the real Jack is still in there somewhere. He even begged Andy from afar not to make the run – knowing that he’d have to kill him under El Cuco’s orders. I’d even go so far as to say that Marc Menchaca was so much more compelling than Paddy Considine in the antagonist role, with Jack being the more tragic case than El Cuco’s crazed, hungry evil force who eats kids because they taste the best.

The show never justified its need for ten episodes but survived largely on the strength of its strong screenplay, direction and brilliant character performances. Seriously – both Cynthia Erivo and Ben Mendelsohn were excellent once again, and even though I may have preferred Menchaca to Considine, Considine still had a memorable, chilling turn as El Cuco and that final scene between it, the real Claude, Holly and Ralph had me on the edge of my seat. It was a moment of brilliantly executed tension. In the end the show decided to kill El Cuco and cover up its existence rather than expose it to the world and you can see why Ralph would have wanted to make that call, even if it did lead to an anticlimactic resolution when we don’t learn anything more about El Cuco other than that it’s just some kind of ancient evil. But given the explanation that King had for It’s existence (wouldn’t it have been cool to have El Cuco reference say, Pennywise? Or something else from the King canon?) it’s probably for the best that the show avoided that approach, because hey – in terms of Stephen King adaption endings, The Outsider still managed, flaws and all, to deliver something that was as things go, pretty memorable.

For all the bleakness of the ten episodes we end on as close to a happy ending that The Outsider is going to get, Ralph has come around on the thinking that El Cuco is real, but he doesn’t want the rest of the world to learn the truth. His outcome is one where we see him at the gravestone of his son with his wife where they hope to see him again somehow, after coming up with a convoluted fake story to have Terry’s name cleared without the need for supernatural involvement, which is kind of a bummer as it would have exonerated the other victims of El Cuco in the past, too.

But that would have opened a whole new can of worms, that The Outsider would have had little time to delve into with just one episode left. The biggest flaw of this show has always been its pacing, and I’ve already stated before that a six to eight episode arc would have fit the show nicely, but in terms of endings, I’m mostly satisfied. It’s not perfect, but then again, few Stephen King endings ever are. The main problem with episode ten is that after spending far too long getting to the conclusion, The Outsider unfortunately decided to rush its resolution, leading to a finale that feels over before it even really began and an epilogue that takes up much of the episode, and everything felt tied up rather a bit too neatly – when instead it would have been preferable to have the series go into more depth on the fallout, maybe by having the shootout happen in episode nine and devote a full episode to the fallout rather than half of one. The show did raise an interesting mid-credits cliffhanger, too - opening the possibility for a potential of season two where El Cuco could return inside Holly's head, should the show wish, which would represent a whole different ballgame entirely, but given that tease and what we've had this season, I'm perfectly happy to see The Outsider turn out to be a one-and-done series.


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