HBO’s The Outsider (an adaptation of the Stephen King novel) has aired its seventh episode, “In The Pines.” The drama series combines King’s infamous adoration of supernatural touches with a murder mystery to chilling effect. We’ve talked about all of the deepening plot twists and mysterious scratches and spooky dreams that have unfolded along the way. This week, it’s time to talk about the anger.
This week’s The Outsider finally put Ralph Anderson in his smug place, and it’s been worth the wait to see his discomfort and befuddlement. Every single barb thrown his way during this episode was valid. Honestly, Ralph’s disastrous behavior regarding the Terry Maitland/Frankie Peterson case makes me wonder how many other cases he’s botched, and whether he’s perpetuated injustices against any other wrongfully accused defendants, or if this is a newfound degree of unprofessionalism from him?
We probably won’t find out the answer to that question, but Ralph sure is a frustrating character. He’s allowed other detectives to fire shots at Holly Gibney because he can’t handle the idea that a rational explanation might not exist. Holly’s humiliation about presenting her findings and beliefs — that the bogeyman/Tear Drinker/Grief Eater/El Cuco is afoot — was palpable, and Ralph only let her twist in the wind. He treated her with contempt, even after she shone a black light in his dining room, which revealed the same unidentifiable, glowing substance that surfaced in that cursed barn. Yet Ralph’s quite practiced at the art of gaslighting, so it’s nice to see some comeuppance come his way. It’s not even a pile-on effect, either. Everyone’s simply coming at Ralph on their own, which amplifies his situation. And since I’ve been frustrated with Ralph from the beginning of the series, this is obviously my favorite episode so far.
Let’s count down the ways that people told Ralph off, from least to most vicious.
6. Ralph’s Job-Ordered Therapist
This guy’s certainly earning his fee. Ralph called him up and asked for an emergency session, basically because everyone’s angry with him, and Ralph can’t handle emotions. He proceeded to grill a medical professional over whether evil truly exists. This therapist has already listened to Ralph ramble for several weeks about how he’s just fine, despite letting his own personal history cloud his professional judgment with tragic results on top of existing tragedy. Further, Ralph screwed Terry’s family by jumping the gun on a very public arrest in a murder investigation. Yet he’s still behaving recklessly and egotistically and swinging his clout around in baffling ways, and this poor therapist kinda has to watch it all happen. It’s no wonder that he’s scolding Ralph for not letting him into his head, although this is the tamest example of someone letting Ralph have it.
Tamika’s a difficult character to rate in terms of anger for a few reasons: (1) We don’t know much about her as an individual; (2) She’s not exactly forthcoming with Ralph about her Hoodie Guy/baby dream. Then again, Tamika’s been on the force with Ralph for years, so we can guess that she knows how he tends to shut down anyone who disagrees with him. We didn’t see any follow up on her dream yet, but Tamika’s fiercely loyal to Jack and feels protective of him, even though he’s always been a cantankerous fellow (after seeing his “mother” last week, he’s becoming a somewhat sympathetic character). Tamika makes no secret of being offended at Ralph’s suggestion that Jack threatened her. And even though, yeah, she’s withholding information from Ralph, she doesn’t realize that dreams are significant to this case, so it’s hard to fault her. It’s also not unpleasant to see this verbal dressing-down happen.
Damn straight, Terry’s wife can sue the heck out of the police department and corrections and the District Attorney’s office and so on, for what happened to her family. Ralph’s stubborn leap to judgment with Terry’s arrest and his refusal to drop the case (despite evidence that tied Terry to a scene hundreds of miles away at the time of the murder) led to Terry being shot and killed outside the courthouse. That wasn’t even close to the end of the Maitland family’s troubles. Glory can’t earn a living for her children anymore, and she’s had her home infiltrated by a blogger masquerading as a nanny. The Maitland kids were also kicked out of school, and it’s a nightmare that she did nothing to deserve. Will Glory sue Ralph as an individual? She hasn’t made this personal against him yet (or this grievance would rank higher), but it’s clearly on her mind. Glory’s also got little left to lose, so the anger has officially been unleashed.
Holly endured a hell of an episode. She was essentially kidnapped by Jack and, after a tension-filled conversation in which she truly felt for the guy, she still realized there was no hope for survival if she didn’t swing an escape plan. I kind-of love that she got away from Jack by faking her period because El Cuco didn’t know how to cope with that maneuver. Controlling people’s minds and inflicting apparitions on them? No problem for the bogeyman. Dealing with the prospect of female hormones? El Cuco is outta there.
With all of that said, Holly already had plenty of reasons to let loose on Ralph, and it all comes tumbling out at once. “After everything that I told you yesterday about Terry being scratched by Heath Hofsteader, who was probably scratched by Maria Caneles?” she roared. “So why didn’t you say something?”
It was a beautiful reckoning, and Ralph deserved everything that came out in this conversation, especially because he didn’t bother telling her about CCTV footage of Terry scratching Claude at the bar. Ralph heard (straight from Holly’s mouth) that some monstrous affliction is spreading through scratches, and he did not consider the Claude scratch to be relevant. Instead, he metaphorically shrugged and refused to use concrete evidence to support a theory that he believes is loosey-goosey. Ugh, Ralph.
Hot on the heels of Holly’s (arguably overdue) outburst, this condemnation was a quiet but nonetheless fierce one. Jeannie’s had enough of her husband’s ridiculous behavior toward this case and Holly, and it’s clear that there are years of resentment behind this wife’s exasperation. She’s had enough of him telling her to get it together over the death of their son while he inwardly lost his mind as well. And Jeannie’s not going to stand for him continuing to stonewall the truth about the Frankie-and-Terry case. Even if Ralph wakes up one morning in the next episode and starts behaving decently, this conflict isn’t over. No one gaslights his wife over some melted-face guy invading the family home and gets to stop sleeping on the couch.
Now Ralph has really done it. When you lose Yunis, man, you’re a goner.
Yunis is the audience’s point-of-view guy, so if he’s done, that says a lot. He also appears to be the sharpest guy on the force. He’s tried very hard to get through to Ralph, but the messages haven’t passed through Ralph’s tough skull. Not even the “dreams are messages, bro” helped matters, so Yunis has been the one tracking Claude and piecing together clues that seem obvious from outside the TV screen. Now, though, Yunis is done with Ralph and point-blank tells him that there’s a clear reason for why Jack wants to kill Holly: “I think maybe she told you why … you just didn’t wanna hear it.”
Ralph’s response to this was to mouth off at Yunis “gassing up” Holly’s mind some more, and that’s where this friendship ends. Yunis shot daggers at Ralph for insisting that he must make sense of this case, in order to “live with” what he’s done, whereas Yunis, like any sensible person, simply wants the case to end. Given that three episodes remain of The Outsider, an end is certainly on the horizon, and maybe then, Yunis can take a nice vacation in Aruba. I’ll be rooting for him.
HBO’s ‘The Outsider’ airs on Sunday nights at 9:00 pm EST.