‘The Outsider’ Episode 2’s title ‘Roanoke’ is a reminder of the inexplicable nature of some Stephen King works

The story of the lost colony is in no discernable way related or relevant to the story of Frankie’s rape and murder in ‘The Outsider’. But what is relevant is the idea that some things can never be explained, no matter how much one digs around


                            ‘The Outsider’ Episode 2’s title ‘Roanoke’ is a reminder of the inexplicable nature of some Stephen King works
Jason Bateman and Ben Mendelsohn in 'The Outsider'. (IMDb)

The following story contains spoilers for the first two episodes of ‘The Outsider’

To paraphrase an old adage, episode titles, much like eyes, are a window to the soul of the plot. For HBO’s Stephen King adaptation ‘The Outsider’, the name of the episode gives more insight into the show’s arc as much as anything. 

For example, the first episode ‘Fish in a Barrel’, takes its name from the age-old idiom “Like shooting fish in a barrel”. It indicates that a task is ridiculously simple. And such it was in the episode.

When Frankie Patterson, an 11-year-old child is murdered in the sleepy Georgia town of Cherokee Creek, all the evidence points overwhelmingly toward the little league coach Terry Maitland (Jason Bateman). 

The second episode, while equally illuminating, is a much more complicated title. ‘Roanoke’ refers to what is commonly called one of “America’s oldest unsolved mysteries”.

In August of 1587, a group of nearly 115 English settlers arrived on Roanoke Island, off the coast of present-day North Carolina. John White, the governor of the new colony, sailed back to England in order to gather a fresh load of supplies later that year.

White’s arrival at England, however, coincided with a major naval war between England and Spain. Consequently, Queen Elizabeth I called on every available ship to confront the Spanish Armada. 

It took him three years to finally return to his colony. In August 1590, when White finally returned to Roanoke, he found no trace of the colony or its inhabitants (that included his wife, his daughter, and his infant granddaughter) there. 

The only clue left for White was the word “Croatoan” carved on a post, the name of a tribe allied with the English and an island, now called Hatteras. Since then, Roanoke has been referred to as the "Lost Colony”.

Theories about their disappearance, ranging from an annihilating disease to a violent rampage by local Native American tribes, to the colonists’ failed attempt to voyage back to England to even assimilating with the natives in other areas, have baffled many. 

This isn’t the first time the legend of the “Lost Colony” has been present in the works of Stephen King. The master of horror has, in his ’90s TV miniseries ‘Storm of the Century’, alluded to the legend in an eerie dream sequence, where people, in a single file, jumped into the sea one by one.

Each of them had the word “Croatoan” carved into their forehead. The story of the lost colony, however, is in no discernable way related or relevant to the story of Frankie’s rape and murder in ‘The Outsider’. But what is relevant is the idea that some things can never be explained, no matter how much one digs around.

This is true for ‘The Outsider’ so far. There are many things that remain not only unexplained but look seemingly inexplicable. For example, how Terry could be present in two different cities at the same time.

How could they find his fingerprints at the out-of-town conference where he was on the day of the murder, and at the same time find the same bloodied prints all around Frankie’s body? How could they have witnesses and CCTV footage of Terry at Cherokee Creek and also televised footage of Terry at the conference?

Roanoke thus serves as a reminder that should one follow their convictions, they have to take into account that they would still never have answers for everything; as was pointed out to officer Ralph Anderson (Ben Mendelsohn) by the DA, Kenneth Hayes (Michael Esper). We are left pondering what episode 3's title, ‘Dark Uncle’, alludes to.

‘The Outsider’ airs Sundays, 9 p.m. EST (8 p.m. CST) on HBO.

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