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'The Outsider' Finale: El Cuco’s unanswered questions, post-credits scene and Holly Gibney deserve a Season 2

HBO, may not have made up its mind about a second season yet, but it should; and it should greenlight it. After all, isn’t this the time to be making intelligent horror?
UPDATED MAR 19, 2020
Ben Mendelsohn and Mare Winningham (IMDb)
Ben Mendelsohn and Mare Winningham (IMDb)

‘The Outsider’, HBO’s ambitious, moody, grey adaptation of Stephen King’s southern gothic horror novel of the same name, has come to an end. And while many have found the show slow (even glacial) in its pace, it has a definite charm to it. Showrunner Richard Price, just like in his previous production, ‘The Night Of’ (that also stars Bill Camp), pulls off a tale that is measured in every aspect, and not one that’s ponderous. But the fans' reactions to the show brings us to a question that is existential to the project itself: Will there be a second season?

Despite the lukewarm reception (and that had to be expected considering, one, adapting horror into a series is a herculean task; and two, adapting King is tricky), there are ample reasons to believe that a second season may just come true. For starters, let us look at what the show leaves unanswered. 

When facing El Cuco -- the mysterious shape-shifting malevolent creature was not explained but let’s call it so, based on conjecture -- Holly (Cynthia Erivo) asks if there were others like it? El Cuco’s answer leaves much to be explored. It says it has always felt there could be more like it. Complementing that fact is also the discovery of another child’s murder in Cherokee City that had a modus operandi similar to that of Frankie Peterson’s murder. The finale also sees Terry Maitland’s (Jason Bateman) name cleared of all charges posthumously in light of that murder and testimonies from Ralph (Ben Mendelsohn), Holly, and Yunis (Yul Vasquez).

This is not even considering the fact that Ralph and Holly truly managed to get rid of the existing El Cuco. The fact that Ralph bashed in its head with a boulder does not imply the creature’s mortality one bit, considering the kind of powers it possesses. So, in both respects, there is an open door to pursue an El Cuco story, should there be a second season.

There is also the end-credits scene where not only does Holly see the ghost of Jack Hoskins (Marc Menchaca) in her mirror, the audience is also teased with a split-second shot of her wrist -- it bears a scratch. And by now, we are well aware that a scratch is how El Cuco appropriates a new body. 

But one doesn’t necessarily have to limit themselves to an El Cuco story. In the finale, when Holly is leaving Ralph’s home, the once-skeptic police officer asks her, “What else is out there?” Holly smiles and shrugs, but it is also telling of more happening on heaven and earth than can be dreamt of in Ralph’s (or even Holly’s) philosophy. 

It mustn’t be forgotten that while ‘The Outsider’ may have been neatly wrapped up (as neatly as a King story can ever be), Holly is a recurring character in several of his books. In all likelihood, a second season may just become focussed on a different Holly adventure. As pointed out by Den Of Geek, ‘The Outsider’ was also never billed as a miniseries or limited series by HBO. 

Tom Reimann of Collider also provides an interesting perspective on spinning off a miniseries into a regular show. He cites ‘Dexter’, Showtime’s “serial killer of serial killers” thriller as an example, pointing out that it started out as an adaptation of a single novel in its first season. Soon, however, it went on to become its own storyline, completely separate from the source material. Yes, ‘Dexter’ should have ended a couple of seasons before it eventually ended, but that doesn’t have to be the case with ‘The Outsider’, does it?

And finally, it is difficult to ignore the showrunner himself. In an interview with Indie Wire in January, Price said he was already working on season 2: “It’s like pulling a rabbit out of a glass hat -- of course there will be another [if HBO wants one]. There’s no such thing as a series that, if it does well, they’re not going to want a second season.”

Horror, in the last couple of years, has finally found its place. Even with the innumerable jump-scare cheesy horror flicks in the works, we have seen a renaissance of the genre through production houses like A24, filmmakers like Jordan Peele and Ari Aster, and adaptations like ‘The Outsider’ and ‘The Haunting of Hill House’. HBO, may not have made up its mind about a second season yet, but it should; and it should greenlight it. After all, isn’t this the time to be making intelligent horror?