Last week, Ralph Anderson finally appeared to accept the impossible: Terry Maitland did not kill Frankie Peterson.
Unfortunately, this realization must somehow be reconciled with a wealth of contradictory DNA evidence and eye witness testimony–along with a charge to hunt down whoever actually committed the horrific crime.
Throughout the episode, there are intermittent cuts to a pensive-looking man named Heath who is locked up in jail. Heath appears to be being stalked by one of his fellow inmates, but he’s far too busy filing down one of his glasses lenses into a shank to notice.
He also gets a drawing in the mail calling him a child killer.
One night, a guard releases the inmate who was stalking Heath so that he can kill him. Before he can, however, Heath uses his sharpened glasses lens to slit his own throat.
The episode opens with Georgia Bureau of Investigation officers swarming the barn where the clothes Terry Maitland (or someone who looked exactly like him) was wearing were found.
Aside from its tragically unfashionable urban cowboy look, the abandoned outfit was also notable for being covered in some type of unidentified liquid.
Meanwhile, Ralph Anderson makes a visit to his son’s grave. While’s he’s there, he somberly takes in the other graves being dug for the lives that have been taken both directly and indirectly by the Terry Maitland case.
Back at home, Ralph continues to work on figuring out the connection between Frankie Peterson’s murder and the Terry Maitland’s trip to Dayton, Ohio. It’s a ridiculously tenuous thread, but it’s the only one that might make any sense out of the cause. Jeannie Anderson strongly urges Ralph to stop pushing himself so hard and take some time to recover.
Meanwhile, Detective Jack Hoskins is assigned to head out to the barn where Terry Maitland’s clothes were found. The hour drive for what he sees as a pointless endeavor does not sit well with him, nor does it inspire much urgency. On his way there, he decides to make a stop at the Peach Crease to harass strippers for a few hours. By the time Jack finally gets to the barn, it’s almost nightfall.
As you might expect, all the GBI agents had already left, although that doesn’t keep Jack from being greatly annoyed by their absence. He goes inside and searches the barn (why?) and grumbles for a bit. As he turns his flashlight toward the rear part of the building, it shines on what appears to be the Green Hoodie Man we’ve been seeing.
This scares the piss out of Jack (and me), causing him to drop his flashlight. He quickly picks it back up and draws his gun only to find that the Green Hoodie figure has disappeared. As he calls out for whoever was there to show themselves, an unseen force somehow injures the back of Jack’s neck, causing him to collapse and cry out in pain as he’s repeatedly attacked.
Jack escapes the barn and manages to make it back home, but the pain from his encounter in the barn continues to worsen. He uses a mirror to check the back of his neck, which is now covered in horrific looking blisters.
A few nights later, Jack visits the Peach Crease to drink himself into pain numbing stupor. After he falls over from a bar stool, Claude attempts to help him, causing Jack to wail in agony (despite the fact Claude hadn’t even touched him) and declare that he will do anything to make the pain stop.
After returning home, Jack swears to an unseen entity that he will do whatever it wants if it will help him.
Ralph completely ignores his wife’s advice and rewatches the courthouse shooting, looking for anything he may have missed while also subjecting himself to even worse bouts of PTSD.
The next day, he meets Yunis Sablo for breakfast so they can go over what the GBI personnel found at the barn. Just as they suspected, the clothes were an exact match for the ones they saw Terry Maitland wearing on the surveillance videos, right down to the unique belt buckle–but with one odd distinction. The fingerprints on the belt buckle definitively matched Maitland’s, but were also faded in a way that would suggest they belonged to someone at least 80-years old.
The GBI lab also tested the strange liquid on the clothes, which they had so far been unable to identify.
Ralph decides that this is more than enough weirdness to officially bring Howie Salomon and Alec Pelley into their investigation. They are resistant at first, but Ralph manages to convince them that they have a better chance at exonerating Terry–and finding the real killer–if they work together. Howie also suggests that they bring in a fifth person to help them: Holly Gibney.
Life on Mars
Despite her lack of social/interactive skills, Holly has a near photographic memory (as long as the subject involves abstract things not directly tied with her day-to-day existence), can compute numbers and geometric dimensions as fast as a computer, and is second-to-none when it comes to piecing together an investigation. She’s also very particular, refusing to fly (due to her fear of airplanes) and insisting to Alec that she meet the people who are hiring her in person.
Before that meeting, however, Ralph has one with his department-mandated therapist. It starts off predictably confrontational, but Ralph eventually starts to open up about the death of his son. He stops just short of telling the therapist that the loss caused him to have a drinking problem for a while, but we are treated to a flashback confirming it.
That night, Holly meets with Ralph and Alec. Ralph is clearly put off by her odd demeanor, but they decide to hire her, anyway. During the meeting, we learn that Holly’s parents ran her through a battery of intrusive physical and psychological tests as a child, mostly because they were scared of how she was.
Strangers in the Night
As you might expect, things aren’t going very well for the Maitland family. Maya and Jessa are getting harassed and bullied so badly by other students that their principal tells Glory she must remove her daughters from the school.
That night, Jessa is visited again by The Man who has been whispering to her. The next morning, she tells her mom to call Ralph Anderson because she has something important to tell him. When Glory asks what it is, Jessa says that “The Man” told her she should only talk to Ralph.
Ralph brings Jeannie along to visit Glory, who is accompanied by Howie Salomon. Glory says she’s only asking for his help because she believes talking to Ralph will help Jessa realize that what she saw/heard was just a bad dream. Jessa is adamant, however, that it wasn’t a dream. She also states that the The Man told her Ralph needed to stop his investigation or “something bad would happen.” The intensity of this meeting agitates Glory, who shuts everything down right then and there.
After some coaxing from Jeannie, Glory relents and allows her to question Jessa instead of Ralph. The little girl reveals that she has seen The Man a total of four times. During the first visit, he looked like her father, Terry. He was also very cruel and said things to purposefully upset her. In subsequent visits, The Man’s face became progressively misshapen and “blurry.”
By his final visit, The Man’s appearance was nothing like her father’s–although his venomous words and threats to do harm to Ralph Anderson continued.
The next day, Jeannie comes over to check in on Glory and see how her daughters were doing. After relaying a story about what a great father Terry was, Glory asks Jeannie how she lives with the loss of a family member. Jeannie says she still doesn’t know.
Holly Gibney travels to Dayton and checks into the same hotel room the Maitlands stayed at during their recent family vacation. She then visits the parking lot where the white van was stolen from, which she notices is monitored by security cameras. At the exact moment she makes this observation, the head of the building’s security drives up and asks if he can help her with anything (ugh).
Despite his desire to help–and clearly being smitten with Holly–he informs her that the security camera footage from the dates she needed would have been scrubbed a long time ago. That doesn’t stop him, however, from asking for Holly’s business card and giving her one of his.
Later, Holly goes to visit Peter Maitland (Terry’s father) in the nursing home. The receptionist assumes Holly is a reporter and tells her that Peter has already spoken to detectives and been hounded by enough media. Before kicking her off the premises, she tells Holly that there’s absolutely no chance she’ll ever get to speak to Peter unless she is approved and accompanied by Terry…
…meaning that the receptionist didn’t know anything about the Terry Maitland murder case, but that Peter Maitland had still been a person of interest in some type of recent/major investigation.
Holly heads back to the hotel room and starts digging. She soon discovers that someone at the hospital who helped take care of Peter was recently implicated in a double child murder: Heath.
Compared to the first two episodes, Dark Uncle is much, MUCH slower. But while it’s not as individually entertaining as the others, it still does a great job setting up how methodically the show plans to investigate its impossible central crime.
It also introduces Holly Gibney, who is one of my all time favorite characters from Stephen King’s books. This iteration of her, however, is much different–and not just because she’s younger, a different race, and more attractive. Cynthia Erivo gives Holly a presence that has much more weight and intensity than what I expecting…and so far I kind of love it.
It’s also worth noting that a character like Holly could easily turn into a lazy plot device, but Erivo and the show’s writers don’t appear to be in any danger of letting that happen. Yes, this version of Holly is also a genius with severe social issues and anxiety–even more so than her literary counterpart. But despite Alec Pelley’s “space alien” crack, her humanity is never downplayed, nor is she ever relegated to the role of a super computing savant. Instead, Erivo portrays Holly as a woman fully aware of how different she is–and who is more than willing/capable to use her cursed gifts to complete the task in front of her. Add in some new backstory (that is also different from what King did in the Mr. Mercedes series), and it won’t be a surprise if she’s everyone’s favorite character by the end of the series.
As far as the story is concerned, I loved the way Heath’s story was interjected throughout the episode, giving us yet another strong connective thread to the Maitland case that unfolded in time with Holly’s discovery. There were a few contrived moments (the mall security supervisor showing up when he did springs to mind) but for the most part, The Outsider continues to methodically dole out information that logically leads us on a collision course with an illogical threat.