Last week’s episode ended with the investigative team converging on El Cuco’s layer only for Jack Hoskins to start shooting at them. We know for sure that he took down Alec Pelley, but the screen cut to black as multiple shots continued to ring out.
This week, we finally get to see how everything plays out–along with who will and will not make it out alive.
The episode opens right where we left off with Jack reigning down sniper fire on the investigative team. Alec Pelly’s body is on the ground with half of the investigator’s head missing. The rest of the team scrambles to take cover as Jack continues to shoot, pinning them down behind their vehicles.
Ralph deduces who is firing on them and pleads with Jack to stop, but it’s no use. The tortured detective is completely under the sway of El Cuco along with a giant bottle of whiskey. Incidentally, the whiskey might be the one thing saving more of them from dying since it appears to have made him even more reckless and unmoored.
Seconds later, Howie, Claude, and Seale arrive on the scene. As their car pulls into Jack’s firing range, Yunis Sablo and Andy yell at them to leave. Instead, the group stops and piles out of the car. Seale spots Jack and immediately begins firing a pump action shotgun in his direction, nearly hitting him. At the same time, a rattle snake approaches Jack, forcing him to stand up and grab a rake to shove the creature away. This provides Ralph and Holly time to find better cover behind a large van.
When Jack resets, he’s able to sight Seale and fire, killing him instantly. Claude screams in anguish as Jack laughs and continues to fire, clipping Yunis’s arm as he runs behind the van. Jack then pauses to reload, allowing Claude and Howie to run out and get Seale, who they quickly realize is dead after dragging his body behind cover.
While all this is going on, Andy realizes that they have no chance of calling for help since the remote area they’re in has no cell phone reception (OF COURSE). Instead, he decides to make a run for one of the cars and drive to the first place he can get reception. He makes it to the vehicle and gets it started despite Jack shooting out the windows. As he reverse out, however, Jack hits and kills him.
The car rolls forward toward the group with Andy slumped over in the front seat. Holly attempts to run to him, but Howie stops her, saying he’ll go instead. As Howie approaches the car, Jack shoots the gas tank and the resulting spillage, causing it to ignite and explode. The blast incinerates Andy’s body and engulfs Howie, killing him.
Inside the cave, El Cuco rocks back and forth with delight at the carnage taking place outside. Jack cheers as well before sighting Holly, who is slowly walking toward the burning wreckage. His maniacal joy immediately dissipates as he appears unable to make himself shoot her. Ralph and Yunis scream for Holly to get back, but she refuses, instead staring straight at Jack through his scope and screaming “Damn you to hell!”
Jack drops his gun and replies “Oh, he definitely will.”
Back in the cave, El Cuco enflames the boils on Jack’s neck, punishing him for not finishing the job and causing immense pain. Jack grits his teeth and refuses to give in, telling the creature that he won’t kill anyone else. As he He then hears a rattling noise behind him and turns to see the same snake from before approaching him again. Instead of being fearful, Jack looks relieved to find a different creature stalking him. He smiles and invites the snake to strike him, which it does.
Holly calmly walks back to the van as Jack’s anguished screams fill the air from his elevated perch. When Ralph tries to pull her to cover, she shakes him off, declaring “Jack’s done” and that it’s time for them to enter the cave.
Ralph makes sure that Yunis is okay to stay outside with Claude while he and Holly go in. Just as they are about to enter the cave, Jack appears out of the trees, his face swollen from snake bites. As Ralph and Jack draw their weapons, Jack hobbles toward them and stops, pointing toward the cave.
“It’s in there,” he rasps. “Kill it.”
Before anyone can react, Jack bends over, puts his mouth around his gun’s barrel, and blows his head off.
With that awfulness out of the way, Ralph and Holly finally head into the bear cave. As they head down a rickety old tourist stairwell, Holly uses a UV light to show residue from El Cuco on the stair rail. She points out that if the creature is scared of falling, then it can also be killed.
The pair continues down into the cave, following a trail of animal carcasses toward El Cuco’s lair. They eventually come across a rock with the names of the 1947 cave in victims scratched onto it. As they ponder whether El Cuco was trying to get to their corpses, Jack notices the light from a lamp glowing nearby. As he and Holly approach it, the voice of Claude Bolton warns them to watch their step as they enter his domain.
They find El Cuco sitting on a bed and surrounded by the household items Jack previously bought for him. The creature greets them, explaining that he doesn’t know Holly’s last name, but that Claude thinks about her all the time. After she tells the creature her last name, El Cuco admits that she’s the reason he’s having to hide. He asks her why it was so easy for her to believe he existed–and how she was able to get a skeptic like Ralph to believe, as well. Holly doesn’t answer, instead asking what El Cuco is, where he came from, and if there are others like him.
El Cuco refuses to answer directly, instead declaring that he’s often wondered if there are more liked him…and maybe even sensed it.
Deciding he’s heard enough, Ralph approaches the creature with his gun drawn. El Cuco gets up and walks toward him, daring Ralph to shoot before yelling to demonstrate that a loud enough noise will cause a portion of the cave to fall on them.
Having forced his adversaries into a stalemate, El Cuco explains that he can feel the presence of the dead rescuers in the cave. He also excitedly describes the euphoric sensation he experiences from feasting on the grief of others. Holly responds by asking why El Cuco kills and eats children. The creature replies that he eats to survive just like them. When Holly presses him, however, El Cuco admits that children “taste sweetest.” (Sounds a bit like another famous monster from Stephen King’s mythos, doesn’t it?).
This last comment nearly causes Ralph to charge the creature, but Holly is able to stop him. El Cuco smiles, enjoying the grief and anger it has been able to inspire in its currently adversaries. The creature then begins to approach Ralph, explaining that it can’t let them leave. Holly replies that they are the ones who can’t let it leave, but El Cuco doesn’t seem to care, declaring that he still needs to eat.
Just as El Cuco is about to reach Ralph, a shotgun cocks nearby. Claude steps out of the shadows, his face a mix of astonishment and anger at seeing a monster with his own face.
Holly and Ralph try to get Claude to put the gun down, but he continues to approach his double, who appears amused and even mildly intoxicated by his presence. Claude stares the creature down for a moment before firing, knocking it to the ground. The shotgun blast also creates a devastating tremor, causing rocks to fall all around them. Holly tries to get to Claude, who is stationary and shellshocked, but Ralph grabs her and pulls them both to cover.
After the tremor subsides and the rocks stop falling, they head back into the main part of the lair to look for Claude. They find him alive, but his leg is broken and pinned beneath a rock. Ralph smiles and says that he told him not to shoot.
The lightheartedness is cut short, however, when Ralph and Holly hear a sound nearby. They go to investigate and find El Cuco lying on its back, its face partially torn and its torso impaled by a stalactite. Holly asks for a knife and jams it into the creatures chest. When she tries to pull it out, Ralph tells her to leave it. No matter what evidence they have of the creature’s existence, no one will believe them and Terry Maitland’s name will never be cleared.
“Who’s Terry?” Holly cooly responds.
Slaying the Dragon
As Holly and Ralph help Claude get up, Ralph is stopped dead in his tracks by the site of his son (Derek) and the kid he shot outside the courthouse (Ollie Peterson). Both boys maintain a ghastly appearance and rigid posture as they stare at him.
Ralph quickly realizes that he’s the only one who can see them and tells Holly to go ahead with Claude. He then goes back to the prone El Cuco, yanks the knife out of it, and reveals that he knows the creature is only pretending to be dead.
Ralph begins to taunt the creature, saying that even though it might be hard to kill, it also can’t hunt, hide, or feed anymore now. He threatens to bring people back to gawk at it–or maybe even scientists to poke and probe and dissect it for the rest of time. When El Cuco stirs, Jack shoves the knife through its hand, causing the creature to roar in pain. He then goes on to say that it would serve their purposes much better if no one even knew El Cuco even existed.
Ralph picks up a rock and holds it over the creature’s head. El Cuco snarls defiantly, its face morphing and melting into all the other forms we’ve seen it take. After a few moments, Ralph lifts the rock above his head and brings it down, smashing the monster’s skull.
As Ralph exits the cave, the camera lingers on the green hoodie we saw El Cuco wear whenever he appeared mid-transformation.
Once everyone makes it outside, Holly and Claude take a moment to grieve the loss of their loved ones. Ralph reminds her that they need to get their stories straight before the police get there. Holly and Yunis leave with Claude while Ralph sits in the middle of the carnage and waits for law enforcement to arrive.
Back in Georgia, District Attorney Hayes is watching footage of El Cuco-as-Terry Maitland encountering Claude at the Peach Crease when he receives a call from Yunis. The lieutenant informs him that there was a shootout in Cecil, Tennessee involving Jack Hoskins and that multiple people are dead. He also falsely informs him that Jack was merely an accomplice to someone who had recently tried to kidnap another child and was still at large.
After Yunis hangs up with Hayes, he tells Claude to repeat the cover story they came up with, which requires him to disavow his previous eyewitness testimony about Terry coming into the Peach Crease after murdering Frankie Peterson.
Meanwhile, Ralph lies to the local police, telling them that Jack Hoskins called Seale Bolton claiming to have new information on the Frankie Peterson case (knowing Claude was being questioned about it) and asking to meet at the cave. This was done to set up an ambush, which Ralph went to investigate assuming it would turn out to be nothing…and was very wrong.
After leaving the police station, Ralph calls Jeannie and asks her to talk to Glory Maitland.
Jeannie goes to see Glory and tells her exactly what happened, but says that she can’t tell anyone, especially the part about Holly’s meeting to tell them about El Cuco. It’s unclear if Glory believes Jeannie or not, but she agrees to stay silent. After leaving Glory’s house, Jeannie goes home and burns the chair that El Cuco touched the night he visited her.
Meanwhile, Holly explains to Andy’s superiors that she brought him onto an investigation (that ended up killing him) because she found him highly capable, all while continuing to privately grieve his death.
The next day, D.A. Hayes visits Glory Maitland. He tells her that they are reopening the Frankie Peterson case, which in turn means that her husband will be publicly declared innocent. He adds that he he would like to say more, but can’t due to the pending lawsuit. It’s clear from his face, however, that Hayes is crushed by his guilt over what the Maitland family has been through.
After D.A. Hayes leaves, Glory and her daughters hold each other in a desperate embrace.
Meanwhile, Holly is preparing to depart from the Anderson home. Before she leaves, Ralph says he wouldn’t mind working with her again sometime–maybe on something simple like a triple homicide.
Holly says that when she was in the caves, El Cuco asked why she was so open to believing in its existence. This leads her to recall how her father, who was in the military, would always say that “a man knows a man.” Holly follows that up by declaring that if she’d had time to think of a response to El Cuco, it would have been “An outsider knows an outsider.”
After the two hug and Holly walks out the door, Ralph asks what else she thinks is out there. Holly responds with a smile and shrug.
Later, Ralph and Jeannie sit together in a cemetery. He tells her about the time he saw Derek (via El Cuco) telling him that he needed to let go. He also says that if something as unthinkable as El Cuco is possible, then maybe there’s a way he’ll get to see his son for real again at some point. Jeannie responds by implying that maybe they’ll both get to see him in heaven one day.
As they get up to leave, we see that the Andersons were visiting the grave of Frankie Peterson.
After a brief roll of credits, we see Holly at home in the bathroom getting ready for bed. She looks in the mirror to see Jack Hoskins standing behind her, but turns around to find that no one is there. She gets a mirror and checks the back of her neck for boils, but doesn’t find any.
After taking a moment to gather herself, Holly lays down in bed and gets online, pulling up a news article about Terry Maitland being cleared in the Frankie Peterson murder. As she reads, we see a giant scar running down her right arm while Washington Square by the Village Stompers (the song Ralph heard during his only previous supernatural experience) plays in the background.
Wow. We’ve got a lot to unpack, so let’s dive in from that crazy post credits scene and work our way back.
What does the scar mean? I don’t think it means Holly is El Cuco. That wouldn’t make sense, especially with her getting scared by thinking she saw Jack and checking her neck for boils. I do, however, think it means El Cuco (or another entity like him) might still be out there.
A lot of folks are probably going to key in on the part where she said “Who’s Terry?,” but I don’t think that indicated she was a doppelgänger. I think it was likely meant to show how obsessed she was with simply stopping this creature while Ralph’s primary obsession was clearing Terry Maitland’s name. Also, El Cuco knew exactly who Terry Maitland was since he’d taken over his form/thoughts before already.
Is it disappointing that the surviving investigative team didn’t expose El Cuco’s existence to the world? Maybe. But I also agree with Jack that there’s no way exposing the creature’s existence would have cleared Terry’s name. They had more than enough evidence to throw complete doubt onto the district attorney’s case without bringing in a supernatural element, which would have made their evidence infinitely harder to believe. Also, the characters’ decision to hide the truth lines up perfectly with the grounded/forensic approach The Outsider has taken to a supernatural murder investigation. At the end of the day, everyone still has to find a way to make the unbelievable make sense inside the parameters of the world around them.
As far as the final showdown with El Cuco is concerned, it was all types of intense, but still a bit underwhelming–although having Claude take it down initially after it was responsible for killing his brother was satisfying. Also, I loved the way El Cuco saw itself as a simple creature trying to survive and indulge in its natural vices. The most sinister thing it said–about children tasting the sweetest–was a definite (and much appreciated) easter egg for fans of Stephen King’s It.
And good lord…that opening shootout was nuts. What’s even crazier is how sympathetic Jack could still seem after killing so many people. Marc Menchaca did far more with this character than I ever thought would be possible.
As far as the finale as whole is concerned, I was hoping for a little more, but was still very happy with it. The final showdown with El Cuco might have been viscerally overshadowed by the shootout, but it still does a brilliant job showing how these characters dealt with something beyond their realm of understanding that still had to be reckoned with. Also, Paddy Considine does a fantastic job playing both his real down-and-out character (Claude) and a cold, calculating monster that has existed for centuries.
In fact, all of the acting was superb. Heck, the show even got me to care enough about Andy and Seale that I was genuinely sad when they were killed. Just like every other episode in the show, the cinematography was gorgeous, the atmosphere was intense, and story was great.
I had originally been against a second season of The Outsider, but if they can get this whole crew back together, you wouldn’t have to twist my arm to watch it.
Read our explainer on the ending to ‘The Outsider’ here.