Sunday, January 12, 2020

REVIEW: 'The Outsider' - Tragedy Continues to Uproot Life in This Small Georgia Community in 'Roanoke'

HBO's The Outsider - Episode 1.02 "Roanoke"

During a surreptitious late-night visit with Terry, Ralph admits to being baffled by conflicting physical evidence. The next day, an unexpected tragedy throws the investigation into a tailspin, and ornery detective Jack Hoskins is forced to cut his hunting trip short to return to work and pick up the slack. Glory tries to soothe her daughter Jessa, who says she's been visited by a strange man in her room at night.

In 2019, the television industry aired 532 scripted shows across numerous outlets. The way people consume content now is different than it used to be. It happens according to one's own schedule. As such, it's less necessary to provide ample coverage of each episode in any given season from a show. Moreover, it is simply impossible to watch everything. As such, this site provides shorter episodic reviews in order to cover as many shows as possible. With all of that being said, here are my thoughts on the next episode of HBO's The Outsider.

"Roanoke" was written by Richard Price and directed by Jason Bateman

In the span of a few days, the entire Peterson family ends up dead. It's not from a singular tragedy that kills all four of them either. All of their deaths are different. Frankie's death started the narrative because of the brutal and gruesome discovery of his body in the woods. Meanwhile, his older brother is shot in the head for trying to assassinate Terry for the crime while the father hangs himself and is left on a ventilator with no one left to pull the plug. Those deaths are very detailed. They are the clear actions that define what the story is becoming as it goes along. With the mother though, it's this very vague thing that comes with no clear explanation. She simply let some of her rage out and then passed out. It was this very unusual moment in the first episode. In fact, all of this mostly just highlights the grim tragedy of this world. It is mired in a sense of glum. All it takes is one action to absolutely decimate a family or community. One moment this town is praising Terry as a beloved teacher and Little League coach. The next he is the vilified pedophile who deserves the death penalty for what he did to Frankie. It's all very rushed with no effort really put in to try to earn these big moments and twists. The action wants these deaths to be significant. However, they come across in this very grand, performative way that is suppose to signify something more profound without really offering much for the audience to react to. None of the Petersons were well-defined characters. They were simply props to be killed off in the hopes of elevating the stakes and mystery of this world. That's incredibly problematic especially because of how condemning it is to the woman of the story. She isn't deemed worthy enough to have her own grand death. All of them run the risk of falling into the background. That's the stylistic choice that the show wants. Their scenes have the audio basically dropped from them entirely. Ollie getting close enough to Terry as he is walking into court to kill him and wound several officers can be a condemnation of how ineffective the police in this town are. But it's mostly just an excuse for Ralph to take some time off from this case. And yet, the action is really just starting. This all feels like something that should be happening much later in the story. That is typically where it is placed because the audience can have some understanding of what is motivating these characters into committing the actions they ultimately take. Right now, it's just offering a sense of nothing being quite right in this world. That is the overwhelming feeling. The show alienates the audience in that way. That is the intent. But again, it's frustrating. It doesn't make any of this easy to watch. It is dark and inexplicable. That is problematic storytelling off the bat. It's up to a child to provide some sense of answers that Ralph can investigate further. He is dependent on the testimony of children because they seem to be the only reliable narratives in this story. He is trying to make sense of how Terry could be in two different places at once. He is tracking down the origins of how this panel truck got from New York to Georgia. There are all of these cross sections of Terry's life converging with this case. He proclaims his innocence. Those are his dying words. Ralph wants to believe him. But he is forced to have regrets of how he has handled this case even though it all seems like these actions were recently taken. People should always be willing to accept blame and guilt no matter how far removed from tragedy they are. In this case though, it still feels like Ralph going through the motions while being curious about the world now around him. He is a rogue figure who doesn't play by the rules as outlined to him at this moment in time. That is a familiar character trope. One that can be quite effective in this genre. However, the show never truly feels engaged with what it is doing. It calls attention to certain things while alienating the viewer in much of its running time. It's a baffling creative decision and one that doesn't seem to be building to anything resembling a coherent or powerful story.