‘The Outsider’ Ending: Breaking Down the Finale, Credits Scene, and Season 2 Possibilities

     March 9, 2020

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Okay, so The Outsider’s season finale brought the story of El Cuco the shapeshifting childslayer to a close. And friend, it was a doozy. If you haven’t watched it yet, good god what are you doing reading an Ending Explained piece? Go rectify that situation immediately, because there are Spoilers ahead. Now that that’s out of the way, we can get on with unpacking that ending, and my thoughts on the possibility of a Season 2.

Episode 10, titled “Must/Can’t” in a dual reference to both the necessity of trapping El Cuco in the cave and the danger of confronting a supernatural being no one in our group of heroes fully understands, seemingly ends with everything resolved. The monster is killed (Ralph goes Full Mendo on that thing with a big-assed stone and I would’ve stood up in my living room and shouted had it not been late on a Sunday night), Terry is exonerated by the Cherokee City District Attorney, Claude returns to his family home, Holly leaves a gift in Andy’s casket and moves on to other cases, and Ralph finally accepts his son’s death with some comfort of the knowledge that a world beyond his understanding absolutely exists. But if horror and Stephen King in particular has taught me anything over the years, it’s to be utterly suspicious of an uber-happy ending. And my suspicions were confirmed when the credits were interrupted with an epilogue of Holly in a hotel room somewhere in middle America.

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Image via HBO

Holly has a vision of Jack Hoskins, the shitbag cop-turned-monster-puppet, in her bathroom mirror, and immediately checks the back of her neck for any signs of the boils that indicate El Cuco’s influence. She seems to be comforted by the results, but it’s important to note that we don’t actually get to see her neck – it’s completely obscured by shadow. Then she moves into the bedroom and looks up Frankie Peterson’s murder to see that Terry Maitland has been exonerated. The episode ends with the camera slowly pulling away from Holly as she anxiously twirls her hair, a prominent scratch visible on her forearm.

The ending is deliberately ambiguous and open to interpretation, which is a thing that the internet absolutely hates (Google “Inception ending” to see what I’m talking about). There are two possibilities – one, that Holly is imagining seeing Jack in her bathroom and is just checking up on the case that fundamentally changed her life; or two, that she is under El Cuco’s influence and is checking to see exactly what the authorities know about it as it slowly recuperates in the cave and transforms into Holly.

There’s evidence to support either conclusion. It’s been established that Holly suffers from PTSD, so the appearance of Jack in her mirror could just be a symptom of the extreme stress she experienced in the shootout in front of the cave. However, just before Ralph crushes the monster’s skull, it pulls a T-1000 and transforms into a bunch of people, including Ralph’s boss Yunis and Holly, which seems to indicate that it can mimic anyone, but can only fully duplicate a person when it collects some of their DNA. That means it could’ve been anyone at any time, and although we never see the Claude monster scratch Holly, other members of the group certainly had the opportunity. It’s entirely possible that El Cuco mimicked Yunis, or Ralph, or anyone else, and scratched her arm to gather her sweet, sweet genetic material for the purposes of nefarious shapeshifting. It’s kind of up to you to decide which explanation is more plausible, although the show throws an additional wrench into everything when El Cuco admits that it has no idea whether it is a sole being or part of a race of creatures, meaning there could be more of them out there. (The show tips us further in this direction in Episode 9, when the Cherokee City D.A. learns that another mutilated child was discovered by a hiker, and we know our El Cuco hasn’t been able to successfully kill any more children since poor Frankie.)

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Image via HBO

Now, as far as the possibility of The Outsider Season 2, I think it’s entirely likely. While the show was initially announced as a miniseries, it does the work to pave the way for a potential second season. First of all, “Must/Can’t” is very conspicuously labeled as a Season Finale rather than a Series Finale. Obviously, that could mean absolutely nothing, as evidenced by the “To Be Continued” title at the end of the final episode of A.L.F., but it’s worth noting that HBO is apparently at least open to the possibility of extending The Outsider. Second, there are Ralph’s parting words to Holly, in which he points out that they make a great team and would be interested in pairing up with her again in the future. He also asks her point blank, “What else is out there?” Now that he’s open to the idea of the supernatural, he’s curious about what other monsters and entities might be waiting to receive the business end of Full Mendo, and I am not opposed to Holly and Ralph going all Mulder and Scully on a bunch of gremlins for several more seasons. Finally, as Holly herself explains, the show’s title “The Outsider” refers to both her and the monster, so The Adventures of Holly Gibney could easily fall under The Outsider’s banner.

The Outsider was based on a single novel, but Holly has appeared in a few of King’s books, as well as the Audience series Mr. Mercedes, in which the character is played by Justine Lupe. So the idea of having Holly as a recurring character in a series of mysteries is clearly something King intended. Also, there’s precedent for spinning off a miniseries into a regular show – Dexter, starring Michael C. Hall as a serial killer of serial killers, started out as an adaptation of a single novel in its first season but went on to become its own storyline, completely separate from any source material.

I think a Season 2 is entirely dependent on how much people enjoyed this initial offering, and I am fully excited about the possibility of watching Ben Mendelsohn and Cynthia Erivo hunt Frankensteins and werewolves for years to come.

For more on The Outsider, read my review you goblins.

Television