Say hello to The Grief Eater.
Credit: Bob Mahoney

The Outsider

S1 E4

Holly Gibney is determined. She feels like she’s closing in on some sort of revelation, and all she needs is a few more pieces of evidence. At the beginning of “Que Viene El Coco,” she’s sent Ralph the information about the murdered sisters and the care worker who was charged with their murder, insisting that there’s a connection here too. She wants to know more. She follows the front desk nurse home, only to be confronted by a face full of pepper spray. Gibney convinces her she’s not a reporter but rather a P.I., and once Gibney’s eyes have cleared up, the two get to talking.

This is a Gibney-centric episode, and The Outsider is better off because of it. It’s nice to get a break from the goings-on with Ralph and everybody else and spend some time on the road with Gibney as she follows leads. She’s a compelling character, and Cynthia Erivo captures her tics and humanity perfectly. Gibney finds out that the convicted killer, Heath, insisted he was innocent in the murder of the sisters, and that he was on vacation the entire time. His mother corroborates that story, but at the same time, this woman saw him at work one of those days, coming back to check on his charges. Most importantly, she saw him slip in the hallway while running into Terry Maitland.

Gibney decides to talk to Peter Maitland, but his mind is slipping and he doesn’t have much to offer. He does, however, utter a single sentence as she’s about to leave: “It wasn’t him, you know.” It’s yet another case where someone was seen at two different places at once, and where the DNA evidence was stacked against them. Looking to dig deeper, and maybe because she’s got a crush, she agrees to dinner with Andy. He tells her about the case, and how the families of both the perpetrator and victims ended up crumbling. Heath’s mother killed herself, another person suffered a stroke, and another was poisoned. “It was like a plague,” he says, which matches all the death surrounding the Maitland and Peterson families. That still doesn’t stop Gibney and Andy from kissing.

Gibney is unsure where to go next until a bartender tosses out a thought: if murder was a virus you could pick up from anyone, you’d want to go back to the source, to Patient Zero. In other words, who did Heath get this “virus” from? Gibney finds out that Heath’s only other out-of-state trip was to New York, and that he met a woman while he was there. She digs through the NYPD archives and finds a murder case similar to that of Heath and Terry’s. The kicker? Unlike Heath and Terry, this woman, Maria Coneles, is alive, sitting in Rikers. Gibney gets the go-ahead to interview her, and this is where the show really starts leaning into the supernatural stuff it’s been hinting at. Maria barely remembers meeting Heath, but she does remember setting a date for a breakfast and then blowing him off; she’s not even into guys, and just wanted him to stop pestering her while she was bartending. But in other scenes, we see Heath having breakfast with her and then sleeping with her at a hotel, where he ends up with a scratch on his back. Just like Terry ended up with a scratch from Heath. The virus spreads.

Gibney asks Maria who killed the children. “If I say his name, they’ll send me straight to a mental hospital,” she says. A woman in the prison overhears the conversation and tells Gibney to meet her at her apartment. The supernatural comes out again. The woman talks about demons and devils, and the belief in a form of evil. “El Coco” she calls it. Also: The Grief Eater. A demon who not only devours its prey but also feeds on the grief of the families afterward.

Back at home, Jack is dumping a bunch of stuff in the woods and slowly unraveling, and the kid who stole the van with Terry’s DNA admits to seeing a disfigured man in a hood taking the van. Things are heating up, and Gibney knows it. She flips through photos of different demons and mythologies, wondering just what they’re dealing with here. “Back and back and back it goes,” said the woman about these demons and how they haunt across generations. The trauma lingers. Gibney sinks into the tub, into the silence, into the dark.

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