Ralph, Gibney, and the rest of the team try to save Claude and hunt down El Coco.
Credit: Bob Mahoney/HBO

The Outsider

S1 E8

The Outsider is a show seemingly at war with itself. Every new episode contains moments that feel raw and transcendent and are steeped in this kind of Southern Gothic horror that’s wonderfully eerie, and yet there’s also so many moments of tedium and repetition. “Foxhead” isn’t much different. It has many inspired moments, and the climax feels meaningful in terms of shifting this story into high gear for the end of the season. And yet, there’s still too much filler here, too much detracting from what should be a show that’s constantly keeping us on edge.

Still, “Foxhead” is interesting because of how it’s structured. It’s an episode that takes the series’ occasionally dull slow-burn approach and actually uses it to muse on some fascinating ideas. The whole first half of the episode is essentially made up of two different types of scenes: there’s Claude going to Tennessee in order to escape a situation he thinks is about to go bad while reconnecting with his brother, and then there’s Gibney, Ralph, Yuni, and Andy all headed there as well in order to keep an eye on Claude in order to provide an alibi for him when El Coco strikes again.

The idea is this: Gibney thinks El Coco is weak right now, having had to claim another host before it was ready when Ralph discovered Terry Maitland in two places at once, necessitating another investigation. So, El Coco is on the run, weaker than before and looking to strike again and “feed” itself. So, Gibney wants to follow Claude, the next logical host, to Tennessee and be there as his eyewitness when the evil entity kills again and spills Claude’s DNA everywhere. This will once and for all prove that they’re dealing with something supernatural.

A large chunk of the first half of the episode is rather sluggish. We see Jack trying to feed the being that’s following him everywhere, clearly in the guise of Claude despite being kept in the shadows until the very end of the episode. We also see the real Claude visiting his brother, and it’s a lot of exposition that mostly just kills time until the events later on. It’s all fine, but hardly that interesting. What’s better is the car rides. Yuni and Andy are traveling together, and their ride is lighthearted, with Yuni playing a great prank on Andy and getting him to think that Gibney can predict when people are going to die. That humor contrasts with the weightiness of Gibney’s ride with Ralph, where they discuss the possibility of the supernatural, messages from beyond the grave, and the way life has a way of being inexplicable sometimes. Despite the thorniness of their relationship, there’s a mutual respect here, and that shines through in these moments.

There’s literally a whole lot of sitting around in the second half of the episode, but all of that serves a purpose. Yuni calls ahead and has Claude detained in Tennessee. His brother ends up detained too after confronting the officers. Gibney, Ralph, Yuni, and Andy show up and explain the situation to Claude, and everyone holes up at his brother’s place for the night. The episode cuts back and forth between the dull evening spent on the porch, where Claude’s brother is not particularly welcoming towards his guests, and CaveStock, where a young boy is in danger of being killed by El Coco disguised as Claude.

Not to worry though. This is what everyone — okay, maybe not the boy and his family — was hoping would happen. The Evil Claude is stopped in his attempt to lead the boy into a cave, but the local cops are still looking for the man who tried to do it and ended up getting away. A video posted by a bystander leads them to Claude, and therefore to his brother’s house. The cops want to ask him about the attempted kidnapping, but Ralph and everyone else vouch for him, saying they were with him all night. It’s true. Ralph even wakes up in the middle of the night to find Claude wandering around the house, clearly terrified that something is coming for him.

For all of the series’ more sluggish moments, “Foxhead” mostly gets things right, and the final stretch is a doozy. It’s a lot of fun watching these pieces come together; Ralph finally accepts that Gibney is right and that he needs to expand his perspective; Claude, despite his shadiness, doesn’t get roped into this mess, at least not yet; and the final scene, which shows the Evil Claude mowing down on a dead deer, our supernatural villain finally revealed. Things are picking up before the finale, folks. Buckle up.

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