The Outsider
Credit: Bob Mahoney/HBO

The Outsider

S1 E9

Tonight’s episode, “Tigers and Bears,” begins with a flashback. It’s 1947, and two brothers are playing hide and seek with flashlights before they disappear into the woods. They wander around, seemingly aimlessly, but the older brother has a plan. He leads them to a cave, one where bears were known to dwell. The cave itself is a tourist attraction now, with a 25-cent fee to get inside and explore. But the brothers have another way in. They sneak between some rocks and find themselves deep in the cave, the older brother clearly trying to scare his younger brother. Eventually though, panic sets in. They’re lost. Their father is looking for them, but they can only hear his voice. Everything seems hopeless.

Hopelessness is the theme of the episode. Well, hopelessness and the near impossibility of breaking generational cycles of violence and pain. A lot of Stephen King’s books deal with the idea that violence, trauma, and evil are inherent in places; that evil thrives for centuries until the right group of good people come along and fight back. Derry, Maine, of It fame, is a hub of evil for this reason. With The Outsider, the idea is that El Coco, or whatever else you want to call this murderous, supernatural being, seeks out places where pain and anguish are the central story. Small towns, riddled with guilt and pain and gossip and betrayal and history, become a feeding ground for It. In 1947, two boys went missing, and dozens of people ended up dead in the caves because of the search. Now, El Coco is here, drawn to the pain that spans generations.

Everyone else is here too. The team is closing in on El Coco, and Ralph is finally starting to believe that this thing they’re going up against is like something he’s never seen before. He calls Jeannie and tries to reassure her that everyone is simply trying to figure out how to handle things. She knows better. She knows Ralph is about to put himself in harm’s way, partly because he’s looking to heal his own pain related to the death of his son. This might be a misguided mission, but Ralph undoubtedly has his own skin in the game.

The thing is, the team has to navigate searching for El Coco while protecting Claude and also protecting themselves. It’s pretty much impossible. They get Howie to take Claude to a fried chicken joint an hour away from Cecil to keep him busy and to keep him away from the team making plans. With El Coco turning into Claude, Gibney is worried that anything they say around him will be telepathically transmitted to the evil being. Better safe than sorry.

So, while Howie takes him for chicken, Ralph and Yunis question the boy who was nearly taken by the Evil Claude. They ask about potential scratches, but everything seems to be okay. There are really only two key points here: the grandfather mentions Evil Claude having “weird eyes,” and the boy says that the guy was going to take him to the Bear Cave. Once again, the Bear Cave comes up, but there’s nothing on any map that shows such a location.

Luckily, Claude’s brother is steeped in the town’s history, and recounts the 1947 disappearance of the two brothers, and how the search parties went in and then were trapped when the entrances collapsed. More than 30 people, including the two kids, died in Bear Cave, and it’s been abandoned ever since.

Thus, that’s where El Coco is. As Ralph says, “That’s the good news and bad news at the same time.” They now know where El Coco is, but are they ready to face this thing? They have no idea what they’re getting into. Everybody gears up and heads out. Claude’s brother, being the dummy he is, tries to give him a heads up about El Coco being out there, which leads to him, Claude, and Howie having to head out too. El Coco knows they’re coming, thanks to him spilling the beans. But El Coco isn’t the immediate threat. There’s Jack, still under the thing’s spell. When everyone shows up, Jack is ready, perched on a rock in the woods with a rifle. He shoots Pelley in the head, and blood spatters all over Ralph’s shocked face. The episode cuts to black and we hear a lot more shots. This is it. This is the moment of truth, and the bodies might be piling up, with Jack pulling the trigger. Next week’s finale will determine who made it out of this whole thing alive.

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The Outsider
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