Stephen King's The Outsider Season 1 Ending Explained: What Happened And What Does It Mean?

the outsider finale ralph on phone

Major spoilers below for The Outsider's season finale. You have been warned!

After delivering nine episodes of its intense supernatural mystery, HBO's The Outsider wrapped up with a finale that was easily worthy of Stephen King's acclaimed novel. A lot went down – and that includes more than a few bodies – and just when it seemed like the story was over, a surprise mid-credits scene took things to an unexpected and potentially dangerous place.

Below, we'll go over what went down in The Outsider's finale, and what audiences should probably take away from it, considering this series might not get a second season to resolve the enigmatic ending.

the outsider jack shooting

Everyone Who Died In The Outsider Finale (That Was Human)

The Outsider's penultimate episode ended on a dour note, with the cavalry arriving at the Cave's souvenir shop just in time to get targeted by a drunk and too-far-gone Jack, who was utilizing his sniper skills to do El Cuco's bidding. After a few contemplative seconds, the episode jumped right back into the chaos.

Alec Pelley (Jeremy Bobb)

A character who had more faith in the idea of El Cuco than others, Alec was unfortunately Jack's first victim, taking a shot to the back of the head and dying rather instantly. I don't think anyone witnessed that moment at the tail end of Episode 9 and expected him to make any full recoveries, but Jack shot him a couple more times on the ground just to make sure.

Seale Bolton (Max Beesley)

Claude's brother Seale was driven more by impulse than consideration, so it wasn't too surprising when he grabbed his own gun and tried to take out Jack. He did put Jack's whiskey out of its misery, but Seale suffered a shot to the chest and eventually died from his wounds.

Andy Katcavage (Derek Cecil)

While it would have been nice had he survived and led a long life at Holly's side, Andy was shot during an ill-sighted attempt to get cell phone reception. It wasn't immediately clear if he was dead or unconscious from the shot, but what happened next sealed his fate.

Howard Salomon (Bill Camp)

After somehow not getting shot while helping Claude pull Seale out of the line of fire, Howard wasn't so lucky when he went to check on Andy. Having already put a hole in the gas tank of the vehicle Andy was driving, Jack used his next shot to cause a spark and explode the whole shebang, with Howard getting blown backwards and burned by the fire.

Jack Hoskins (Marc Menchaca)

Apparently unable to bring himself to shoot Holly, and also unable to avoid getting bitten in the face by a rattlesnake, Jack eventually came down from his sniper post. After telling the others to kill the Outsider, Jack then used his rifle on himself.

Is El Cuco Dead?

The simple answer here is something like a "Probably, bordering on yup." But as it goes with mythical creatures harboring questionable morals, there's also a more complex answer.

Ralph and Holly's conversation with the creature was probably shorter than viewers were expecting, given the build-up, but it's not like the shapeshifting monster was a great conversationalist or anything. (His admission that he targeted children because they tasted the sweetest was quite morbid.) Claude interrupted things and, despite being told that a gunshot would likely cause a cave-in, did his part to avenge Seale's death by putting El Cuco down.

After the slight cave-in, Ralph stayed behind and correctly assumed that El Cuco, while weak, was actually just playing opossum and hoping everyone would leave it be. Though the monster offered no further verbal insight into its situation, the way it rapidly shifted through a variety of other faces was quite disturbing, considering the gruesome top of its head mostly stayed the same during the transitions.

As Holly watched from afar, Ralph forcefully brought a rock down and obliterated El Cuco's skull, which apparently convinced him that the entity was finally destroyed. The lack of worm gore here was kind of disappointing for any readers who couldn't wait to see Stephen King's horrifying descriptions brought to life.

The second half of the finale was partially spent showing audiences how Ralph, Holly, Claude and Sablo went public with El Cuco's crimes without ever bringing up the supernatural creature. They rightfully scapegoated Jack as an accomplice and set up the idea that the child-killer is still out there, which allowed for charges against Jason Bateman's deceased Terry Maitland to be properly dropped. But were they really lying about there still being a killer in the wind? It would appear that Ralph isn't so sure about any of that anymore, and the episode's final minutes got viewers to follow along with that train of thought.

What Did The Outsider's Mid-Credits Scene Mean For Holly?

As the one main character in The Outsider whose means and methods sometimes stretched beyond traditional human behavior, Cynthia Erivo's Holly Gibney clearly had a connection with El Cuco that no one else could understand. After watching the finale's mid-credits scene, viewers are likely wondering just how deep that connection goes, and what those final moments mean for Holly's future.

While inside a hotel room – one of the most successfully utilized settings within Stephen King's bibliography – Holly had a nightmarish vision of Jack Hoskins standing menacingly behind her in the bathroom mirror, but quickly realized it wasn't really him. Still, she immediately checked the back of her neck to see if there was any evidence of the extremely irritated skin that's found on the people that El Cuco uses as minions. She didn't find anything, but that reassuring feeling was fleeting at best.

Soon after, Holly was Googling Terry Maitland's updated situation and appeared as casual as she'd been through the entire season. But as she was mindlessly twirling her hair, the camera moved around to show viewers that Holly's arm was cut, which is a loose indication that she is being set up as the the next form that El Cuco will take. Which at once seems both ridiculous and perfectly reasonable.

It seems ridiculous because Holly went through a cavern collapsing all around her, which would be a prime place for someone to suffer a random cut. If Claude could get pinned down under a rock during that hubbub, Holly easily could have cut herself on a rock or something. Would it absolutely need to have been El Cuco who cut Holly in order for the creature's influence to utilize it? It wasn't technically dead yet during the cave-in, so is it possible it found a way to survive in those final minutes?

On the flip side, it would make solid sense for Holly to be El Cuco's next victim, so to speak. As she put it to Ralph during their final exchange, she was able to automatically believe in El Cuco's existence because "an outsider knows an outsider." Who better for El Cuco to try and take over than one of the only people out there who automatically believes in such concepts?

Also noteworthy was the way Holly smiled and shrugged when Ralph asked her what else was out there. Given how rarely the character offered up genuine smiles during the course of The Outsider Season 1, that reaction seemed purposefully quirky, and it left Ralph with a lot to think about. Admittedly, that moment might not have seemed so out of place had the mid-credits scene not happened, but everything was worth a second look after that final sequence.

HBO is seemingly stoking the mystery fire with this post-finale tweet.

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With no real sign of whether not Season 2 will ever happen, we're left to mull that mini-cliffhanger without any concrete answers. The Outsider Season 1 is now available to stream in full on HBO Go and HBO NOW, so give it a rewatch and let us know in the poll below what you think about that ending.

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Nick Venable
Assistant Managing Editor

Nick is a Cajun Country native and an Assistant Managing Editor with a focus on TV and features. His humble origin story with CinemaBlend began all the way back in the pre-streaming era, circa 2009, as a freelancing DVD reviewer and TV recapper.  Nick leapfrogged over to the small screen to cover more and more television news and interviews, eventually taking over the section for the current era and covering topics like Yellowstone, The Walking Dead and horror. Born in Louisiana and currently living in Texas — Who Dat Nation over America’s Team all day, all night — Nick spent several years in the hospitality industry, and also worked as a 911 operator. If you ever happened to hear his music or read his comics/short stories, you have his sympathy.