From the jump, Stephen King's The Outsider felt like a perfect addition to HBO's lineup of high-quality TV. It delivers the gritty police work that bolstered True Detective and the tight character work of The Wire, while also dipping into supernatural genre elements that the cabler doesn't always embrace wholeheartedly. (At least beyond the more monstrous bits from Game of Thrones.) Unfortunately, though, The Outsider has run its initial ten-episode course, leaving many viewers hungry for more after that mid-credits cliffhanger.
Will we get more from The Outsider, though? At this moment, nothing has been confirmed by HBO, but there's more than enough data out there to make some guesses. Of course, there's always the question of whether the Stephen King adaptation should get a second season, given the limited source material. Below, we'll delve into how likely The Outsider Season 2 is, and whether or not it makes sense to bring Ralph Anderson and Holly Gibney back for more.
Were The Outsider's Ratings Good Enough For HBO?
HBO's ratings game is quite different from other networks, with various scales for success. So The Outsider obviously didn't have to hit Thrones-ian audience numbers to do well, but it definitely needed to bring in more viewers than a lot of HBO's lower-budgeted fare. When the show premiered in January, the initial 724K-strong audience and the 0.18 demo rating were not the most amazing totals for a show with this pedigree. In comparison, it came in just under the premiere totals for 2019's highly acclaimed Watchmen. (A show that, for better or worse, probably isn't getting a second season, despite all the great set-ups.)
However, The Outsider prevailed from good word-of-mouth chatter across the Internet and beyond, and minus a few exceptions, each week's numbers got better and better. By the time of the finale's airing, The Outsider was pulling in an average of 9 million viewers each week when accounting for all platforms, from linear TV to HBO NOW, which matches with Westworld's first season. To compare, Watchmen brought in around 7 million an episode, while True Detective Season 3 topped that with around 8 million. But it appears The Outsider stomped them all.
The finale itself was watched by 1.37 million viewers, which was a season high total. According to HBO, that number jumped to 2.2 million when all other viewing modes were measured that night. The jump from the premiere audience to the finale audience, an 83% gain, is legitimately the biggest first-season increase for any HBO series. So unless everyone at HBO suddenly decides that success isn't a good thing, The Outsider's numbers are more than enough to justify a Season 2 renewal.
Does The Outsider Have Enough Story For Season 2?
Technically, TV creator and showrunner Richard Price tackled the entirety of Stephen King's novel with Season 1, minus some key details. (Such as all those worms...where were all the worms?!?) So when it comes to direct adaptations, Price & Co. would need to work from scratch, unless King happened to share some amazing ideas he had for where Ralph and Holly would take the story next.
That said, Richard Price certainly sounds up for the challenge of continuing The Outsider's dark and haunting tale should a renewal come up the wire from HBO. Here's what Price told IndieWire back in January.
It’s like pulling a rabbit out of a glass hat — of course there will be another [if HBO wants one]. There’s no such thing as a series that, if it does well, they’re not going to want a second season.
A former writer on The Wire and the creator of The Night Of, Richard Price definitely laid the seeds out for a Season 2 launch pad with the Season 1 finale, capping things off on a possible cliffhanger that left viewers guessing about what it could mean. (More on that below.) So he clearly has some core idea about how El Cuco's influence would continue thriving in another batch of episodes. Unless, of course, the mythological threat would be a different one in Season 2.
Should The Outsider Get A Season 2?
This question completely depends on who you ask. On the one hand, HBO's The Outsider was a successful adaptation of Stephen King's novel that even topped it in some ways. Its ending, though mysterious and rife with potential consequences, was perfectly wrapped up otherwise, and the idea of El Cuco surviving in another form works well enough as a thought experiment that wouldn't need to be returned to. After all, The Outsider's core was as much about bringing the hard-lined detective Ralph Anderson over to Holly Gibney's more fluidly mystical side.
Of course, from every other angle you look at it from, The Outsider should definitely get a second season. Even Ralph, who took the entire season to see eye to eye with Holly, was already asking about taking on another case with her in the future. Of course, he probably didn't realize at the time that Holly might have already been tapped to become El Cuco's next form.
Because yes, that mid-credits sequence tipped its hat pretty firmly to the notion that the scratch on Holly's arm was a sign that El Cuco had now targeted its biggest believer. The ramifications of such a thing aren't fully known – will it still eat children or go after a different form of prey? – but the intensity would certainly be ratcheted up a notch if Holly is up for grabs. Not to throw any shade on Paddy Considine's Claude Bolton, but...well, he's no Holly Gibney. Perhaps Ben Mendelsohn's detective could be the one to do the traveling in Season 2, assuming El Cuco springs up in a completely different location.
Personally, I loved The Outsider's first season, and even if it had wrapped up without any lingering plot strands, I would still want to live in these characters' worlds a little longer. (Give me all the Mare Winningham you got!) And HBO seemingly offered a sign of where its execs heads are at by shifting away from The Outsider being presented as a limited series. The tenth episode was noted as being a "season finale," as opposed to a "series finale," so make of that what you will, constant readers.
HBO's The Outsider Season 1 is available to stream in full on HBO Go and HBO NOW, and the book is also available at retailers everywhere for those who want to see how Stephen King originally envisioned things. I need to reread it now with the great Cynthia Erivo and Ben Mendelsohn in mind for Ralph and Holly.