The first two episodes of HBO's The Outsider debuted on Sunday night, and the series is already off to a thrilling start with a number of twists and turns setting the grim mystery into motion. Based on Stephen King's book of the same name, the series mostly keeps the story and characters on a similar track as the book, but there are always going to be key differences between a 10-episode series and the 500-page book on which it's based.
Here are just a few of the differences between The Outsider on screen and The Outsider on the page:
While the outcome and result remain the same, for some reason the story's setting has moved to Georgia in the show, whereas the book was set in the fictional Flint City, Oklahoma. Some minor changes are made in other settings, too: the little league game where Terry is arrested, for instance, takes place in front of more than 1,500 people in the book, but in the show the crowd is only referred to as 100.
Detective Ralph Anderson
The hero of the story, Detective Ralph Anderson, has a significantly different physical appearance in the book than what's on screen. Primarily, in the book he's supposed to be of massive physical stature; the very first page describes him sitting in the back seat of a police cruiser, being "as big as a house." His towering height and long legs are also referenced multiple times. In the show, Anderson is played by Ben Mendelsohn , who at 5'11 obviously doesn't have those attributes.
The show also depicts the Andersons' son, Derek, as having passed away from cancer; in King's book, Derek is merely away at summer camp. This makes Ralph's mindset toward Terryknowing that Terry, someone he trusted, could be extremely dangerous toward his son who's no longer aroundthat much more intense. It makes the idea of Ralph's overwhelming emotion that much more believable; the stakes are raised.
Terry Maitland's Death
This one in part comes just by sheer difference of mediums; where King has an unlimited amount of pages to set the scene and describe everything at Terry's arraignment (the chapter comes from Ralph's perspective, so we see and think everything that he sees and thinks), the show has the unenviable task of adapting this into a quick scene that lasts a minute, if that.
But a couple key differences have come in the adaptation. First, the book has a whole conundrum about whether or not Terry should have worn a bulletproof vest on his way into the courthouse. He opts not to, something that characters in the story (obviously) end up regretting.
But the more interesting difference within the story comes with the actual circumstance of Terry's death. When he's shot in the neck in the book, that's not the lethal woundit's a later shot to his gut that does him in. As Ralph observes the wound, he jumps into action and offers Terry the chance to confess. "Terry, you are going to die. Do you understand me? He got you, and he got you good. You are going to die," Ralph tells a bleeding-out Terry in the book. Eventually, he gives Terry the chance to confess, to clear his conscience; with Marcy right by his side, he denies it one final time before dying.
The series, again, has the tough burden of depicting so much action in just a quick scene. But in the show Ralph doesn't ask anything of the wounded TerryTerry offers up his final denial himself. Ralph simply listens.
You may have noticed a few moments in the first two episodes of the show where the show slowly pans in on an extremely creepy hooded figure with extremely blurredpossibly burntfeatures. It's a creepy character that looks positively unhuman, and as anyone would guess, would almost certainly be a key part of what's happening. And you're probably rightbut this figure doesn't show up until much later in the book.
The difference hereand probably a good ideais to let audiences know basically right off the bat: this isn't a regular detective mystery like True Detective or Sharp Objects; there are other forces at play. We don't want to let you know what they are, of course, but just keep in mind that there are creepy, ominous forces lingering.
Most major character nameslike Detective Ralph Anderson and Terry Maitlandare the same in both the book and the series. However, Terry's wife's name is 'Marcy' in the book, and it's been changed to Glory in the series. The Maitlands' lawyer is Howie Gold in the novel, and in the show it's been changed to Howie Saloman. The district attorney, named Bill Samuels in the book, has an entirely different name in the showKenneth Hayes.
Throughout the first two episodes, there are a number of other minor differences, which include:
- When Terry is in jail, he's taunted by other prisoners. This doesn't happen in the book.
- Arlene Peterson, mother of Frankie and Ollie and wife of Fred, is described in the book as being massively overweight and at major health risk. In the show, she's of an average build and her size doesn't figure into the character.
- When Ollie opens up shooting at Terry, he's described from Ralph's vantage point as hiding under a newscap with a red bag over his shoulder. In the show, he's wearing more of a paintball outfit.
- When Ralph and his co-workers are reviewing footage of Terry at the train station, one notes when zooming in that it appears that he's giving the security camera 'the finger.' This is another piece of added foreshadowing, and is not in the book.
- When Jack Hoskins is introduced in the book, he's sent to the crime scene that the show depicts at the end of the second episode. He does stop at the strip club bar on his way there, but he doesn't get into the drunken fight (no wedgie either) with his fellow patron.
- When Fred Peterson attempts suicide, he ties himself to his bedroom ceiling and throws himself off the bed, crashing through his home's front window; he's only "saved" by a jogger running by. This is similar to what happens in the book, but not exactly the same. In the novel, he hangs himself from a tree branch in his back yard, which breaks; he only survives because an old female neighbor hears the branch break, comes outside, and performs CPR.
- The teacher conference that Terry attends in the show is about Censorship; in the book, he and his fellow teachers are going to hear Harlan Coben (the real-life mystery author ) give a speech and answer questions.