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The following story contains spoilers for the first season of The Outsider. If you haven’t seen the whole season, or if you care about being spoiled, you need to stop reading now.


When Stephen King’s The Outsider was released in 2018, it was heralded as one of the legendary Horror writer’s best novels in years. Two years later, and that same book has been adapted into a 10-part HBO series that fans and critics alike have flocked to. While the story of King’s book has been mostly told and wrapped up in the season’s ending, there seem to be a number of hints that the show could return for a second season.

This would seemingly, in effect, take the series to uncharted ground. This is a trick that HBO has pulled before—The Leftovers covered the plot of Tom Perrotta’s book in the first season before continuing for two more from Damon Lindelof; Big Little Lies had a second season last summer that was wholly independent of the plot of Lianne Moriarty’s book of the same name.

But then, in April, something changed: King released another book. That book, a collection of four novellas titled If It Bleeds, found the horror master telling four previously untold stories—and one of them, the titular story “If It Bleeds,” returned to the characters of Holly Gibney and Ralph Anderson. This story, or some expanded/adjusted version of it, could make for the basis of a second season.

One more hint that a second season could be in the works? Stephen King retweeted this, from fellow novelist Linwood Barclay:

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Let’s take a look at some more evidence, shall we?

Will there be a second season of The Outsider?

While HBO hasn’t officially announced a second season of the show, Stephen King confirmed that the show is gearing up to film a second season during a recent interview with Entertainment Weekly. He was ostensibly discussing his other Holly Gibney show, Mr. Mercedes, which will now be streaming exclusively on Peacock, but mentioned in passing that The Outsider is just about ready for takeoff with regards to a second season.

King was discussing the differences between Cynthia Erivo’s take on Holly in The Outsider versus Justine Lupe’s take in Mr. Mercedes, referencing that Lupe has had more seasons, more episodes, and more time to make the role her own.

“…Cynthia may get that time, because there’s going to be a second season of The Outsider as soon as they can get the production going,” he said.

We suspected there would be a second season; while the plot of the book was exhausted by the end of the season, a cliffhanger (not from the book) made it seem like there was certainly an idea of where things were going. In an interview with Collider in April, though, Jason Bateman said that a second season was being talked about:

Well I know that they’re talking about it and Richard Price is playing with some ideas and taking some first steps as to what that second year might and feel like. Obviously, it’s a complete free-ball because the first season exhausted 100% of [Stephen King’s] book, the IP. So, it’s really all up to him. I never like to step on the lawn of the writers. It’s something that I’ve always stuck with on Ozark. I leave Chris Mundy completely alone and I do my job as a director once I get the script. I chime in every once in a while and offer my opinion, but it’s always for the writer to take if they want and discard if they want.

It should also be noted that this interview was published before King released If It Bleeds in late April. So it’s possible that Bateman and Price didn’t even know that there would be more source material on the way. Regardless, that’s still out there.

Season 1 of The Outsider didn’t 100% keep with the book—it kept most of the tentpole moments of the story, and expanded when it needed to. It also made some changes, which will need to remain intact for a second season. If the second season does indeed follow “If It Bleeds,” it will likely be in a similar fashion: keeping up with King’s story, while maintaining the bigger story for TV (and keeping consistent with the existing story and characters).

What would Season 2 of The Outsider be about?

In the interview with EW, King confirmed that the scripts for the new season have been written, and that he’s seen some of them. But he was not willing to tip his cap at all.

“I know exactly where it’s going because I have seen some of the scripts. I could tell you, but then I’d have to kill you,” he said. “I’ll just say that it’s really great and a real spooky paranormal element.

While Holly Gibney is a main character in the titular story from If It Bleeds, this sort of reads like Season 2 of The Outsider is going in a different direction. And granted how good Richard Price’s last HBO project was—The Night Of, which had no source material—we’re excited to see what he cooks up in Mr. King’s world.

What happened at the end of The Outsider Season 1?

While the end of The Outsider seemed to put a wrap on the story of El Cuco, there were a few moments that certainly did a lot to hint at and set up the potential of a second Outsider season. The first, fairly obviously, was in one of the closing scenes of the episode. When Ralph Anderson (Ben Mendelsohn) is saying goodbye to Holly Gibney (Cynthia Erivo), he suggests that the two could team up again in the future (though he hopes for something a bit more normal, “like a gangland triple homicide, or something like that”). Obviously, this sets the pair up for some future True Detective-esque adventures.

But what about that credits scene?

The Outsider finale’s mid-credits scene is where things really start to go wild and invite speculation for a second season. Assumed to be a few months later, Holly is washing her hands in her home when she gets a frightening glimpse of Jack Hoskins in her mirror. She checks her neck for the burn that controlled his mind, but is relieved to find nothing.

Within a few moments, though, a frightening final shot makes something very clear to the viewers: Holly has a scratch on her arm. Either El Cuco, Jack, or something else altogether has got her, and is probably coming for her incredible cognitive gifts. That’s a cliffhanger if we’ve ever seen one.

holly the outsider scratch ending

HBO

Granted that the book ends without any of this happening, it’s entering totally uncharted territory for showrunner Richard Price (who previously helmed HBO’s one-season The Night Of). With whatever storylines the writers had in mind with that cliffhanger, combined with the new source material, we’re eager to see where a second season would go.

Will the cast return?

If the show does, indeed return for a second season—and HBO’s calling the final episode a ‘Season Finale’ rather than a ‘Series Finale’ certainly seems to be angling that way—than we have to expect that at the very least, Mendelsohn and Erivo will return. Those are the heroes of the story, and the two of them do much of the heavy lifting. Ralph’s wife, Jeannie (Mare Winningham) left the finale unscathed, so it would be reasonable to expect her to be back as well. Trusted State Police ally Yune Sablo (Yul Vazquez) should also probably be expected to return.

Claude Bolton (Paddy Considine) didn’t die in the finale, but his character is so specifically important to this story (and not personally connected to Holly or Ralph) that he would likely not return outside of maybe a cameo.

Given the events of the finale, though, you cannot expect the deceased characters to return. This is Stephen King, but the story of The Outsider doesn’t have anything to do with anyone coming back from the dead. That means you shouldn’t expect to see Jason Bateman (Terry Maitland), Bill Camp (Howie Saloman), Marc Menchaca (Jack Hoskins), Andy Katcavage (Derek Cecil), Seale Bolton (Max Beesley) or Alec Pelley (Jeremy Bobb) for season two.

Evan is an associate editor for Men’s Health, with bylines in The New York Times, MTV News, Brooklyn Magazine, and VICE.

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