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. It was announced in November 2020 that HBO was cancelling The Outsider after just one season, but the show’s production company, MRC, is supposedly looking for new homes; they seemed to be building toward 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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With the HBO cancellation, the odds are looking more and more stacked for the show getting another season. But there’s still a bit of hope.
Will there be a second season of The Outsider?
The odds now seem to be stacked against The Outsider after it was cancelled by HBO. MRC, the production company behind the show, is supposedly looking for new network or streaming homes. It’s a surprising decision, considering the show was a ratings success for HBO.
Before the show was cancelled by HBO, Stephen King confirmed that the show was gearing up to film a second season during an interview with Entertainment Weekly. He was ostensibly discussing his other Holly Gibney show, Mr. Mercedes, which now streams 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.