Holly Gibney is one of the best characters from Stephen King's recent output. In fact, she's probably my favorite. And in this week's installment of The Outsider, she probably became one of your favorite characters, too. The great Cynthia Erivo (Bad Times at the El Royale, Widows) portrays the eccentric private investigator brought in to help retrace the steps of Terry Maitland and his family while they were in Ohio visiting his ailing father – and to see what comes of his daughter's intriguing revelation about the cut Terry received at the hospital, which may or may not mean anything. Holly comes highly recommended by Howie and Alec, and we soon understand why: She's a walking historical document, with an unbelievable capacity for retaining information – song lyrics, Billboard charts, baseball stats, all manner of details both crucial and seemingly inane.
Elsewhere in the third episode, titled "Dark Uncle," the GBI investigates the pile of clothing found in a barn at the end of episode two – the belt buckle that matches Terry's, along with some discarded jeans and socks and such, all covered in a mysterious substance (fire jizz jokes at will). Ralph's colleague, the walking sack of testosterone known as Jack, arrives at the scene a little late, only to encounter a briefly-glimpsed figure in the spooky barn. He's stung by something – or someone – and by episode's end, he's pleading with someone offscreen, offering to do whatever they ask. Meanwhile, the situation with Terry's fingerprints has become more bizarre, and Glory Maitland's youngest daughter has a message for Ralph, courtesy of her own personal boogeyman: Stop, or else. "He didn't make me scared. He made me feel angry. I think you're supposed to be scared," she tells Ralph.
There is a separate but not-unrelated plot this week involving a prison inmate accused of murdering two young girls in Ohio. As it turns out, he's the orderly who accidentally scratched Terry Maitland that day in the hospital. The episode makes the most of the brief diversions to this prison, where the inmate is seen sharpening a lens he popped out of his own glasses, readying for the inevitable late night assault. It's unsurprising that some of the most effecgive scenes this week happen inside a prison; The Outsider's showrunner is Richard Price, who previously brought us The Night Of.
But I want to return to the subject of Holly Gibney. First introduced in Mr. Mercedes as a supporting character, Holly became more of a main character in the subsequent novels in the trilogy. HBO's The Outsider remains largely faithful to the source material in almost every way, including the introduction of Holly. In King's writing, it's clear that Holly has a mental disorder of some kind, though the exact diagnosis is never made explicit. Price has given Holly a different backstory: Her parents were afraid of their daughter's peculiar skills, and subjected her to extensive testing with various doctors and "white coats" – none of which helped. In a stroke of genius and rather thoughtful writing, Holly touches on her own history when Ralph insists that he has no tolerance for "the unbelievable." Ralph is astonished that Holly's parents would put their own child through such a traumatic experience for – as he calls it – just being herself.
It's a simple and thought-provoking exchange that challenges our own perceptions of Holly's "disorder" through the perspective of a highly skeptical Ralph. Speaking generally, upon meeting Holly Gibney, most people would be inclined to quietly ask "What's wrong with her?" And it's the "wrong" in that question that is so, well, wrong. There's nothing wrong with Holly. She's amazing. Ralph learns that lesson quickly, and it's driven home when she leaves their first meeting and points out that he's not a big drinker, but she thanks him for drinking more to make her feel comfortable. And that's the end of that.
As someone who's read (and really enjoyed) The Outsider, I'm enamored with what Price & Co. have done with the series thus far – and particularly with the casting of Erivo as Holly. But I'm curious what those of you who haven't read the book think of both the series and Holly. Let's talk about it below.