Walking the tightrope of creating a TV adaptation of a novel can be tricky. You have to appease longtime fans of the book, while also making the TV show or miniseries come across on-screen as entertaining as possible for viewers who are unfamiliar with the source material. When Stephen King’s The Outsider premieres on HBO, it will be up to the same kind of scrutiny from new and old fans, but you have to expect it will differ, at least slightly, from the book on which it’s based.
The plot of both the book and the new series is a mixture of true crime and supernatural components. It follows the murder of a young boy and the man believed to have been behind the crime. But when the investigators involved in the case are met with supernatural entities, the case is thrown into a tizzy and the mystery deepens. From the looks of The Outsider trailer, the general storyline in the TV version will be similar enough. But as with most adaptations, there will be some creative liberties taken.
How does 'The Outsider' by Stephen King end?
In the book, Terry Maitland is thought to be the killer of a young boy and there is even some concrete evidence to back it up. On the flip side, there is similarly irrefutable evidence that Terry was out of town the night the boy was murdered. It turns out that there was an "outsider" involved in the murder of the boy and other children who turns out to be a shape-shifting monster disguised as Terry’s doppelganger.
By the end of the book, Terry is off the hook for the crimes and cleared on all charges. The monster is defeated, and appears to be dead, but in the TV show version, it would be a way to end the first season with a solid cliffhanger. If the plan for the HBO series is to end after just one season, then it’s possible the ending could stay the same, even if some of the other plot points are altered to fit a limited series.
The show will differ from the novel in some ways.
The Outsider co-writer and executive producer Richard Price spoke to the New York Post about changing The Outsider for HBO. He admitted that, because he had to fill 10 hours, or episodes, with material from the book, he had to improvise and add more backstory and details for some of the characters. It could potentially lead to some big differences in the show versus the book.
"A book is not a movie. There’s the introduction of characters and situations that did not exist in the book," Richard said. "I had to fill it with minor events. There’s so much in a book but there’s no thinking in a screenplay. You see and you hear. I had to visualize and physicalize a lot. If you take out all the narrative observations, a novel gets reduced greatly."
It has the potential to stretch further than one season.
Depending on how The Outsider on HBO ends, there could be more episodes beyond the 10 slated for its first season. Because the book ends with the monster seemingly dead, the TV show could end its tenth episode in a similar way. Only in the show’s case, it would leave the door open to show the monster alive, if barely, at the end of the season. And if that’s the route the show takes, then it has the potential to be longer than 10 episodes.
Watch The Outsider on Sundays at 9 p.m. ET on HBO.