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The HBO adaptation of Stephen King’s best recent novel looks loyal and terrifying

The Outsider is one of King’s most political novels, but will its adaptation keep the message?

Chris Plante co-founded Polygon in 2012 as editor-at-large and is now editor-in-chief. He also created and occasionally teaches NYU’s Introduction to Games Journalism course.

HBO didn’t take long to adapt Stephen King’s 2018 hit book, “The Outsider.” Seventeen months after the hardcover hit shelves, we have a trailer for the limited series, directed by and starring Jason Bateman. Even going off the limited footage in the trailer, this looks like a loyal adaptation — great news considering the source is one of King’s best works in recent memory.

I won’t spoil the twists of “The Outsider,” but I will say it’s a bit more of a Stephen King story than this trailer lets on. This isn’t another True Detective, though it shares some of that series’ slow-burn psychological terrors. However, It’s weirder, more empathic, and unafraid to flip genres on a dime.

King has said the book isn’t specifically political; I find that hard to believe and I’m not the only one. Here’s a description from AV Club’s review: “King’s real subjects here are a world spinning out of control, the dangers of people who refuse to see the truth, and the rotting of a society in moral decay [...] twice we’re taken to locations where a ghastly event has occurred. One of them is graffitied with a swastika, the other with TRUMP MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN TRUMP.”

“The Outsider,” clearly and at great length, wonders how people can be two things at once: your friendly neighbor and a heartless monster. How much will the show leverage the book’s not-so-subtle political metaphors? We’ll find out soon. The Outsider premieres on HBO on Jan. 12.

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