HBO series, premiering Sunday, is good-not-great Stephen King

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A child is murdered, literally torn apart. There are human teeth marks on the body.

DNA, fingerprints, video and eyewitnesses all point to one suspect. The problem is there’s also irrefutable evidence that the suspect was miles away when the murder happened.

And then there’s the hooded figure lurking about in the background, as hooded figures will.

Stephen King much?

Yeah, but there are all types of Stephen King.

“The Outsider” is medium standard Stephen King. Sudden bouts of bloodletting. A bogeyman with mythic roots. Winding storylines that take time to come together. A lot of stock characters – grieving mother, patient wife, jerk cop – given as much life as possible by good if generally unheralded actors.

Chief among these are Ben Mendelsohn as the tortured detective on the murder case and Julianna Nicholson as a sudden widow. Look up “good if generally unheralded actors” in the dictionary and you’ll likely see their faces.

Things move along at a fairly horror-pedestrian pace until Cynthia Erivo (see again: good, unheralded) shows up in the third episode of this HBO adaptation of King’s 2018 novel. She plays an oddball-savant-autistic-whatever private detective and immediately elevates the show.

Unfortunately, elevating it is one thing while moving it along is another. By episode six, it’s obvious that this 10-episode series might better have been eight or even six episodes. We know where it’s heading early on, so the suspense…well, there isn’t all that much. Erivo’s character is a kick, but she’s only one among many non-kick characters.

The infectious nature of evil is an underlying theme here. This is one case where an infection doesn’t move quickly enough.

Is it watchable? Sure. Is it memorable? Nah.

'The Outsider'

GRADE: C+

9 p.m. Sunday

HBO

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