While there aren't many programming decisions that surprise us anymore, HBO still found a way on Tuesday morning to pull that off with word that the Ben Mendelsohn–Cynthia Erivo-starring series The Outsider will not be returning to the cable giant for a second season. MRC will take the series and new season out to market, with Deadline Hollywood reporting that the series package includes a script and bible for continuing the story beyond Stephen King's novel. Writer/executive producer Richard Price developed the framework for a new season, with King giving the season his green light- one that was set to focus more on Erivo's Holly Gibney. "We enjoyed our collaboration with Richard, Jason [Bateman], Andrew [Bernstein], and the MRC team, and we wish them well in continuing the world created by the brilliant Stephen King," HBO said in a statement.
One of the reasons why the move was so surprising was the series was a clear winner for HBO, growing its average viewer numbers from 1.2 million for the series premiere to 2.2 million for the finale. The Outsider would become the cable network's most-watched first-year series since 2017, with 11 million multi-platform viewers per episode. "We thank HBO for a great partnership in the first season, and for helping to bring in a massive audience who fell in love with The Outsider, we are looking forward to finding a new home for this remarkable series," said MRC Television President Elise Henderson.
In an interview with EW last month, King said he was looking forward to Erivo having more time to develop her take on Holly Gibney. In describing Erivo's take on Holly compared to Mr. Mercedes star Justine Lupe's take, King confirmed (though HBO hadn't) that there would be a second season of The Outsider: "Justine Lupe got into that character and did a terrific job with it because she had more time to develop Holly [across three seasons]. 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." The author also said he already knew the direction the series would take when (now, if) it returns: "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. I'll just say that it's really great and a real spooky paranormal element."