Hulu’s everyKing-and-the-kitchen-sink series Castle Rock has been a fascinating little experiment, but with the release of the eighth episode this week, it’s clear that the experiment is winding down. Up until now, the show has been content to be a slow burn (as slow as that wildfire that’s supposedly threatening the town? WHO CAN SAY? THEY NEVER SHOW IT!), and it slowed down even further last week in an episode that focused on the world through Ruth Deaver’s eyes. She perceives time out of sync and is constantly trying to orient herself in the past or the now. It was engrossing, dreamlike, almost poetic — and led up to a gut-punch of an ending that had me in tears, hugging my husband while he stroked my hair and asked me not to shoot him. That, friends, is how you Hulu & Chill: tears and whispered assurances that you won’t eventually kill one another.
So where did Castle Rock go from there? All kinds of places, actually! All kinds of crazy, bloody, f—ked up places. There are more reveals, hints, crimes and question marks presented in this dense episode than in the entire season preceding it. But is it enough to predict the shape of things to come? Spoilers and speculation ahoy…
Remember when Molly showed the Lacy house to that couple who were asking about all the creepy Castle Rock rumors, but then the dude got really interested in Warden Lacy’s paintings? Yeah — they bought the house! And this week’s episode kicks off with their story, rather than resolving either the “Henry’s locked in that RV silence chamber” thing OR the whole “Ruth just killed Alan Pangborn, GODDAMMIT” thing. But don’t worry — this isn’t just your average plot diversion to a well-meaning middle-aged couple who has no idea what the hell they’re getting themselves into by moving into that creepy ol’ house in Stephen King Corner, You’re F—ked County, Maine. No, these folks heard about Castle Rock and thought, “Gee whiz, maybe we should open a True Crime/Murder-themed Bed & Breakfast there, to deal with the repercussions of [Insert Wife’s Name]’s infidelity!” Basically, everything that’s coming for them? They kinda brought it on themselves.
And that “everything” involves unlocking Warden Lacy’s mystery basement, discovering a cache of goddamn hand-painted Bill Skarsgård portraits, voluntarily hanging them up, then presumably being driven insane under Bill Skarsgård’s baleful stare and murdering their first guests (mid-sexing, natch). They almost get busted during their cleanup effort by Jackie Torrance, who’s totally chill with the whole murder-themed BnB thing — though she is suspicious about that bloody bracelet she found in the driveway.
Molly’s amazing visions help her track down Henry, still locked up in that RV in the middle of the woods. He’s super disoriented, and though it’s not entirely clear what he saw (heard? experienced?) in his time communing with the voice of God, it IS clear that some shit went down outside. While Molly and Henry make their escape, we can see that the campfire is still burning… and Odin is lying dead in the bushes. Willie is nowhere to be found. It’s frankly sort of anticlimactic but I’m sure there’s a bigger payoff coming. Right? There has to be? You don’t haul in a surprise Culkin and then just have him disappear.
What really matters is what’s awaiting Henry when he gets back home. Ruth is tucked away safe in bed, Wendell comes home from his supernormal night spent sleeping on a pew at the church, and Bill Skarsgård (I know, I know, he’s “The Kid” but he’s not a kid, he’s Bill Skarsgård) is calmly waiting to talk to Henry. He takes Henry to the barn and shows him Alan’s body, claiming that he tried to clean up and that they need to take the body to the woods to protect Ruth. It’s clear he’s trying to team up with Henry, and there’s more he wants to say. He’s seemingly aware of the voice of God (he asks Henry, “Do you hear it? You do? Finally…”), but unfortunately Wendell called the cops and they scare Bill Skarsgård away just when things are getting interesting. His final words to Henry before running into the woods?
“I waited for you. I waited for 27 years. I rescued you from that basement and I didn’t ask for any of this!”
So wait — is Bill Skarsgård not the bad guy?! WHAT IS EVEN HAPPENING?! Is that the show’s ultimate twist? Because if so… well played. Didn’t see that one coming. And neither do the cops! They naturally assume that the Juniper Hill escapee is involved in Pangborn’s murder, but one officer does point out that Henry himself seems to be the root of all the death and destruction in town. He set in motion The Kid’s release from Shawshank without even learning his name, he was present for the massacre there, and let’s not forget — everyone still thinks he killed his father. And let’s just add in the string of weird murders and disasters linked to the newly-released Bill Skarsgård, as well as that forest fire that I’m pretty sure started when Henry came back to town. Point is, while Bill Skarsgård definitely seems to have some weird influence on the town, he’s not the only one. What is their connection?
Henry’s guilt takes him back to the old Lacy house, to try and get into that basement once more (is that THE basement, I wonder?). And he succeeds! Then he follows the stairs into the main house, where he finds all those Bill Skarsgård paintings. Each one is dated by Lacy himself… and it’s clear The Kid never aged. Weirder still? The earliest painting is dated in 1991, the year that Henry went missing… and in it, Bill Skarsgård is wearing the same shirt that Henry was in his “Missing” poster.
Again: WHAT IS THEIR CONNECTION?!
Before Henry can, I dunno, break-and-enter any farther, he’s accosted by the new owners — who, remember, are fresh from a mini murder spree. What follows is a brutal knife fight that spills out into the driveway, where Henry gets his stabbed ass saved by none other than the nosy Jackie Torrance. Is it any surprise she’s handy with an axe?
And while Henry is having his exciting adventure at Murder Inn, Molly is having more troubles with her visions. She pops WAY too many of her happy pills to cope, then decides to drive to Henry’s house to see him because she doesn’t want to be alone (don’t try this at home, folks!). But on the way, she notices the lights on at her parent’s old house… and inside she finds motherfucking Bill Skarsgård because OF COURSE HE’S THERE. He claims he needs her help, because Henry isn’t “ready” yet. And he proceeds to prove that they know each other by creepily telling her all about her life as a kid in that house. Which he knows about, because he was there. Out there, in the woods.
Where she died.
So yeah. That happened. Uh, here’s just a few super minor stray thoughts:
- IS MOLLY FUCKING DEAD? Because here’s the thing: I went back and rewatched all of her creepy vision montages throughout the episode, and you DO see her dead in the woods at one point. You also see shots of a basement, and both young and old Henry, and even Bill Skarsgård. I think it’s not just Henry and The Kid that are connected, but all three of them. Somehow…
- Ugh, is this the afterlife? Tell me this isn’t the afterlife. Because I mean, that wildfire could just be the fires of Hell, I suppose. But this being inspired by the universe of Stephen King, I’m not inclined to believe we’re dealing with Heaven, Hell, or Purgatory — or at least, not in so straight-forward a manner. Good and evil? Yes. But not theology-as-destinations. Sure, the voice of God is in the show, but if we take it for its alternate explanation as a “schisma” then we have the possibility of there being multiple timelines. Things that are converging and rubbing against one another and ringing out in the woods around Castle Rock. Woods that Henry’s father took him hiking through, and where The Kid lived, and where Molly maybe died. What if this show is doing something similar to the alternate realities that are all tied to the Dark Tower, only… time-ier? Ruth’s dementia and Molly’s psychic abilities and Henry’s hearing could be different ways of sensing across that gap.
- I’m still stuck on the shirt from the “Missing” poster, and what the link between Henry and The Kid is. Remember how the Deavers adopted Henry because they couldn’t have a kid of their own? What if they DID have a kid of their own… and it’s “The Kid”? Who is here from another timeline? And does this have anything to do with The Kid’s desire to protect Ruth — or the fact that she still seems to think he is her dead husband, returned to life?
- There’s also the outside possibility that The Kid and Henry are connected à la “The Dark Half” only in some way that doesn’t involve eyeballs growing in anyone’s brain. Though in a broader sense I’d put my money on them being “Twinners” — which is basically the Stephen King version of doppelgängers, only it’s as much a spiritual coupling as a physical doubling, connecting people (and even places) across universes. “The Talisman,” which King co-wrote with Peter Straub, was a sort of proto-“Dark Tower” parallel universe adventure* (which was eventually explicitly linked to the “Dark Tower” series in its sequel, “Black House”) that featured the concept of twinners heavily. Almost every character seemed to have a counterpart in the other universe — except for the main character, Jack. And I keep getting stuck on “The Talisman” as an inspiration for Castle Rock because Jack’s goal throughout the novel is to save his mother — who is an actress called the “Queen of the B Movies” in his reality, and whose twinner in the parallel universe is an actual Queen. And what was the title of last week’s Ruth-centric episode? “The Queen”! Yes, it could be a chess reference. but I’m just saying, if it DOES tie to “The Talisman” then we may be one episode away from getting some goddamn werewolves up in this show.
- I still don’t know what any of this has to do with Castle Rock being such a f—ked up place to live, though.
- Forgot to mention: Henry put Wendell back on a bus to Boston, but by the episode’s end the kid has hopped back off the bus a few miles outside of Castle Rock. Also: he’s now getting that telltale ringing in his ears, and a bird totally dive-bombed the bus. “It’s fucked up, Dad” is what Wendell told Henry earlier in the episode (you know, about Henry’s negligent parenting and the whole “sleeping in a church while somebody shot Grandma’s lover” thing), but it’s also the mission statement for the entire show, basically.
- Whoever had the job of painting Bill Skarsgård like 2 dozen times deserves our endless gratitude. Well done, stranger! Though I hope you can sleep at night.
*Yes, I realize “The Gunslinger” was published prior to “The Talisman”, but the rest of the “Dark Tower” novels came out afterward.
Header Image Source: Hulu