This week the sixth episode of Hulu’s Stephen King pastiche Castle Rock launched on the platform, meaning we’ve officially rounded the halfway point of this 10-ep first season. So — we’re finally starting to get some answers to all those slow-burning mysteries, right? Yes! Sort of. A few. But we’re also getting more questions, while other plot threads seem to be twisting idly in the wind.
Don’t get me wrong — I’m enjoying the shit out of this show, but I’ll be damned if I have any clue where it’s going. All I know is that, if this week’s episode is any indication, “time” might just be at the root of everyone’s problems. Well, in addition to Bill Skarsgård’s The Kid character.
Perhaps the most straight-forward revelation of the episode came from Ruth Deaver (Sissy Spacek) herself, when she confided in her grandson Wendell (played by IT’s Chosen Jacobs) about her current situation. What everyone else has been mistaking as her slide into dementia appears, from Ruth’s perspective, to be a case of her coming unstuck in time. Her confusion is real, but it stems from the fact that she never knows if she’s living in the past, present, or future. She even tells Wendell that she’s had this conversation with him before. So to cope, she’s started placing chess pieces around the house, like markers to let her know if she’s in the now. The tragedy, of course, is that even if Ruth IS correctly diagnosing her situation, it would still seem like dementia from the outside. At one point Henry (André Holland) tries to ask Ruth about his father and their long walks in the woods, and Ruth tells him she doesn’t know anything about that — so he should go ask his father himself. To Henry that sounds like Ruth has gotten confused and forgotten his father’s death, but from Ruth’s perspective she may have actually believed she had backslid in time to when he was still alive.
But the timey-wimeyness didn’t stop there! Henry got his own bizarre dose of it, thanks to a mysterious encounter — and an unexpected explanation for his bouts of tinnitus. While following the path laid out for him via some old home movies his father took of him marching through the woods (an example of the past and present overlapping, essentially), Henry encountered an old acquaintance of his father’s. Odin Branch (CJ Jones) is a deaf man camping in his RV with his interpreter, Willie (Rory Culkin). Odin shared a belief with Henry’s dad that nature is God’s true church — and that ringing in Henry’s ears? That’s the voice of God — orrrrrr the sound of the vibrations of the universe trying to reconcile different possible timelines (“other heres, other nows”), also called Schisma. Is it pseudo-science, or is it religion? Maybe it’s both! But that sound has been getting louder of late, and it turns out that Henry’s father designed a “Filter” to hear the voice more clearly.
It’s a soundproof room in that RV. And of course, Henry gets locked inside. It should also be noted that Odin apparently took his own hearing, or perfected himself. This is going to end well.
Those may be the most explicit hints at the way time is going to play a part in the series, but there are plenty of other ways it has factored into the story. Right at the top of the episode, The Kid tells Pangborn, “Time is your enemy, Sheriff” — and sure, he may have been indicating that Alan needed to find Lacy’s suicide car at the impound, like, pronto. But he ALSO may have been foreshadowing the entire back half of the show. WHO’S TO SAY, REALLY? After all, The Kid has clearly started digging into Henry’s father’s past, from those hiking home movies (creepily labelled as “sermons) to wearing the man’s suit (which Ruth thought she’d buried him in…). There’s also the fact that The Kid hasn’t aged. For him, time has seemingly stopped entirely.
Of course, there’s also the typically banal ways that the past returns to haunt the inhabitants of Castle Rock, like how Molly (Melanie Lynskey) finally confessed to Henry that she’s the one who snuck in and pulled out his father’s oxygen tube all those years ago, effectively killing the man. She claims that, due to her psychic connection, they really did it together — or that Henry actually did it THROUGH her. None of which was exactly what Henry wanted to hear, especially since he’s always been blamed for his father’s death despite not remembering anything that happened around the time of his disappearance. Or even before, seemingly. When Wendell starts asking his dad about how he came to be adopted by the Deavers and what his “real” parents were like, it’s clear from Henry’s avoidance that he probably doesn’t really remember them.
I’m not sure how to tie all this focus on timeline shenanigans to the works of Stephen King. Themes of the past continuing to haunt us in the present are huge factors in a number of his books, but we’re more used to seeing examples of alternate realities (everything connected through the Dark Tower) than alternate timelines. The exception, of course, is 11/22/63, which is the story of a time traveller who tries to prevent the assassination of JFK — and which was already adapted into a Hulu series all on its own.
What I’m saying is: clearly Castle Rock is going to end up blaming everything on The Tommyknockers. The Kid isn’t the Devil, HE’S AN ALIEN!