Episodes three and four see the mystery deepen… and grow.
Heading into episode three, “Local Color,” the big mystery we’re chasing is the identity and origin of the Kid in the prison basement. We take a detour here, though, to focus more on what happened to Henry Deaver as a boy when he disappeared. The answer appears to be tied somehow to his neighbor, Molly Strand, and happily that means more time for Melanie Lynskey in this terrifically odd and engaging character.
We see Molly as a kid entering the Deaver home while Henry is still missing but after the boy’s injured dad has been brought back home. She taking Henry’s clothes, she stares at Pastor Deaver on the ventilator, and she unplugs his air support. It’s no accident, so why does she do it? The Molly we know as an adult is a drug-addicted realtor struggling with an ability to hear thoughts and “feel” things regarding those around her as well as a desire to better Castle Rock. Is she also a cold-blooded murderer? There’s obviously more to the story, but the odds are she knew something as a child about the good pastor that led to the murder. Going on live TV to lobby for the Kid’s release might just be a more dangerous action though.
Her action moves the warden forward on acknowledging the Kid’s presence and getting him freed, but while Henry’s working out the details and trying to nab him the best deal Dennis the guard who first called him is cracking beneath the pressure of being a whistle-blower. This ep belongs to Molly, though, and as much as she wants to revitalize the town the town wants to mess with her head. She finds herself in a scene teasing King’s “Children of the Corn” and “Suffer the Little Children” as she searches for a drug dealer, her home is broken into and knocked about without anything being stolen, and the episode’s end delivers its first truly chilling image when she comes home to a dark house with someone making noises upstairs.
The writing is solid in its world-building and “mystery box” elements, but it’s Lynskey who holds it together with a performance and character of a woman who’s either dangerous or in danger. Maybe both? She’s joined briefly by the equally fantastic Jane Levy — get these two a buddy comedy please! — as the curiously named Jackie Torrance who lives up to that by being the town’s second-most curious resident (after Henry).
Episode four sees its title (“The Box”) juggling two story lines. The Kid’s prison box and the prison itself — a box on a bigger scale — are one thread while the other follows Henry’s memories of his missing time including flashes of a being held captive in a wooden shed of some sort.
Henry’s returning memories lead him to a confrontation with Alan about both his mother’s care and the truth about his disappearance as a boy, and it culminates in Alan revealing that Henry’s father passed a note to him before his death saying simply “Henry did it.” Alan covered it up for Ruth’s sake, and the revelation shakes Henry to his core. He’s still lacking all his memories, but he decides to pack it in and leave town. His first stop is some R&R with Molly, and the next morning he heads to Shawshank to tell the Kid to take the settlement. What he finds just might change his mind again.
Dennis’ (Noel Fisher) ongoing stress is bad enough, but when he makes the mistake of touching the Kid — via a fist bump which is never a good idea in the real world either — things take a final, disturbing turn. He cracks, and in a disturbing scene well-choreographed via security cameras and set to Roy Orbison’s “Crying” he proceeds to gun down other guards before being killed in return. His feelings of guilt at being associated with Shawshank were already evident, but it’s equally clear that it’s the Kid’s touch that pushes him over the edge. The Kid had previously touched his Nazi cellmate, and we all know how that turned out. (The Nazi suddenly died from cancer he never previously had.)
The episode leaves everyone in a state of flux with plenty of questions still up in the air. Some thoughts though… this Desjardins subplot feels like filler doesn’t it? For one thing it’s too early in the ten-episode season to reveal the answer to one of its bigger mysteries, but for another it also feels a bit too simple. The odds are young Henry didn’t spend those eleven days held captive by a barber. Molly’s accepted her connection to Henry to the point that she’s actively helping him and sleeping with him — something she’s been intrigued by since they were kids and she was able to “feel” him masturbating — but what to make of her ability to hear thoughts from places and times where she’s not present? And how will it come into play down the road?
References! Quotes! Questions!
- Molly’s dream about the pastor preaching to a church filled with parishioners bandaged just like he is bears a passing similarity to the scene in “Cycle of the Werewolf”/Silver Bullet where the pastor — who’s a werewolf — dreams of a sermon interrupted by his flock changing into werewolves.
- What does a town need with a gazebo? Castle Rock had one previously, and it’s where a certain serial killer offed a young woman and was identified by the psychic Johnny Smith. The gazebo met its end when it exploded in Needful Things. (The one from The Dead Zone adaptation is still in the small town of Niagra-on-the-Lake, and I’ve been inside it!)
- “Bad shit happens here because bad people know they’re safe here.”
- Four episodes in and dead animals (deer, dog, fish) outnumber dead people.
- “A serial strangler died in my house and I sleep like a baby.”
- Vince Desjardins, now an old man giving haircuts in the woods (?), was part of Ace Merrill’s gang in “The Body”/Stand By Me.