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Death Is Art In the Latest Episode of ‘Castle Rock’

Castle Rock Past Perfect
By  · Published on August 29th, 2018

All this time we’ve been thinking that the Kid (Bill Skarsgård) is the harbinger of death in Castle Rock, but what if it’s actually Henry (André Holland)? It was a death that made him leave town and another one that brought him home, he was there for the Shawshank mass shooting, the prisoner he got released killed fourteen people at Juniper Hill, his mother’s love — who Henry never liked — was just shot to death, and before this week’s episode is over he’ll have the blood of two more people on his hands. And face.

After last week’s heartbreaking focus on Ruth’s (Sissy Spacek) life and dementia the latest episode returns to the present with a vengeance orchestrated beautifully by director Ana Lily Amirpour and writer Scott Brown. Henry’s at the core of it all too, and it starts with his rescue from the Winnebago “filter” room where Odin (CJ Jones) and Willie (Rory Culkin) trapped him two episodes back. Molly (Melanie Lynskey) is his savior, a position she’s occupied previously, and when she drops him back home he discovers the trauma that occurred in his absence. Alan’s (Scott Glenn) dead, Ruth is disoriented, and the Kid goes running off into the woods. Henry sends his son (Chosen Jacobs) packing on a bus home, but even that’s no guarantee the boy will escape the dark pull of this town as evidenced by the ringing in his ears (inherited from his dad?) and the unscheduled stop.

While Henry returns to the forefront this week the episode opens with a fantastically self-contained little tale about troubled people arriving in a troubled town and finding, wait for it, trouble. Gordon (Mark Harelik) and his wife (Lauren Bowles) were previously seen inquiring about buying Warden Lacy’s (Terry O’Quinn) house, and now we’re made privy to what came before and what comes after that meeting. The two were having marital troubles, and as aficionados of true crimes they buy the house and fix it up as a bed & breakfast celebrating “the murder capital of 1991.” Mannequins act as recreated crime victims, they plan tours throughout the town, and they find a stash of paintings in the basement — hundreds of them — capturing the Kid’s haunted visage. The art seems to have an effect on Gordon, and when their first paying guests reveal a disinterest in the macabre he stabs them both to death.

The couple that slays together stays together, and despite a visit from a morbidly curious Jackie (Jane Levy) — who’s disappointed in herself for not having moved forward on her own plans to turn the town into “a murder theme park” — it starts to look as if they’ll get away with their contribution to Castle Rock’s violent history. But this is Henry’s story, and when a police officer reminds him of his association with death and Molly reminds him that they never saw the inside of Warden Lacy’s (Terry O’Quinn) basement, he heads to the house in search of answers to questions he doesn’t even know to ask. He’s not alone, obviously, as viewers are still scrambling to make sense of what’s happening too.

The scene sees him finally discover what we’ve already known, that the Kid’s appearance has been the same throughout the twenty-seven years he spent in Lacy’s cage, and the revelation rocks him. It’s a big, dramatic beat, and Holland does great work with his eyes communicating the confusion and fear, and it’s followed with a sequence masterfully pairing murder and slapstick into another bloody affair. Watching Henry struggle with Gordon and his wife is darkly funny despite the mayhem, and it ends with the triumphant return of Jackie, ax in hand, as she makes her uncle proud by planting the blade in Gordon’s head. It’s a great beat as she’s longed for something interesting to happen to her for so long, and now she’s a part of the town’s grim and grisly reality.

It’s a thrilling moment, but it also leaves viewers with the first of the episode’s two eye-raising lines of dialogue. “I wasn’t myself anymore,” says Jackie after killing Gordon with the ax. It could be as simple as feeling different during a heightened experience, but seeing as she’s the niece of the infamous Jack Torrance — and seeing as this is Castle Rock — there’s enough reason to suspect there’s something more to her words. The Kid has shown his influence over others, but it feels too easy to credit him here. Besides, while I’m not convinced he’s the devil incarnate (or a Randall Flagg incarnation) I don’t think he sees keeping Henry alive as a necessity anymore.

While the fight’s happening across town, Molly comes home to find the Kid on her stairs. He proceeds to point out memories from her past to prove he “knows” her, and he says that since Henry’s not ready he needs her help instead. It’s unclear what he needs help with, but the episode ends with its second thought-provoking piece of dialogue. Pointing to the woods outside her window, the Kid tells Molly “that’s where you died.” Past tense. She had a flurry of visions earlier including a quick glimpse of her looking dead on the forest floor, but while that may be her future it doesn’t explain why he says it’s already happened. The show is too smart to be building towards an Owl Creek Bridge-type revelation, so what’s the deal? And does this mean the ridiculously talented Miss Lynskey won’t be returning for season two? Not cool Castle Rock, not cool.

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Rob Hunter has been writing for Film School Rejects since before you were born, which is weird seeing as he's so damn young. He's our Chief Film Critic and Associate Editor and lists 'Broadcast News' as his favorite film of all time. Feel free to say hi if you see him on Twitter @FakeRobHunter.