Ensemble shows typically find both strength and weakness in their numbers. More characters means more stories, more variety, and more possibility, and in that regard Castle Rock has been serving viewers well with intriguing characters brought to life by phenomenal actors. The weakness, though, or the downside, is that there isn’t always enough time to service them all. For Castle Rock, the character/actor who’s drawn the short straw has unfortunately been Ruth/Sissy Spacek. There simply hasn’t been much for her to do so far, but fortunately that appears to be changing this week.
Unfortunately, it may be too late for her.
It all comes down to the men in her life — her son Henry (André Holland), her husband Alan (Scott Glenn), and the new kid in town, the Kid (Bill Skarsgård).
Henry has his father’s body interred in town in the hope of bringing some closure, and it’s an inspiration for him to bring his own son Wendell (played by Chosen Jacobs, from last year’s It, thus explaining the look on his face when he sees the Kid) to town for a visit. The goal is for the boy to spend time with his grandmother, and while they’re bonding over her penchant for getting lost in time Henry is trying to solve the mystery of his own past. Why did his father take him into the woods at night? Molly (Melanie Lynskey) recalls seeing them sometimes, just as she recalls feeling Henry’s wish that his father was dead. She spills the beans on her big secret — she unplugged the pastor’s ventilator, but it was Henry’s hands moving through her — and he’s not having it. Instead he heads into the woods, and it’s where the episode risks getting lost there.
He meets the two RV dwellers, Odin Branch (CJ Jones) and Willie (Rory Culkin), and they introduce some sci-fi mumbo jumbo into Henry’s life by way of the the voice of god or the “schisma.” It’s the sound of the universe and of other heres and other nows, and it’s apparently the sound that Henry’s been hearing and mistaking for a simple ringing in his ears. They tell him his dad was well aware of it too and had attempted to build a filter that he never finished. Odin did though, a soundproof cabinet like a flotation tank designed to eliminate all other sounds, and while they milk the scene for several minutes it’s clear as soon as we see the closet-sized room that they’re going to trap Henry inside — and then they do. Talk of alternate worlds/times isn’t a direct connection to Stephen King’s books, but it’s enough to perk up your ears and think about titles like The Dark Tower, The Talisman, and others. Could there be a real link here, or is this just a similarly themed plot thread? King’s multiverse is spread out far enough that the show could very well touch on it directly without interfering with his own creations, but if the series goes that far could it take one more step by drawing a connection between the Kid’s evil interests and a certain Randall Flagg?
Alan is on a scavenger hunt searching for something for the Kid. The mystery man struck a deal with Alan saying that he can heal Ruth in exchange for the car that Warden Lacy killed himself in, so Alan heads out of town in search of it. He’s desperate, something we already knew, but seeing him pull a gun on a complete stranger to help the woman he loves just drives it home. The desperation will return once he gets back home to Castle Rock.
The Kid is a fairly calm presence throughout the episode, but his influence is continuing to make itself known. After Henry drops him off at Juniper Hill it’s not long before we hear a radio report about a fire at the mental hospital. Some patients are dead, others have escaped, and you only get one guess which group the Kid falls under. It’s this event, combined with the distracted absences of Henry and Alan, that leads to the episode’s disturbing denouement. The Kid returns to the last home he knew, Ruth’s. We see her scared expression, and later when Alan finally returns home it’s to a bloody kitchen in disarray.
It will be pretty damn unfortunate if Ruth is killed off here as Spacek was finally getting to stretch a little as the character. The evidence suggests that’s the case, but I’m not sure I buy this as the Kid’s modus operandi is it? Things happen around him, but he doesn’t typically do the dirty work himself, so my guess (my hope) is that there’s some other explanation. His arm is bleeding so it could be his blood — a defensive wound? — as Ruth struck out against him.
References! Quotes! Questions!
- “Time is her enemy.”
- The show’s animal death toll continues as a bird crashes head first into the ground in front of the Kid.
- This “schisma” business is the closest yet the show has come to feeling like Lost. I’m not yet convinced that’s a good thing.