Episode two and the plot has surely thickened. There is just a ton of information thrown at us this episode, so I’m going to attempt to approach this in as linear a fashion as possible, and I’ll beg your indulgence – I’m feeling my way. But we have a framing device this episode, so let’s start with that.
Warden Lacy (who despite his untimely demise last episode seems like a presence who will be felt throughout the show) is speaking about the town itself; its string of unfortunate incidents, which he no longer views so much as bad luck, as a sort of curse. But Lacy, it turns out, speaks to God. And more importantly, God speaks back. And tells him that the devil is in Castle Rock, and where to find him, and how to cage him. Given what we learned last episode, it’s not a big leap; Skarsgard is the devil. Jump to:
The carnage that Mystery Guard (who I am certain has a name, but I’ll be damned if I caught it) witnessed last episode is proven to be a hallucination (or IS it?) in that when he examines the ward, nothing is amiss. I’m not saying Skargard has some sort of psychokinetic powers, but I’m also not not saying that… anyway. Skarsgard is a bit of a thorn in the new warden’s side; she doesn’t want to deal with the bureaucratic implications of this strange creature having been kept prisoner with no records or known identity for question mark years. A lackey very helpfully offers to dispose of Skarsgard for her, and to that end, puts him in a cell with a big, skinhead, Nazi motherfucker. Two things are immediately clear: the hope and belief here is that the skinhead will destroy this pretty, fey, delicate seeming man, toot suite, and: it’s really stupid to believe that, and Skarsgard is going to go sickhouse on his ass. Which is essentially what happens when skinhead makes an advance on Skarsgard. Skarsgard – saying his second line of the series so far – tells him he doesn’t want to touch him, and skinhead smirks – sure he does! The next we, as viewers, know, skinhead is being removed, all kinds of dead, from their cell. The autopsy reveals that he is riddled with really noxious cancer. Psychokinetic powers… I’m looking at you… Skarsgard is then thrown outside briefly (presumably by Mystery Guard – more on him in a moment), where he makes quick contact with Henry, who offers to be his lawyer before Skarsy is dragged back inside. Alright, that is thread one. Thread two!
Henry is doing the rounds, trying to find out here and there what he can, primarily about what the hell was going on with Warden Lacy. He goes to the warden’s old church, and finds out that Lacy was rather reclusive and would drop off the Missus at church, then retreat to the woods alone. The pastor of the church is one of the few people in town who bothers being decent to Henry, and we learn that he runs a sort of prison outreach that pairs local community members with inmates. Henry goes to see Mrs. Lacy, who, it turns out is blind, and we learn a few important things: 1) The warden was obsessed with this Bible passage about bathing the prisoners, then baptizing them. He has a million or so “page a day” calendars with just that page. 2) There was a giant dog attack in Castle Rock. Ahem. 3) A further expression of the town’s views of Henry – in addition to being an outsider (he was adopted, he is the only person of color we have seen in this town full of honkies), they view him as a murderer, responsible for his father’s death. 4) And weirdest… there’s a big-ass padlock on the door to the Lacy’s basement. What the hell is he keeping down there? Once the Widow Lacy gets wise and hostile to Henry’s identity, he leaves, and heads to a bar where the Shawshank guards go to drink. He meets Jackie Torrance (?!) there, and they kibbutz a bit. He finds out the town’s party line is that he lured his father out to the frozen lake and killed him. Henry reveals that his father was killed at home – why he knows that, how he knows that, is not established.
I would like, very quickly, to break my flow, to address a concern I have going into literally every Stephen King property, and that I really hope Castle Rock doesn’t indulge in. King really loves to lean into the trope of children being molested by their parents. It happens in It, it happens in Dolores Claiborne, it happens in Gerald’s Game, and I would hazard a guess that it happens in any number of his stories I haven’t read or have just forgotten. It is a cheap, lazy, and frankly exploitative device, that he does not understand how to wield with any respect. Usually he reserves this treatment for women, because he has no idea how else to develop their characters. All of which is to say: I really hope that Castle Rock doesn’t go in the direction of having young Henry be molested by his father.
But back to the story. Henry sends a message on a napkin to Mystery Guard then heads home. He has some words with Alan – who is definitely still a butthole, but maybe not as terrible a butthole as I initially thought. Or maybe worse. It could go either way – about the fact that he is digging up the corpse of a dog that Henry’s mother used to feed, to prove that she is dead (we know the dog is female because Alan refers to her as a bitch, which while technically correct, does little to mitigate my contempt for him). Mystery Guard contacts Henry and they have a little chat, in which MG establishes that he absolutely will not be deposed by a judge, and that only an act of God could get Henry into the prison. We all see where this is going. Henry, of course, signs up with the pleasant pastor and gets into Shawshank, which is when and where he sees Skars. Alright, thread two, we’re done with you
Thread three. Melanie Lynsky has a name! It’s Mollie, and she’s great, and also I was absolutely right that she and Henry had some sort of connection as kids. It seems she had a pretty big crush on him. Now, as an adult, she’s sort of struggling with drugs and either psychic powers or a personality disorder, and since this is a King property, I think we can make a reasonable guess about which one. Thread three, you were short.
The episode ends with us realizing the framing device was, in fact, a letter that Lacy had written to Alan, saying that he should make sure Skars never gets out. Interesting, given that Lacy also told Skars who to ask for WHEN he gets out.
A stray note, that I have no absolute certainty what to do with. Bush Senior was mentioned twice in this episode… which seems like once too many to be a passing nothing mention. I’m not sure what it possibly portends but I wonder if we will be hearing more from him.
Ok, so! Episode two in King references: Cujo, as previously mentioned. Another incident mentioned in the town was that they found a body beside the train tracks, which I assume is a Stand by Me reference. And in the opening credits, I caught a reference to Misery and the phrase “Redrum”, which is, of course a reference to The Shining – as is Jackie Torrance. Who the hell is Jackie Torrance?