And so it is, that we humble and curious Castle Rock viewers find ourselves impossibly halfway through the season. The initial three episode dump undoubtedly contributes to the sense of it being abbreviated, but credit where it’s due, the pacing on this show is unspeakable – a well designed, perfectly calibrated metronome, beating steady and reliable rhythms through the course of its freshman season. With our four, dwindling episodes in mind, I can safely say that I am no closer to predicting the endgame than I was at the premiere. Which is high praise; I am a deep and passionate lover of the horror genre, and as with all true love, I want it to achieve its full potential – and feel a deep well of disappointment when it inevitably falls short, and the Final Girl is who you always knew she would be, and the killer has somehow vanished at the end, and your last hope that you were wrong, that there would be a twist, that you would be surprised, maybe this time, falls flat, and you’re left alone with another failed relationship and a half pint of Haagen Dazs. I will leave you to determine which parts of that are metaphorical and which literal, I have faith in you, though I will confess to having to Google the spelling of “Haagen Dazs”. Damn Danes. But Castle Rock is impossible to track. Take this week, for example…
I am not going to give a full and comprehensive synopsis. It has come to my attention that I could hit every plot beat, and it would provide no deeper insight – in fact, it mostly sort of seems like gibberish. So just the high points, then, and their potential impact. This week, Henry finds Skars (nameless, still, if you can believe it. Though also if you can’t) watching old VHS tapes of his father and him going into the woods. It is clearly not a particularly enjoyable sojourn, and yet, Henry decides to roughly recreate it by episode’s end. He goes into the woods (at night?! Why is it always at night!), following roughly the tinnitus that haunts him perpetually. He stumbles onto Rory Culkin (undoubtedly the Emilio Estevez of the Culkin clan – better than Macauley, but he’ll never match Kieran) who it turns out is an interpreter for a wise and sagely seeming deaf man, who used to be on friendly terms with Henry’s adoptive father. I am taking the time to insert the adjective “adopted” here, because if the deaf man in the woods doesn’t turn out to be Henry’s biological father, I will eat my ever loving hat. In addition to the fact that we find out that he also hears or has heard the same high frequency that torments Henry (more on that in a moment), he is the only other person of color we have seen on the show, besides Henry’s son, who comes in from out of town for this episode. I don’t necessarily want to dive too deeply into questions of representation on Castle Rock in this review (although I won’t pretend it isn’t a conversation worth having. I think there is some attempt at notions of commentary on race in the show, and it is weirdly notable that there is clearly some pretty deep consideration given to the prison industrial complex – an institution that disproportionately victimizes black men – delivered through a prison full of white guys. There’s something going on there, and I can’t quite tell if it is extremely intentional or just poorly conceived. That is a conversation for a different day), but it is worth noting, independently of my parenthetical, that if the town is exclusively white, save Henry, that there’s a good chance that the only other black man on the show is Henry’s never before seen biological father. Particularly as there seem to be indications that Henry is of Castle Rock – not an outsider in that respect.
But for as much as we undoubtedly have come to love and value Henry as a character, he makes a decision so fundamentally stupid this episode that it almost makes the point where his maybe daddy offers to deafen him with a red hot poker seem like a better alternative. Our clever friend believes that what he and Henry hear is the voice of God, and that the only way to hear it better and clearer is to shut out all other noise (thus the deafening by poker, which we learn he has done to himself). There is a slightly less third-degree-burny option, however, and that is the weirdly soundproofed room in his trailer. Henry steps into it to look around, and we all know with absolute certainty and clarity that his new buddy is going to close and lock the damn door on him. Why in the world doesn’t Henry? Is this poor writing or an indication that maybe Henry is more open to the possibilities of what he might figure out in that room – a sort of last ditch desperation – than we might have thought? Uncertain. I suspect this way lies madness.
In non-Henry related stories, Ruth explains to Henry’s son – the unfortunately named Wendell – that she leaves the chess pieces from her fancy set in strategic locations to anchor her to reality, a sort of totem to keep her tethered to the present, in the midst of her dementia. I previously stated that I thought there was the possibility of overlapping timelines, and my confidence in that assertion is only growing. I’m not prepared to bet the farm on it, but maybe my prized pig. We’ll see what next week brings. She and Skars meet up towards the end. What exactly happens between them is nebulous; Alan comes home to find Skars sitting on the outside wall, covered in blood that could belong to either him or someone else. Alan rushes into a house in disarray, and we cut to black before we can see if Ruth is ok. But let’s be realistic. She’s not. Whether she perishes or survives, something bad has clearly happened.
And that’s where we’re at, friends. These last four episodes have a hell of a lot of ground to cover, and a vast array of loose ends to bound. Let’s see what they can do.