“It wasn’t me. It was this place. That’s what we say. But that’s a story, too. It doesn’t change a thing…”
“Maybe something turned you into a monster. Or maybe you were one all along.”
So ends the first season of Castle Rock, which leaves us with more questions than resolutions as we see the hero of the story, André Holland’s Henry Deaver, becoming the thing we’ve come to fear from this story — the misguided captor.
Bill Skarsgård’s alternate-universe Henry Deaver, previously known only as the prisoner with no name, is back in his cage beneath the now abandoned Shawshank Prison, and all seems to be right with the world, which is an abrupt shift from a climax soaked in bloodshed.
Creators Sam Shaw and Dusty Thomason are clearly setting us up for season 2 of the Hulu series with a leap forward that is meant to elicit curiosity, even if it leaves the Constant Watcher with unresolved questions.
It starts with Warden Lacy considering an execution of the mystery man, but he can’t bring himself to pull the trigger. Later, Holland’s Deaver will find himself in the same position, which leads him to return the mystery man to his prison rather than risk him spreading the malevolent power he can harness any further than he already has.
All the mystery man Deaver wants is to go back to his own dimension, his own timeline, and his own life.
“To you, we’re strangers,” he tells Molly. “But I’ve known you all my life. I need your help to convince Henry to go out there with me. He hears the sound. I think it’s some kind of door from one world to the other.”
She agrees to talk to Holland’s Henry, and Skarsgård’s Henry says he’ll be waiting at the Harmony Hill Cemetery, visiting his own grave — the marker that reads on “Deaver Boy,” died before he could even be named.
Holland’s Henry is driving back from the slaughter at the bed & breakfast when his windshield is dive-bombed by kamikaze crows. That leads him to crash his car and pass out for a while.
Molly finds Ruth on the bridge, again poised to jump. She tries to talk the older woman down, but Ruth just wants to go.
“Alan’s dead, Alan’s alive. I’ve been here before. I’ll be here again. You and me on the bridge,” Ruth says.
“Let’s go home,” Molly tells her.
“You always say that. Every time.”
Molly decides to tell her what she’s learned, about the other Henry, and the other timeline. The happier one. “You left Matthew, and you went away with Alan. You already had a bag packed.”
This gets Ruth’s attention. “First time you’ve said that,” she tells Molly.
Warden Porter goes home that night and finds some soap flecks in her house. The mystery man has paid her a visit and left behind a tiny sculpture of her.
The warden goes to Molly’s office the next day, demanding to know where she can find the mystery man.
“Warden Lacy was right. He’s the devil,” she says, and something in her tone alarms Molly.
“Are you all right. Do you need to come in and sit down?” Molly asks, but the warden walks away.
And she is promptly crushed by a bus, which is transporting prisoners from Shawshank now that the penitentiary has been shuttered due to the corruption and violence that has taken place there.
Holland’s Deaver has a flashback of his father in the woods. “I know you don’t hear it. I know why you don’t. I figured out the problem. She’s the problem, she’s forced you to deceive me, the way she has deceived me for the past year with the sheriff.”
Henry’s father tells the boy, “When she’s gone we will live pure in the cathedral of his voice.”
The minister quotes Romans 6:23, which also gives this finale episode its name: “For the wages of sin is death.” He’s going to murder Ruth.
That’s why, later, we see the reverend looking for his son, standing at the edge of Castle Lake (the same spot where Warden Lacy killed himself) and Henry emerges from the woods to push his father to the bottom. It wasn’t self-defense exactly, but now we know he was protecting his mother the only way he knew how.
When he awakens, he goes to Molly who tells him the story of how the mystery man is Henry Deaver from another timeline. “He thinks the door is open right now, and he doesn’t know how long it will stay open.”
“We need to turn him in,” Holland’s Deaver says.
“You’re not going to help him?” she asks.
We already know the answer to that. Henry is also shocked to see that Wendell has returned to Castle Rock after being sent away on a bus. He’s now at the police station after having discovered the murder scene of Odin in the woods by his mobile home.
Willie, the translator who most likely killed Odin, is giving testimony about what happened. Henry asks Wendell why he returned and is stricken by the answer. “It was a sound,” his son says. “There’s a sound out there in the woods, Dad. It’s like a hum. I couldn’t stay on the bus. I had to get closer.”
The racist sheriff then calls Henry in for “a word.” She says Willie has told the police Henry had a fight with the victim shortly before his murder. She puts Henry in a cell, and soon his is joined by the other Henry, arrested at his own grave in the cemetery.
“I don’t know how much time we have left,” Skarsgård Henry says. “If the sound stops, I think I could be stuck here. As long as I’m here, things will get worse. People will die.”
So his malevolence is not intentional. “I can’t stop it. I’m not supposed to be here.” But we learn he can control it.
When the busload of stranded Shawshank prisoners is brought into the jail while they await transport to their next facility, Skarsgård Henry uses his power to make them brawl with each other, then seize the guards and unleash a wave of slaughter that spills out into the office of the sheriff and into the streets of Castle Rock.
They find a mortally wounded Willie. He warns Holland Henry not to go out, but Skarsgård Henry forces him to leave at gunpoint. While fireballs rise from Castle Rock’s downtown area, the two Henry’s venture into the woods toward the site of the Schisma.
This is where Holland Henry sees the flashback of him pushing his father off the cliff, and vanishing into the other dimension. He is only now beginning to discover that he has buried memories of his time in his father’s cage. Skarsgård Henry tells him more of it will return to him in time.
Then the two men end up fighting, and Holland Henry takes control of the gun.
Skarsgård Henry roars at him, and he has the shriveled, corpse-like face of what looked like Henry’s father.
Here, the show stops the action at the climax and flashes us forward one year.
Everything seems bizarrely … normal.
Henry is practicing law — civil suits, not death penalty cases now. He’s helping a man who has a property dispute over a fenceline that is bisecting the azaleas of Wilma Jercyck.
This is an interesting Easter Egg from the Stephen King universe. Wilma was a major character in Needful Things, one of the first of the townsfolk from Castle Rock to spark a feud with neighbor Nettie Cobb. The two women brawled to the death, but now … apparently, Wilma is alive and well. And tending azaleas.
Although there have been hints of King’s work throughout the series, this is the first acknowledgment that the timeline we’re seeing does not line up with the one from King’s own books.
We see Henry go home to find Wendell at the house, visiting from Boston for the Christmas holiday. They play chess and later Henry visits the grave of his mother, Ruth, who died a few months after the events we’ve seen in the series.
Molly is living in Florida, visiting her grandmother, and running her real estate business from the Keys.
“Everyone in this town has some sin or regret, some cage of his own making. And a story. A sad one, about how we got this way,” Holland Henry tells us in narration.
Then we see him visiting the abandoned Shawshank prison, where he now holds Skarsgård Henry in the cistern.
“After a while you forget. Which side of the bars you’re on,” Henry tells his prisoner.
“That’s’ what Warden Lacy used to say,” the mystery man answers.
As Holland’s Henry climbs the ladder to leave, the figure in the cage adds:
“Look how things turned out for him.”
Then: credits. And surprisingly, a little after-episode sting: Jackie Torrance, reading aloud from what sounds like a true crime book based on the murdering innkeepers (and how she stopped the killer with an axe to the dome.)
“The best place to finish a book is where it started,” she says, suggesting she’ll be headed west to explore some family history, and her murderous uncle Jack Torrance, the tragic villain from King’s The Shining.
The title of her book: Overlooked. Sounds like a hotel reservation is in her future.
And that’s where Castle Rock leaves us until season 2. What happened to Ruth? What happened to the escaped prisoners? Why did the bed & breakfast innkeepers run amok? Who killed Odin? What was the deal with the weirdo barber who had Henry’s police report hidden in his house — and a child-sized lockbox in his backyard?
Castle Rock has always kept its secrets. Looks like it will keep them just a little while longer.