Warning: The following contains spoilers for the season 1 finale of Hulu’s Castle Rock. Read at your own risk!
Maybe the Kid (Bill Skarsgård) was always a monster; maybe Castle Rock made him one. Either way, in the season 1 finale of Castle Rock, Henry (André Holland) chooses to lock the Kid back in his cage. It doesn’t matter whether he believes the Kid’s story; it only matters that he protects his town from the Kid’s influence — and he doesn’t need those instructions to be etched in gold and signed by God himself.
Still, did Henry do the right thing? Despite all the proof of the Kid being a monster, should he have heeded Molly’s (Melanie Lynskey) advice and taken him where he wanted to go in the woods? Will Henry be okay staying in Castle Rock with Wendell (Chosen Jacobs), where Ruth (Sissy Spacek) once did with Alan (Scott Glenn)?
More questions remain: Where (and when) else did the schisma lead? What was up with Desjardins (David Selby)? Will the next Shawshank warden survive the gig? And what will Jackie (Jane Levy) find once she delves into her work (and no play) as she heads west to trace her notorious uncle’s footsteps?
In other words… Go then, there are other mysteries than these — and luckily, season 2 of Castle Rock is on its way. Below, co-creators Sam Shaw and Dustin Thomason (Manhattan) break down the final moments of season 1 and hint at what’s to come in season 2.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: As soon as the credits started rolling at the end of episode 9, I thought, “How are they going to wrap all this up with one hour left to go?” There were so many mysteries left to be solved — how did you decide which ones to prioritize?
DUSTIN THOMASON: For us, from the beginning, we were always really excited about the idea of telling a story that takes a guy who defends the people we consider to be monsters, and asking ourselves, “What does it take to get a guy like that to actually become the jailer? To find himself on the exact opposite side of the story?” We always knew that we wanted to end in this moment where André’s Henry Deaver is posed a question, and it’s an answer that has a lot of doubt for him. Does André’s Henry believe this story that’s been told? This incredibly imaginative, true-but-maybe-not-true tale about who Bill Skarsgård’s character is?
Well? Did you, while writing it, believe the Kid one way or the other?
SAM SHAW: We both have a pretty strong point of view about that question, but it ultimately feels like the creative choice was to present the audience with a whole series of uncanny and seemingly inexplicable events over the course of the season, and then to give the Kid the opportunity to provide a kind of Rosetta Stone that answers some, if not all the questions, and then put the audience into the position of deciding for themselves whether the story is true. I have an opinion, but I would rather not state on the record.
THOMASON: And I will not tell you Sam’s opinion, nor mine. [Laughs]
But both of you have opinions one way or the other.
THOMASON: We do.
SHAW: For sure. And in the early going, when we were talking about what was interesting to us about a town like Castle Rock, one thing we returned to a lot was the idea that the town wouldn’t have one unilateral point of view about the meaning of all the disasters that have rained down on it. It seemed to us that people would probably adapt with narratives to make sense of traumas, so from an early point, it felt to us like the story should be a story that examines storytelling in a way, that examines the kinds of explanations we turn to when we’re faced with events that seem to defy rational explanations.… Life’s most troubling when it is a bit harder to pin down, and many of the genre stories we find most disturbing, including Stephen King stories, are ones that have a lingering sense of unease.
What were your conversations with Bill like, particularly around these final two episodes? Is he leaning one way or the other? That final shot with him smiling seems pretty definitive.
THOMASON: Well, I don’t think that either one of us would feel comfortable speaking for Bill on this, but certainly we’ve had a lot of conversations with him from the beginning. Bill’s committed so incredibly to the idea of a guy who was getting used to light and sound and food for the first time again, and I think we were just amazed by his commitment to that idea that he had spent all that time in the cage.
Does Henry still have any doubt at all about the Kid’s innocence? Even after seeing his face in the woods and everything, it still seems like he’s struggling to accept what he’s done.
THOMASON: Any guy who is a death row attorney is a guy who has a sphere of doubt, of allowing for possibilities. Again, I wouldn’t speak for André in terms of his interpretation of it, but for us, what we felt was we wanted André’s Henry’s experience to be similar to the experience of the audience.
SHAW: I think Henry has decided, based on everything he has seen, that it is less costly to him and to the world and to this town to disbelieve Bill’s Henry Deaver’s, or the Kid’s, story — even naming him reflects a judgment about whether you believe the story is true — but Henry has decided that the costs of not believing are more acceptable than the costs of believing and potentially being wrong. And depending on your interpretation of the story in episode 9, that may either be an ironic and tragic but somewhat heroic sacrifice he’s made, or a significantly darker place to lead this character.
Speaking of naming him, how did the writers’ room define the Kid and keep all that straight? Did you call him by different names? Was it always changing?
SHAW: [Laughs] Yeah, it was like an Abbott and Costello routine. He was always generally “the Kid” to us when we were talking about him.
Would the ending have been different if you hadn’t been renewed for a second season? I know you had written and filmed everything before the news, but did you have something more conclusive ready just in case?
SHAW: There were some editorial choices and some options that might have tied a slightly different kind of bow around this story… but, you know, we were excited to have the opportunity to keep exploring.
THOMASON: Yeah, even if we had gotten word that this is going to be the very last moment, I don’t think that we would have changed anything, because those questions of doubt are so central to the story we were trying to tell.
Let’s talk about that mid-credits tag. What was the genesis of it? Did someone in the writers’ room just read Doctor Sleep, or simply want more Jane Levy?
SHAW: Who doesn’t want more Jane Levy? [Laughs] We all need more Jane Levy in our lives in general.
THOMASON: As Sam was saying before, this season at some level is a story about stories, about narratives, about how we see ourselves. There was always something really fun about the idea of Jackie, who at the beginning of this story finds herself a person without a story, but over the course of it finds herself a story, embellishes on it and makes a drama out of it.
It’s definitely fun to hear her talk about going west, but does this scene have anything to do with the direction of season 2? Where are you with crafting the second season?
SHAW: Here’s where we’ll probably be infuriatingly tight-lipped, but what I would say is that we would sure love to see Jackie explore the Overlook Hotel. Part of the fun of season 2 and beyond will be seeing what some of the questions [will be]. The penultimate episode of this season points to the idea that there are other worlds than these, and in this final tag there’s this sense that there are worlds of Stephen King’s that this show may explore eventually that are more far-flung than the state of Maine.
Will season 2 feature an entirely new cast, or will we potentially see any of these season 1 characters again? Do you know at this point?
SHAW: Part of what we always set out to do from the beginning is tell a new story each season, to see things we haven’t seen before from the point of view of characters we haven’t met before in any season. That said, I think there’s something really terrific with the way Steve handles his anthology and his universe — you see Father Callahan in Salem’s Lot and then you bump up against him again in a huge way in The Dark Tower. The pleasure of finding your way back to stories or characters you’ve seen before in unexpected ways is a huge, exciting advantage of this series. I think it’s something that we can do, and allow it to be an anthology but still embrace stories and characters that we love. It just may not happen in the way that one might expect.
On that note, have you kept up with the theories out there about the season while it was airing? Any chance you could confirm anything? Like, can you definitively call the schisma a “thinny”?
THOMASON: The one thing we can confirm definitively is that Sissy Spacek is not playing a reincarnated Carrie White, which is a theory we’ve seen a lot. Sorry to disappoint. [Laughs] But, look, we’ve loved watching the astonishing support and love for Stephen King that people have brought to the show, and making connections that sometimes we didn’t even make. We have kept up, in a way. I don’t think Sam’s about to tell you that he can confirm that episode 9 means that there’s a thinny in the forest, but all of the writers have been tickled by watching the fans teach us things about Stephen King that we didn’t even know.
Did you have any favorite theories?
SHAW: There’s a certain breed of Castle Rock fans who are just in it for the moment that Bill Skarsgård reveals that he is Pennywise the Dancing Clown, and I had great respect and admiration for the doggedness of that fan base, even if I felt a little bit reluctant about the inevitable dashed hopes.
THOMASON: I think the Carrie one because we joked about it in the writers’ room, about having Alan Pangborn and Carrie White [instead of Ruth] on that tombstone together. It would have been really fun! [Laughs] But alas, it was not to be.
Any characters, arcs, or mysteries you wish you had more time for this season?
SHAW: There definitely were some threads and strands that we talked a lot about in the writers’ room that had to be compressed. We’re reluctant to say too much because there’s a chance for resurrection in a future season. But, look, this cast is so extraordinary, you always wished you could see more of everyone.
THOMASON: Without giving too much away, one of the things we loved about making the show was the fact that, as a result of the extraordinary cast of series regulars we had, we were also able to assemble a sort of Avengers of guest cast as well, and it was really amazing to have the chance to work with David Selby and Frances Conroy and Alison Tolman and have them in smaller roles, but letting each of them shine and ultimately longing for more with all of them. That’s part of what we’re excited for going forward.
With that in mind, I would like to personally demand lines for Mamie Gummer from now on.
SHAW: [Laughs] She was amazing in Manhattan. We were so thrilled to get her to do that little moment for us.
Castle Rock season 1 is now streaming on Hulu.