This is a disturbing episode that leaves the audience with a lot to think about. We lose some characters, gain some characters, and begin to learn who some of the others really are. We also learn some things we wish we didn’t know.
It’s hard to say which box is meant to be the titular box in this episode full of sinister and confining boxes. There’s the box containing Henry’s police file, which Pangborn tried to conveniently lose many years before as part of a deliberate cover up. There’s Matthew Deaver’s coffin, which makes a grand entrance through town on the back of a truck, straight past his widow, who definitely didn’t want to see him back in town.
There’s the many boxes that make up the prison, from the cells to the surveillance room to the camera monitors to the watchtowers. There’s the boxes that Zalewski and the other guards will be buried in. And the wooden box that Josef Desjardins has in his backyard with a cereal bowl and spoon locked inside that could have held Henry, Kid, or both at some point.
Then there are all of the mental and metaphorical boxes that the characters put themselves and each other in. Zalewski asked how one town can look the other way so much. The answer is partially that they all live in boxes with high walls and no windows. They avoid climbing up high enough to look over the top to check on anyone else.
As long as they feel comfortable in their own box, the townspeople don’t feel a need to worry about others, even when it becomes clear that something bad is happening. They think the prisoners deserve their prison, and their children won’t turn out any better. They judge everyone for the smallest of offenses. The man who doesn’t shovel his own walk is surely a good-for-nothing sinner.
The box that I’m most upset about is the box with the breast pump that Zalewski referred to in episode 2. He was a devoted father to be when we met him, but his wife and baby have been forgotten by the character and the show. His shooting spree will leave his widow and child pariahs in Castle Rock in the same way that Henry has been all these years.
They won’t get any life insurance money or any kind of settlement from the prison, since he was the shooter. He abandoned them in favor of his obsession. I hope the show doesn’t decide that he shot up the prison because he was concerned about what kind of world he was bringing his child into. That would be the height of irony and another ridiculously clichéd trope.
This is also the second time that a male character has staged a dramatic death scene and left behind family members who need him. The show hasn’t told us what happened to Martha Lacy, other than that she’s selling her house. The pregnant wife and the blind wife are plot devices in service of the male characters’ stories, only referred to when it will move other characters’ stories forward.
The episode opens with Henry asleep in his freakishly preserved childhood bedroom. Seriously, didn’t his tastes change past the age of 11? I get the feeling that he’s psychologically frozen in one moment in time, the moment when he appeared in the middle of Castle Lake after being missing for 11 days.
He has no conscious past, and he hasn’t really moved forward. Sure he’s a (successful?) attorney, but he’s dedicated himself to clients whose stories are metaphorically similar to his own. There doesn’t appear to be anyone in Texas that’s calling him and missing him, so no close relationships, not even with his own son. He’s stuck in a loop, both running away from and toward that lake and bedroom, where his nightmares live.
He’s having nightmares now. Matthew calls out to him, “Henry, where’d you go? Where’d you go, son?” His voice is full of concern. A bright light flashes in Henry’s face, we see parts of a metal cage. We see the rest from 11 year old Henry’s perspective: looking down at his legs and the ground, he’s sitting on a dirt floor in the metal cage in a dark room; there’s a thick rope twined outside of the cage; Henry plays in the dirt with a vintage toy metal car, still in the cage; hinges creak, across the room, someone comes down stairs with a flashlight; camera wipe and the person comes closer; camera wipe and they come downstairs again; camera wipe and a similar figure is lurking in Henry’s bedroom door.
The stairs suggest Henry’s in a basement or bomb shelter. Those are popular lately. Maybe they’ll go with an homage to Sissy Spacek’s movie Blast from the Past, and she’ll be the mother of the antiChrist this time.
The dirt floor suggests that it’s another very old house, like Molly’s. When did she say her serial strangler died? There are undoubtedly a number of old houses in the area. Molly might know many of them, from being a realtor, and be able to help Henry figure out which house it is, if it isn’t Dale Lacy’s house.
From the person’s build, it appears to be a thin man wearing loose fitting pants- could be Pangborn, Lacy or Josef Desjardins, who we’ll meet soon. It could also conceivably be Ruth, or another woman with a slim build. We don’t know when Martha Lacy was blinded, and she has a very suspicious basement, so I think we can count her as a suspect. Let’s face it, everyone in town over the age of 35 is a suspect.
Henry startles awake and looks for the looming character, but no one is there.
Zalewski arrives at work to the rhythm of Tom Waits “Clap Hands”. He looks up at the watch tower and at the guards drinking before work. Then he goes to the closet with the surveillance monitors. In a distinct gender norm reversal, the female coworker that he’s relieving tells him to smile. Zalewski puts on a fake smile. His coworker will turn this into a form of harassment over the course of the episode, finding a new way to tell Zalewski to smile everyday.
If this is a huge problem for guys, please, readers, let me know. Being expected to look and sound happy and nice at all times is a real issue for women. It affected our last presidential election. We are told to smile all the time, even by strangers, so that they don’t have to face the fact that we aren’t happy and are being mistreated. I was literally fired from a job once by a boss who told me I didn’t look happy in the halls of the school I was teaching in, so he was sure I wouldn’t mind losing my job. The way Castle Rock is using this is appropriation of a women’s issue, but for whatever reason, we’re not allowed to call it that. Women aren’t even counted as a distinct enough class to have issues that can be appropriated. But “resting b*tch face” wasn’t made up to apply to men.
Reese pays a visit to Kid to try some personal intimidation. It’s kind of hilarious, really. He hasn’t learned enough about Kid to realize how long Kid was locked up and how limited Kid’s knowledge of the world is, so his big weapons of Northeast Correctional’s backing from an evil corporate empire with corporate personhood that supersedes any human personhood, and stories of the torture he took part in during big bad overseas wars, making him an accomplished torturer, largely go over Kid’s head. But Kid is a victim, and knows a threat when he sees it.
By the time Reese gets right down in Kid’s face and threatens to feed him his own teeth (in a plausibly deniable way, of course), Kid has Reese’s number. Kid quotes Revelation 19:13: He has a name written on Him which no one knows except Himself. He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called the Word of God.
Kid speaks with authority about clothing dipped in blood, and as he speaks, he slowly rises to his feet, then backs Reese out of his cell. Reese is not just intimidated by Kid, but outright afraid of his intense stare and slow, looming movements. Once Reese is clear of the cell door, Kid closes himself in and sits down on his bed quietly.
Remember the Hogwarts motto, kids: Never tickle a sleeping dragon. Or, don’t be stupid.
It took watching homeschooled little white boys raised by feminists grow up, then go out into the world and become drunk on the power that was suddenly offered to them, for me to fully appreciate just how much men and boys, in a descending hierarchy according to class, race and sexuality, are seduced by our culture into misogyny. Middle and upper class white men are literally told from their time in the womb that they rule the world, from clues as subtle as tone of voice and placement in advertising to ones as obvious as watching the leaders of our country.
The result of that is Reese and the prison guards. Reese and most of the guards are so sure of their places in the world that they don’t question Kid’s place. As Porter said, he’s in the prison, apparently put there by the previous warden. That’s all they need to know. Porter and Zalewski are the only ones asking questions. Porter is still corrupt and self-serving, but she’s also self-aware. Zalewski has come to self-awareness because of Kid, and it’s eating him from the inside out.
Treating Kid like he’s just another prisoner is maybe not the best idea, as has been demonstrated multiple times now.
Pangborn and Henry drive up to Augusta to find Matthew’s grave and arrange for it to be moved back to Castle Rock. Pangborn has never visited the new location before. He shows his sadistic side by playing the Gene Pitney song that he was playing the night he found Henry, claiming it’s stuck in the stereo. Then he switches to a conservative talk radio station, where a caller is saying that all liberals are really socialists, implying that’s a terrible thing.
Pangborn asks what judge Henry’s drawn for Kid’s hearing, and looks at Henry like he’s a loser when Henry says one hasn’t been assigned yet. Does that mean that no one wants to take the case?
The new burial site has a form to fill out and a can of orange spray paint to mark the grave they want moved. The graves are in a mass burial plot on an undeveloped section of land with small metal markers for each grave. It’s about what an unclaimed body would get. I don’t think there’s any guarantee that Matthew’s casket will be the one they dig up.
Henry says they have a week to deliver the casket. He’ll be gone by then, and he’s taking his mother with him. Moving the body is just a matter of principle to him. There won’t be family there who care, and he won’t have a reason to go back once Ruth isn’t there. Maybe that’s why he’s so intent on it. One last gesture to see his father squared away properly before he leaves Castle Rock behind for good.
Henry’s found an elder care facility for Ruth in Houston. When Pangborn balks at the change, Henry reminds the sheriff that Ruth is his legal responsibility. Pangborn offers to marry Ruth so he can take over legal power of attorney. Henry points out that she’s already too far gone to legally consent to much of anything.
Pangborn scoffs at Henry and calls him ungrateful. Henry asks what he’s supposed to be grateful for, Pangborn finding him in the woods? They both know that Pangborn was only out there looking for Henry because of Ruth.
Henry: How long has it been going on with you two anyway? 30 years?
Pangborn: Leave it alone.
Henry: Maybe that’s why you sent him up here. Did he know? About you two?
Pangborn doesn’t answer, just gives Henry a long look and walks away. Henry paints a big orange X on the camera lens in place of the ground.
Pangborn goes back to Ruth’s house alone, and has a coded conversation with her about potentially moving to Texas to escape the cold winters and be closer to Henry. She figures it out about halfway through, and is adamant that she wants to stay in Castle Rock and die with her boots on, like a Viking Shield Maiden.
Henry meets Molly at the Mellow Tiger Bar/Grill/Bowling Alley, where he tells her about the prison’s $300k settlement offer. She’s surprised that he’s not taking the offer, but Henry explains that if they accept the offer, they have to accept the prison’s version of the story. “It goes from being a kidnapping to a clerical error.”
Molly says that people thought Henry had been kidnapped, too, which is interesting wording. Matthew took him voluntarily from the house, but being held captive anywhere, anytime is still kidnapping. You don’t have to be moved or taken, just held against your will. Is she implying that she knows Henry was staying someplace voluntarily during the rest of 11 days?
Henry has flashes from his nightmare, with a couple of added images. Molly asks where he went, and he says he has brief daydreams sometimes. Molly says she sees things sometimes, too. Henry asks what she sees. Molly says it’s hard to explain. “Pictures from the past, people, guilty dysphoric day dreaming.”
Henry is dismissive of her, again, and says, “What in the world do you have to feel guilty for, Molly Strand?” Combined with deciding he can make unilateral decisions about his mother, Henry really doesn’t seem to see the women in his life as separate people with lives of their own. He thinks they sit on a shelf and gather dust while he’s not around. It’s a common problem for men and narcissists.
Molly starts to confess, but she’s interrupted by Zalewski. He’s tracked Henry down with an urgent matter to discuss.
Henry: What’s this?
Zalewski: I had to draw it from memory ’cause the f**kin’ cages are gonna be sank at the bottom of the Atlantic, most likely. Looked like that, though. (He shows Henry a hand drawn diagram of Kid’s cage. Henry looks confused.) Come on, it’s evidence. Listen, listen- Lacy, Lacy’s the tip of the f**kin’ Ice Capades here. The other night I saw one of out LTs blind a prisoner with delousing powder on purpose. The place is…You don’t know what it’s like, hearing those doors lock behind you. I didn’t even see it until I found that f**kin” tank, but I’m a… I’m a prisoner in there, too. And the jury needs to see what’s happening in there.
Henry: But there is no jury.
Henry: It’s a hearing. There’s a judge. No jury. And we need to focus on the facts of this case. You get emotional, you’re gonna seem like a disgruntled employee.
Zalewski: I am a f**king disgruntled employee.
Henry: You cannot be a disgruntled employee at the hearing. One week. I’ll see you there. All right.
Zalewski: You know how they always say that Castle Rock has some kind of luck? Not really luck though, is it? Bad sh*t happens here because bad people know they’re safe here. How many times can one f**kin’ town look the other way?
At work, Zalewski stops to visit Kid. He reassures Kid that they’re both getting out of Shawshank soon, and that in the meantime Zalewski is watching Kid through the cameras. Then he shows Kid how to do a fist bump. The music gets all ominous when they touch.
Zalewski takes a marker and draws happy faces on the monitor screens.
Henry goes through newspaper archives looking for stories on Dale Lacy, but then he finds stories on himself. He’s especially interested in one on Vince Desjardins, who lived near the lake.
Henry asks Ruth about Vince Desjardins. She tells him that DesJardins’ wife and baby died in childbirth. She refuses to discuss anything specific to Henry’s case. Henry tries to get his mom to talk about what happened to him, asking why they never have. Ruth deflects away from the topic by bringing up his plan to take her to Texas and attacking him. She sounds like he’s planning to send her away alone and she makes it absolutely clear that she won’t go anywhere with him. She’s gutting fish while they talk, and waves her knife in his face. I think she gutted Henry, too.
She clearly needs to live in the wild rather than the captivity of an institution, and she has the right to decide that, but she didn’t need to crush her son’s soul in the process. Mainers aren’t terribly warm people, as a culture, but Ruth and Pangborn are also protecting secrets and have been using Henry to do it for a long time.
Molly, as the town go-getter and hot shot realtor, is showing the Lacy house to a couple from Des Moines who are looking to make a fresh start, and have inexplicably chosen Castle Rock. She’s putting the best spin possible on the house as she surreptitiously hides the evidence that a member of the household recently died. When she comes to Dale’s cremains, she thinks quick and shoves them in the freezer, but the husband soon finds them there. Molly decides the best course of action is to come clean.
Molly explains that she technically doesn’t have to disclose, since Dale didn’t kill himself on the property. She continues, saying that the town has a long history and it’s reflected in the houses. A serial strangler died in her house and she sleeps great at night. Not all of its history is good, but the town is affordable, it doesn’t get overrun by tourists in summer, and downtown is about to undergo a revitalization that will raise property values.
Gordon, who is a history professor, has been staring at one of Dale’s paintings as she’s been speaking. He asks if the sellers would include the art. He’s taken by a painting of Castle Lake. Is there something about the history of the area that’s drawn them there? Is he researching a book?
Meanwhile, out at Castle Lake…Henry drives out to talk to whoever he can find at the old Desjardins place.
In a true show of either bravery or stupidity, he goes alone. I know horror movies exist in this universe, because Ruth had The Twilight Zone playing when Alan returned from Augusta. I shouldn’t have to keep warning these people to avoid cliché situations.
The house is, of course, falling down. A piano has fallen through the 2nd floor ceiling and now lives on the first floor. There’s an old barbershop pole in front of the house. It appears that someone still lives in the cleaner sections of the house.
And there’s a locked wooden box out behind the house, that’s maybe 5’x5’x3′, just about the right size for a child. Henry breaks the rusted padlock and finds an old bowl and spoon, filled with unrecognizable rotted food. The box is empty otherwise, except for bits of debris.
Henry has to take a minute after discovering the box is empty. How many kid cages can one town have?
While he’s taking deep breaths, David Selby pulls into the driveway. This casting won’t be good news for Henry, but I’m always happy to see the actor. He asks if Henry’s from the IRS, then mistakes him for a barbershop customer. He has a running bit about having given a “high and tight” to pro boxer Sonny Liston back in the day.
Henry interrupts and finds out that this is Josef Desjardins, not Vince. Henry asks about Vince’s sealed felony record. Josef says that Sonny took off the thumb and forefinger, that was it. After a moment, Henry gathers that Josef is talking about insurance fraud.
Henry begins asking what Desjardins knows about his disappearance when Desjardins suddenly recognizes him and reacts with glee. It’s a marvelous piece of acting from Selby. He leads Henry upstairs, and we discovers Desjardins is also a hoarder. In the bedroom, Desjardins pulls out a musty old box, then fishes out a file folder. It’s the police file from Henry’s disappearance.
The county clerk told Henry that the file had been destroyed. Desjardins explains that Pat Kelly saved some files from destruction so that the town’s history wouldn’t be lost. She kept the files in her basement, but then her pipes burst, and the files ended up at the dump. Desjardins saved them.
Henry asks if Vince had a dog who lived in the wooden crate when he lived in the house. Josef explains that even though he told Henry that he inherited the house, he’s the one who’s always lived there. Vince owned the house, but was in prison, then moved South when he got out.
Josef moves on to lament that he never got Vince’s finger bones back from the police after they searched his house when Henry was missing. Then he shares a fantastic conspiracy theory that I really wish were true. It’s almost true– 20th century nuclear bomb testing does allow for radio carbon dating of birth and death dates for people born since the mid-20th century, but not with the kind of precision he’s talking about. And the level of usefulness for this testing is decreasing as carbon-14 levels return to normal.
Henry asks why Josef saved the police file. Josef wanted to see what they said about him, after the huge fuss the police made when they did the search. He gets close and looks Henry straight in the eyes to say, “You know, I never touched you.”
Okay, but did you put him in a box for a while, or know anyone who had a cage in their basement? That wasn’t a definitive statement of innocence. In fact, it sounded like he potentially meant he didn’t sexually abuse Henry while holding him captive. Is Josef so interested in Henry’s case because he’s a conspiracy buff and thinks that there’s more to it than Pangborn’s investigation shows or because he’s more involved with it?
Matthew Deaver’s casket is dug up and vacuum sealed in plastic before being loaded into the back of a pickup truck for its ride back to Castle Rock. When Henry gets home from Josef’s house, Ruth snaps at him to take off his shoes so that his father doesn’t get angry. Henry keeps moving, since his goal is to confront Alan, who’s in the backyard repairing an ancient fence.
Henry wants to know why Alan didn’t take the investigation into his father’s fall and his disappearance further. He tells Alan that he’s seen the police file, and he knows that Alan didn’t try very hard to solve the case.
Alan: I know, Henry. I’ve always known. He told me.
Alan: Day before he died. Right there in that room.
Henry: My father?
Alan: He was half dead, but still awake. Had that f**kin’ tube down his throat so he wrote it out for me on a godd*mn bank slip. All capital letters. “Henry did it.”
Alan: Just the two of us in that room. The next morning, the good reverend is dead. Of course I had to look like I was doing my f**kin’ job. Gin up a theory or two, keep the DA guessing, make sure he didn’t get the balls to charge with everybody looking at you the way they did.
Henry: That’s a lie. F**kin’ unbelievable. This is about my mother, isn’t it. And the home.
Alan: Home? You’re gonna dump her in a parking lots for half-wits, and you call that a home?
Henry: You’re just a bitter old man.
Alan: You’re the one who dug up Desjardins. I’m just out here trying to keep this fence from falling down.
This looks bad for Henry, but we also have Ruth, who’s so agitated she thinks it’s 30 years ago. Alan’s trying to keep the fence from falling down, which has been his role in Ruth’s life for 30 years. But is the fence meant to keep the monsters out, or in?
Something to do with Desjardins is very scary to both Alan and Ruth, scary enough for them to pull out the big deflection guns and for Ruth to then retreat into the time inside her mind before things got so complicated. Henry brings up his disappearance and Desjardins to Ruth, and she waves a knife in his face. He brings up the police file and Desjardins to Alan, and suddenly Alan’s compelled to confess, after almost 30 years of silence, that Matthew told him Henry did it.
But let’s take a moment to look at what Alan said- It was just the two of them in that room, Matthew with a tube down his throat, and the next morning, Matthew was dead. Alan had to keep the DA from bringing charges.
But why? Why did he have to keep the DA from bringing charges? The implication is that he didn’t want to testify against Henry. But it was just the two of them, Alan and Matthew, in that room. No one else knew about the note. Why go to such great lengths and commit so many other crimes to cover up Henry’s supposed guilt, when all he had to do was forget that the note ever existed?
There were no witnesses to Matthew’s actual fall except Matthew and whoever pushed him. The only other direct evidence would be what Matthew told Alan. With that gone, you’re looking at convicting a child of trying to kill his father, and we haven’t been given any motive for why he’d want to go that far. Obviously this is a sick town that could do anything, but they don’t need Pangborn’s testimony to give them permission to lynch a black boy, or man.
Alan also said that the tube was down Matthew’s throat. It wasn’t. It was attached to a tracheotomy. Conscious people aren’t usually (or ever?) intubated through the mouth like he’s talking about. That’s a big mistake for someone whose story is based on small details. He had to help Matthew write his note, so he had to be aware of his physical condition. And he’s the sheriff. Accurate observation should be second nature.
For that matter, could Matthew even write a note at all with his injuries? Wasn’t he flat on his back and very immobile? How would he have seen what he was writing? He could have mouthed words though, and someone could have lipread a message. But that’s not what Pangborn said.
I think the most important part of Alan’s confession is that the next morning, Matthew was dead. He’d been stable. Why did he die then? We know, but they didn’t. Any trial or real investigation would call in his doctor to explain Matthew’s injuries and why and how he died when he did. Except it can’t be explained without making Ruth look bad. Matthew died when Ruth was alone in the room with him, and after also being alone in the room with Ruth’s lover. That doesn’t look so good for them. Any real investigation would’ve also turned up their affair, and the fact that Pangborn should’ve recused himself from the investigation into Matthew’s injuries and death because he had a conflict of interest.
Charges against Henry would bring too much attention to Ruth and Alan. They wanted everyone to be suspicious of him to take the heat off of them, but they didn’t want to discover where he was during the 11 days, because then he might garner sympathy. They also didn’t want him charged with murder, because then the case would have to be investigated too thoroughly and might expose their guilt. it remains to be seen just how much they’re guilty of, but I can’t get the image of Ruth waving a knife in her son’s face out of my head.
Molly is working in her room, and taking another pill, when she catches Henry’s signal. She hears Alan’s words about Henry’s guilt, with an added line: “A little kid, call him a G*dd*mn killer?” Where did that come from? That sounds like he’s defending Henry.
Molly goes out to wait for Henry on her stoop. He pulls up and pauses for a second as he gets out of the car, maybe surprised to see her there, but beginning to accept that she can see inside his head.
He slowly goes to her, looking lost.
Henry: Maybe I did it. My Father. Out at the lake. Pangborn said that… Back then, did I ever say anything about…
Molly: Whatever happened, it wasn’t your fault. You were just a kid.
Henry: I…I shouldn’t be here. I should’ve never come back to this place.
Molly: Wait. Come on.
She takes his hand and leads him inside. They get ready for bed, but Molly’s in regular pajamas and Henry’s in a Tshirt and underwear, so it looks like the plan is sleep, not sex. While Molly’s in the bathroom, Henry leaves a message on Zalewski’s voice mail. A thunder storm can be heard in the background.
The next day, it’s still pouring when Matthew Deaver returns to Castle Rock. Ruth is on the street and watches the truck pull into the church.
Zalewski gets Henry’s voice mail when he gets to work. Henry explains that he needs to leave town due to family issues, so he’s going to tell Kid to take the settlement and get out of Shawshank now. Henry goes on to talk about the other issues in the prison, but Zalewski cuts off the message. The background music stops when he does. Hope has died.
Zalewski picks up his marker, and for a moment it looks like a gun that he could shoot himself with. He watches the monitor with a sad, wistful look. Guards are beating up prisoners and Henry has arrived in the warden’s office to accept the settlement. Then Henry will run away.
Roy Orbison’s Crying plays over this sequence.
Zalewski marks an X on the monitors where violence is occurring, and the warden’s office, where injustice is occurring. He uses the security code to take a gun from the gun locker. While the song plays, we watch through the monitors as he goes on a shooting spree, making his way through the prison and shooting down the guards in his path. He recreates the images from his vision at the end of episode 1.
Henry, now alone in the warden’s office, stands up to see what’s going on. Boyd comes toward him, yelling at him to sit down. Before Boyd can finish, Zalewski shoots him in the head. His aim’s not so bad after all.
Zalewski enters the office, lowers the gun, and says, in a normal voice, “I want to testify.” A flash-bang drops on the floor and does its thing, and other guards in body armor move in quickly to kill Zalewski.
The last images are of Henry covering his ears and Dennis Zalewski lying dead with his eyes and his mouth wide open.
Too bad no one wanted to listen to him talk about what he’d seen.
Sadly, I think Josef Desjardins might have been the person who was most honest with Henry in this episode, among the still living characters.
I’m kind of in love with the idea of Josef becoming Henry’s new investigative partner now that Zalewski is gone. The guy knows the town, its history, and where not just the bodies, but everything is buried (a significant amount is in his house). He hangs around the lake all the time, and has no love for the sheriff or the prison. As long as he didn’t hold anyone captive, he’s the perfect eccentric choice.
But why do TV and movies always use southern accents as New England accents? It makes me crazy.
The idea that Pangborn is the trustworthy defender of the town is what Metamaiden likes to call a false thesis. So is the concept of the saintly Reverend Deaver, as I’ve said before. Castle Rock, the show, is toying with the audience, as horror shows and psychological thrillers do, setting up one thesis after another, then quickly blowing them apart, to keep the audience off-kilter.
Ruth’s goodness is also questionable. She yelled at Henry to take off his shoes so that his father wouldn’t be upset, but she appears to be quite prickly, herself. Her sharp edges show when Henry is around, and we haven’t seen her in the past yet, which suggests that the show is waiting to reveal something.
As I hypothesized after episode 3, Molly seemed to be in a trance when she disconnected Matthew’s breathing tube, as if she was acting on someone else’s desires. I don’t think Molly was getting her desire to kill Matthew from Henry. We haven’t seen anything like that in Henry, so far. Even with everything that’s been done to him throughout his life, he’s remained a peaceful, calm, rule-follower. He tends to be a non-violent person who’s oriented toward life. He’s devoted his career to saving lives that everyone else has given up on, but there’s no sense that he’s atoning for his sins.
Henry just seems to want to do the right thing and is offended by law enforcement harming innocent people. That makes sense given his history, but his history could have driven him in a lot of different directions, including into addiction and alcoholism, or into the kind of violence we just saw from Zalewski. Devoting one’s life to trying to save other people is a much more unusual response to trauma and injustice, especially for men.
Just as an aside, his orientation toward life also fits with the concept that his power is bringing people back. He brought back one of the dead this week, in a way- Pastor Deavor returned to his parish.
I think that Molly got the images and will to murder Matthew from Ruth. Ruth was already with Alan then and they obviously love each other deeply. She probably felt trapped, living in a small town and married to the beloved preacher. Either she was relieved when she thought Matthew would die, or she pushed him off the cliff herself. He may even have died as he was lying at the bottom of the cliff, and Henry brought him back. Ruth was probably thinking and dreaming about how close she’d come to getting rid of him, and how easy it would still be to off him. She’d probably thought out how she’d do it, and one of the ways was to detach the breathing tube. Molly ended up in a dazed trance from being overwhelmed with Ruth’s obsession.
We know that Ruth has a violent streak. She enjoys ripping fish bodies apart by hand. We know she’s deceptive, since she kept her relationship with Alan from her son for decades. She also had a very strange look on her face when she saw Matthew’s body being brought back into town, like she thought he still might come back to life.
Alan Pangborn also can’t be trusted, and could have influenced Molly’s mind for the same reasons as Ruth. He told Henry that Matthew said, “HENRY DID IT” in order to distract Henry, so that Henry would get out of Ruth and Alan’s business, pure and simple. He wanted to drive Henry out of town again, and that was the fastest way to do it. He may also be directly involved in Matthew’s injuries and death. He certainly has the motive. Or he might be protecting Ruth, assuming she’s the killer.
Matthew was stable before his death. His breathing tube was detached in the morning, and he was dead. To any experienced investigator, it should be obvious that someone took advantage of his vulnerability to off him. What happened that morning, when Ruth woke up and found her husband dead with the tube pulled off? Does anyone but Ruth (and Alan) know how she found him?
“HENRY DID IT” could mean a lot of things. Matthew could have been confused. It was dark, and he may not have seen who pushed him, so he assumed it was Henry. Or it might have been Henry, but someone chased him toward his father, and Henry accidentally stumbled into Matthew. It could be that Henry did something else- he ran away, he got rid of whoever tried to kill them both, he did whatever they went out there to do, he ran for help. Or Henry pushed his father, right after his father tried to kill Henry. The variations are endless.
Pangborn lied when he said that he only pretended to look into Matthew’s death in order to protect Henry. He did it to protect Ruth. He made to sure to find Henry so that he could shift the blame away from Ruth and onto Henry. With Henry back, racism and sensationalism kept the focus on what happened in the woods. Without Henry as a lightning rod, the focus would’ve been on why the pastor died when he’d been doing better, and why his wife slept through his death.
Pangborn did some minimal amount of investigation of Henry’s disappearance and Mathew’s accident, and made sure to make Henry look guilty. There’s a good chance that he didn’t need to do any investigation, because he already knew the truth. Otherwise, he would’ve been concerned about such a violent crime occurring again.
No matter how Matthew ended up at the bottom of the cliff, Henry still disappeared for almost 2 weeks, and there doesn’t seem to have been any place for him to hide without help. Whoever had him would either be an accessory to a crime (maybe obstruction of justice?), or a kidnapper. You’d think Pangborn would want to know who it was so that he could keep an eye on them. You’d think if he were really worried about Henry, he’d officially conclude that Matthew fell off the cliff, to take the heat off of Henry. Instead, he made sure that the case stayed open and unsolved for decades, leaving Henry as the prime suspect in a murder case and fueling the rumors and hatred.
The only person whose intentions I trust is Molly. She’s not without major flaws, but she doesn’t appear to go out of her way to harm others without good reason. She’s generally honest and caring, even when it might not be in her best interests, despite being from Castle Rock.
Molly was able to think her own thoughts and live her own life in this episode, without once becoming overwhelmed by Henry’s presence. Now she picks him up like an occasional phone call, but not like a radio she can’t turn off. Is that due to her increased drug use, her matured brain, or practice? The show hasn’t paid any attention to the change, after making such a big deal of it to begin with.
Henry is so busy running from his memories that he doesn’t have much depth to his personality or much personal energy/empathy left over for other people. He enjoys winning, and being the smartest person in the room, and he’s dedicated to his clients. He likes attention and receiving affection, but he doesn’t know himself, and won’t let anyone else get close enough to really know him. There’s a terrified, traumatized child inside that he’s kept a tight lid on for decades. Sooner or later, the pressure will be too much, and the lid will blow. Kid’s definitely watching for it.
Ruth Deaver is still a bit of an enigma. She’s a minister’s wife who adopted an older black child in an all white, racist town. She’s been having an affair with the sheriff since before her husband died, so more than 30 years now, but the two don’t even officially live together. Henry didn’t even know they were a couple until this visit. Why the secrecy? Was he married until recently?
Ruth enjoys gutting fish with her bare hands and wants to die like a Viking shield-maiden- a warrior. There are a couple of interesting sides to this. On the one hand, what war has Ruth been fighting? Her movements are tense and jerky, like she’s wound up. She had to work to rip the innards out of the fish. I think she has a lot of anger in her. Where in Castle Rock is the war she’s going to die fighting?
On the other, sadder, hand, modern racists and white supremacists identify with Vikings as a superior form of the white race. There have been other, subtle signs that Ruth could be racist, like the rest of the town, and/or that she might not have been happy about adopting Henry.
In the flashbacks to the past, we never see or hear Ruth, except to see her roll over in bed while her husband is murdered, which is another whole problematic issue. So far, Henry is always with Matthew, being called home by Matthew, or reacting to Matthew (being sent to Catholic school, burning the videotape). The only reference we have to Ruth as a mother to young Henry is her memory of making the birthday cake he turned out to be allergic to and vomited up.
When Henry comes home to Castle Rock, Ruth doesn’t just fail to recognize him. She mistakes a black man in a suit and tie for a landscaper. And she’s made it clear that she doesn’t wish to be closer to Henry in any way, not just physically. She loves Henry, but he is, at the very least, an embarrassment and burden to her. She uses Pangborn to act as a buffer between her and Henry, letting him make excuses for her and do her dirty work. She and Henry have no involvement in each other’s current lives.
In other recaps I’ve blamed Pangborn for not standing up for Henry after Matthew’s death. The same is true of Ruth. Pangborn has likely shared the story of Matthew’s note with her, because it allows both of them to be together with less guilt. It may even have been Ruth who pushed Matthew, and she may have tried to kill Henry too. We’ve seen her become vicious when what she wants is threatened, and seen Pangborn become vicious to protect her. How far would she go? What if Henry knew about the affair and threatened to tell Matthew?
One aspect of this story is the way the characters have dehumanized each other, in the prison and the town. They’re able to turn the other way because they don’t have or don’t use the mirror neurons that Molly mentioned- there is no empathy in this town. We haven’t seen anyone show it but Henry, when he bailed out Molly, Molly, when she took in Henry after his confession, and told the truth to her prospective real estate clients, and Zalewski, as part of his slide into madness.
The lack of empathy in the prison has blossomed into full on evil, sadism and torture. As Zalewski said, they know they can get away with anything, and anyone who’s a decent person will leave town quickly, like Henry did. The people without morals will stay, and feed off each others’ immorality.
It says something about Ruth that she’s fighting so hard to stay in a town like Castle Rock. It says something about Pangborn that he’s covered up so much, including Desjardins’ box and Lacy’s cage. He’s as corrupt as the police officer who flat out told Henry that they’re corrupt and won’t do anything that would jeopardize the prison.
The Twilight Zone episode that’s playing on Ruth’s TV is The Howling Man, in which the Devil repeatedly tricks people by loudly pretending to suffer innocently. On the surface, the Kid would appear to be the Devil, or Henry. I think the devil is a metaphor in this story for all of the townspeople who think they’re good people, but do evil or allow evil to happen around them.
Alan and Ruth are numbers one and two on that list. Sheriff Pangborn is actually probably numbers 1-5. Forget Henry. How did places like the Timberland Motor Court come to be? He’s going to H*ll for sure for all of the crimes he actively covered up and the ones he turned away from. He and his buddy Dale Lacy actively allowed the evil and dehumanization in Castle Rock to grow.
All of the nameless characters are part of the dehumanization. The selling off of the church cemetery, where their beloved fallen pastor and other loved ones rested, is another aspect. Once Matthew and Henry were both gone, the congregation became so apathetic about Matthew that they allowed him to be moved to a nearly unmarked grave next to the highway. Shades of Poltergeist, but the Church of the Incarnation did move the bodies.
Dennis Zalewski embodied the trope of the only sane man who was driven insane by the level of insanity in his environment and how powerless he felt in the face of it. He became obsessed with the Kid’s captivity, then extended his obsession out to the sadism and injustice throughout the prison. He developed tunnel vision until that’s all he could see, expressed by the Room Full of Crazy trope. Dennis’ graphomania was done subtly, using the combination of the cage drawing in his notebook and the drawings on surveillance monitors.
This episode explored relative levels of evil. Reese threatened Kid with the power of a multinational corporation that’s been granted corporate personhood behind him, sadistic guards all over the prison followed the example set by their employers, Zalewski went on a murder spree to try to clean out the corruption but gave up his wife and child in the process. Desjardins had a self-absorbed need to clear his own name, while showing a lack of interest in the missing child. Alan and Ruth used Henry as a cover for their affair. Henry sold out Kid, the rest of the prison and Zalewski so that he didn’t have to face his own memories. Molly is guilty of a crime that she hasn’t confessed to, but there are unusual extenuating circumstances. When are people wrong to turn the other way, and when are they being normal Americans?
The Kid’s power, if he has one, is similar to Molly’s: He’s an empath/telepath, but she’s picking up other people’s broadcasts and amplifying the signal inside of her mind so that she can pick up signals from the dead and from far away. Kid mirrors people’s own signals back to them, and amplifies certain signals, especially darkness. The amplification increases with proximity, and is worst with touch. Molly might be able to read signals better with an emotional connection, like she has with Henry. Kid might mirror better with familiarity and comfort, like with Lacy and the late, great Zalewski. There’s also a time element involved with the visions. Molly’s visions have all had to do with the past or the present. Kid appears to have given Zalewski a vision of the future, when Zalewski saw the visions of dead guards in the monitors, then almost shot Boyd at the end of episode 1.
One last bit of Bible lore before I let you all go on with your lives. Here is Revelation 19:13 with the surrounding passages, to give a better sense of the meaning and atmosphere, because I think this could be important. Kid spoke in vaguely complete sentences for the first time to give us this, after all.
11 I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and wages war. 12His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself. 13He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God. 14The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean. 15Coming out of his mouth is a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. “He will rule them with an iron scepter.”
Everyone seems to agree that this passage is talking about Jesus Christ in His role as Conquerer, vanquishing the enemies of God and dipping His robe in their blood. What’s up for interpretation is whether Christ the Conquerer is also the First Horseman of the Apocalypse. The First Horseman also rides a white horse and is associated with conquest. But since Jesus releases the Horsemen, there’s debate over whether he’d also be one of the Horsemen. Make of that what you will.
Looking at this entire passage, I don’t think Kid was referring to himself. I think he was either referring to Zalewski or Henry. We may be going to go through Judgement Day and the Biblical Apocalypse on the scale of Castle Rock or the prison. Maybe the law enforcement structure as a whole. In that case, I’d say that Henry will be the righteous, conquering First Horseman who uses words as his sword, while Zalewski was the Second Horseman who is the harbinger of war. Molly is the Third Horseman, associated with Famine and the Scales of Justice. Practically everything about her is looking for justice, from her efforts to improve the city’s economic fortunes to her constant attempts to live a normal life. Kid is the Fourth Horseman, Death, who travels with Hades, the Devil.
Using this interpretation, I think Dale Lacy was holding Kid until it was the right time to let his powers loose on the world. And I don’t think we heard all of his letter to Alan Pangborn. But who knows how much of this is metaphorical, or what form it will take.
The Four Horsemen are described in Revelation 6.
Images courtesy of Hulu.