This is Sissy Spacek’s episode, and not only is it brilliant, but she’s brilliant in it. The queen is the most powerful piece on the chess board, only slightly less important than the king. The true king of Castle Rock is yet to be revealed, but there’s no doubt that Spacek’s Timewalker Queen Ruth is powerful and understands more of what’s going on around her than anyone but her grandson Wendell will give her credit for.
Ruth goes up against the Kid in this episode, and is canny enough to keep everyone else away from the house and out of danger. Except for the one person who has spent his life trying to smother her with protection and who refuses to see the truth. Even Ruth’s power can’t protect Alan from the Kid’s revenge. But when you think about how much contact Ruth had with Kid, and how little damage was done as compared to Zalewski, the prison population as a whole, and now the psychiatric hospital, Ruth comes out looking pretty good. It was Alan who was easily manipulated. It took Kid 5 minutes to get Alan where he wanted him, and 2 days of constant stalking and gaslighting with Ruth.
Kid told Alan that he could help Ruth and I think he might have kept his promise. I know this will be an unpopular, controversial opinion, so let me explain. At the end of the episode, Ruth washes blood off, gets dressed up and answers the door when Alan rings the bell after their 14 year separation. This is after a neighbor has called Alan because he heard gunshots at Ruth’s house.
Ruth seems to know that Alan is coming. It’s possible that she’s stuck in a bit of a time loop, and Kid triggered Alan’s arrival at her door that day. In other words, the gunshots that the neighbor hears are the shots that Ruth fires at Alan years later, or at least they blend through the schisma/membrane with whatever shots were fired on the day Alan comes to her house. But I think the schisma/membrane momentarily thinned enough for the shots to be heard through the veil or whatever. Alan’s arrival allowed Ruth to stay in her own home and live independently for a few more years, and gave them the happiness they’d denied themselves for decades.
That was Kid’s gift to Ruth, who he seems to admire, in his way. Alan needed to pay the price for leaving Kid in Lacy’s trunk, so he was shot, and probably died, at the hands of the love of his life.
Kid may also be Ruth and Matthew’s baby, who supposedly died at birth, meaning Alan tried to steal her from his father. That gives Kid double the reason for revenge. It also makes Ruth his mother and Henry his adopted brother. That would explain almost everything Kid’s done since he got to Ruth’s house, wouldn’t it? He’s spent time with Henry and his family, but no real harm has come to any of them.
Episode 8 could change that, when we find out what happened to Henry in the anechoic chamber. My bet is on Molly and Jackie to save him.
Matthew and Ruth both have powers: Ruth can timewalk and Matthew could hear the Voice of God. Both manifested their powers later in life and didn’t fully recognize them for what they were. But in Kid, their genetics have combined to create a powerful being, who appears to be hearing more than just God, and manipulating more than just time.
Kid may not be saying his own name because it’s Matthew Deaver Jr.
Alan’s death could also be part of Kid’s gift to Ruth, since Alan refused to see her condition clearly, and was getting in the way of her treatment and/or the use of her timewalker powers. If she gets control of her powers, she may even be able to go back and rewrite memories so that she can save his life.
For all that Matthew insisted that memories couldn’t be changed, that dialogue was definitely not part of the original memory. She was also manifesting a memory dog who became more corporeal as the episode went on and had an effect on the real world that became more substantial ,until the dog was fully in the world at the end, helping her dig up the suitcase.
I have a feeling that she’s imbued the chess pieces with some of her magic. The chess pieces may have become similar to a portkey in the Harry Potter universe, able to transport the user to a specific place, usually back to the present. The chess pieces from the last shot, which are in the past, have been assigned to a different location, so that Ruth can travel bath to that time at will.
I’m not discounting Ruth’s dementia as a valid part of the story. Sometimes using myth and poetry are another way to describe the same thing and to examine other sides to the experience. Ruth is losing aspects of her life and self because of what appears to be dementia, but her illness is opening up other aspects for her at the moment, and forcing her to draw on a strength she never knew she had.
Current events are causing her to reexamine her life and determine what she accepts about it and what she regrets, while she still has time to make changes that matter in her relationships. Maybe she really is a timewalker, or maybe she’s developing the skill of being present in old memories, even as they’re fading, and mining them for information that she can use in the present. Both are rare talents and either one makes her special, in my opinion.
On another note, I’m constitutionally unable to see any member of the Skarsgård family as completely evil, so maybe it’s just wishful thinking, but I don’t think Kid is all bad. I think he wants revenge, and he’s saddled with powers that are mostly negative, so he appears evil. What do you do when you’re a relatively innocent/good person, but your innate powers mean that you spread evil wherever you go?
It’s like being a carrier of a fatal disease. Or Angel from Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
One last thought before the recap. Kid heard Molly say that there’s something wrong with him. He probably knows that she’s the one who physically killed Matthew. Is he biding his time before he goes after her? Does her closeness to Ruth and Henry grant her immunity? Does Kid have a list of names he intends to work his way through?
Episode 7 begins at the end of episode 6, with what we didn’t see: Ruth in the cluttered barn, in the dark, frantically loading a gun, then hiding when she hears someone coming.
Quick change to New Years Day, when Alan gave Ruth the Lewis chess set, a scene we’ve seen parts of before. Truck the dog is there, but Ruth let’s her outside, while they discuss their New Years Eve dinner plans. Alan checks something outside, and comes back for a butcher knife. He tells Ruth not to worry, then goes back outside. Ruth obviously follows him out, and sees that Truck has been hit by a truck and is dying. Alan sends Ruth back inside before he uses the knife to end Truck’s suffering.
When it’s over, Alan comes back inside. Ruth has gotten out the suitcase to bury Truck in. She accidentally calls the dog Puck, who was Henry’s childhood dog. Alan corrects her, saying this was just a neighborhood stray, not her boy’s dog.
Okay, first, Ruth still cared about and took care of this dog and it’s sad that it died. He doesn’t have to be a jerk about it.
Second, why does he always refer to Henry as “her boy”, and never by name? It’s aggravating. Pay attention for the rest of the episode. I’ve been listening all season. Even in the flashbacks that are before Matthew’s death, Henry is “your boy”. Occasionally he’s “your son”. It’s vaguely racist and a way to keep Henry at an emotional distance from Alan. It also deemphasizes Ruth and Henry’s relationship as mother and son. No wonder Henry is antagonistic toward Alan.
Back to the story. Ruth tells Alan the story of the real Puck’s death. One day, Puck was just gone. Matthew said she’d probably wandered away, but Ruth found a box of poison in the trash. Matthew was capable of terrible things. Ruth used to see turkey vultures circling over the woods, but she was always too afraid of what she’d find to go check what was out there.
Alan says, “And you think burying one dog pays the debt on the other.”
What did he plan on doing with the body? Burying her would be standard operating procedure, except the ground would be too frozen at that time of year to dig the hole. That doesn’t stop Alan, because these writers have never spent a winter anywhere near Maine. He digs up that dirt like it’s a sandbox.
Later that night, Ruth is in bed and Puck, now alive, has brought her a dead chipmunk or squirrel as an offering. It’s right next to Ruth’s head. Ruth gets up to wash her now bloody hand, and she’s in the immediate past, on the day that Henry came to town. Henry and Alan are arguing about Alan usurping Henry’s power of attorney. Ruth goes over to them, but then remembers that she needs fresh sheets because of the squirrel blood, and runs back upstairs. She sees a revolver on the shelf of the linen closet.
Break for opening credits. Is everyone keeping up so far? The time and venue changes are fast and deceptive in this episode.
When the show returns, Ruth is at her neurologist’s office, just before Alan left for Syracuse. The doctor is asking her to list the 5 words that they talked about earlier. Most everything in the office is out of focus. She concentrates on a bouquet of flowers for a moment, then Alan tries to give her hints. When the doctor asks him not to ruin the test, he argues with her.
They discuss Ruth’s symptoms and prognosis. Confusion with time and space is on the list. The doctor has suggestions for improving Ruth’s functioning in the short term, but long term, she will continue to get worse. Because of this and the “accident”, when Ruth jumped off the bridge, the doctor thinks it’s time to consider another living arrangement.
Alan continues to argue that Ruth is fine, things just slip her mind sometimes. He means well, but isn’t helping at all. Minimizing a chronically ill person’s symptoms is counterproductive. She needs proper care and treatment, not a more positive outlook on life. If her symptoms are partially or completely dementia, they need to have a responsible, alert person with her at all times and do a form of child-proofing on the house, even beyond Henry’s cameras. What does Henry think he’s going to do from hundreds of miles away when he sees her on-camera wandering outside into the road?
If her symptoms have to do with having powers, someone needs to help her get them under control so that she stops randomly floating through time.
Alan takes Ruth home and tells her that he has an errand to run, but after that, neither of them are going anywhere. Ruth says that she just needs a system. When she gets inside the house, she sees the chess set and forms a plan. Ruth walks through the house, placing a chess piece in each room. As she does, she sees her younger selves in a memories from each room. Her younger self is aware of her older self.
In the living room, she’s reading Hansel and Gretel to young Henry. In the dining room, she’s giving Henry his most recent birthday “cake”, and remembering the ill-fated buttercream frosting on his 7th birthday. In the bedroom, Alan is teaching her magic tricks that use sleight of hand. They laugh over how pornographic terms like “palming” sound. Henry knocks on the bedroom door to let Wendell say “hi” and brings her back to the present.
Over lunch, Wendell picks up Matthew’s funeral program and reads the bible verse out loud. It takes Ruth back to Matthew reading it in church. Alan is there, and the two of them look at each other a little too long. People notice. Matthew notices from the pulpit. Young Henry is oblivious.
The church is almost empty, even though it looks like a regular Sunday morning service.
The chess piece in the fridge brings Ruth back to the present. Matthew finishes reading from the program with, “Death will be swallowed up in victory.”
Ruth moves to the sink and sees Kid lurking outside, watching the window, and wearing one of Matthew’s suits. Ruth says that she thought they’d buried Matthew in that suit. Ruth watches from an upstairs window as Henry whisks Kid out to the car and off to Juniper Hills. Kid stops to look back at her just before he gets in the car.
Ruth turns from the window and finds that the hallway has now become a path into the woods in early fall. She follows the path and is in a memory of going on a picnic in the woods with Matthew and Henry. Once they’re seated in the spot Matthew picked, he takes the revolver out of the picnic basket, lays it on the blanket in front of them and says that he’s had a beautiful experience that he wants to share with them. Henry is 10 or 11 years old at this point. Possibly even 9.
He goes on to talk about the Bible forbidding suicide because human lives belong to God, so taking it is stealing. Then he says that he was losing faith because of all of the terrible things in the world, especially in Castle Rock, and wondering if maybe he missed a message from God somewhere along the way.
So he went to Walmart, bought the gun, and went out into the woods where no one would have to clean up the mess. Then he held the gun to his ear and told God that he “couldn’t live without proof.” With the barrel of the gun in his ear, he heard the Voice of God.
Ruth is quietly freaking out, trying to get Matthew to stop and to go home, so that they can take him to his doctor. And to stop talking about suicide and waving guns around and holding them to his head in front of Henry.
She’s worried that his previous brain illness has returned, but Matthew is certain that he’s fine. Ruth insists that he go in for a scan. The doctors said to watch out for symptoms like headaches and ringing in the ears. Matthew says that he didn’t hear ringing, he heard what Saint Paul heard on the road to Damascus before his conversion.
Ruth sees a chess piece on the ground, which she reaches for just as Matthew whispers that he can hear the voice now and asks if Henry can hear too. Henry can’t, so Matthew wants to sit there quietly for a while.
When she grabs the chess piece, Ruth returns to the present, where she’s sitting in her dining room with Wendell. Henry is leaving, saying he has to go do a work thing, aka follow the path he and his father were chasing in the woods when they were following the sound of God.
Wendell asks Ruth about the missing chess pieces. She swears him to secrecy and then tells him the truth. The chess pieces are her breadcrumbs to help her find her way back to the present when she’s wandering through space and time.
Wendell doesn’t find this odd at all. In fact, it matches his phone games Catacomb Drifter and D for Destiny. Ruth is a Timewalker, the most powerful player in the games. They are the only ones who can kill the dead and have them stay dead. Otherwise, the dead come back to life, and they’re angry, “because we’re alive, and they’re not.” The dead can change their skin and even look like your allies.
The game isn’t exactly a game. It’s never ending, with 12 levels so far. The visuals show whatever the camera is pointed at as a backdrop, with monster and effects graphics layered on top. It’s a hard game to win because no one stays dead, unless a timewalker kills them. The timewalker could theoretically kill their nemesis and fix the whole timeline. But you have to stay sharp.
And you have to be sure that you’re killing the right person.
In an effort to stay sharp, Ruth throws her pills away. She slips when she opens one bottle and its contents scatter all over the kitchen floor. As she’s crouched down to pick them up, Kid comes back from Juniper Hills. He walks in through the back door without knocking, hangs up his jacket and leaves his shoes by the door like he’s done it everyday of his life.
In her mind’s eye, Ruth sees Matthew again. She says, “You’re back.”
Kid tells Ruth to go to bed instead of saying hello, again acting as if he could be Matthew. Ruth wanders into the living room, where the news is broadcasting a special bulletin. The bible verses from Matthew’s funeral are spoken in voiceover in the background, then the news announcer takes over, “Reporting a suspected arson at Juniper Hills Hospital with 14 confirmed dead. The suspect is considered dangerous. Police have released a photo, but not a name.”
The photo is of Kid, taken that day, probably his hospital intake photo. The hospital is shown engulfed in flames. The building will be unsalvageable. Ruth figures out that it’s not Matthew in the kitchen. She retrieves the gun from the linen closet.
Flashback to Ruth taking a bath while Henry sits nearby and they play 20 questions. Only Ruth’s head is visible behind the shower curtain and the bathroom door is open. Henry has just given the clue, “I’m smaller than a teacup,” when Matthew walks in to tell him to go say his prayers. Once Henry is gone, Matthew criticizes Ruth for allowing Henry to “watch” her, saying Henry’s too old, and that even though Ruth is Henry’s mother, Henry’s “not blood,” so “it’s different.” I think it’s clear who the real pervert in the house is.
Ruth asks what Matthew did with the gun, saying she doesn’t want it in the house. Matthew tells her that he put it away, with the bullets locked in a separate place that Henry can’t get to.
During this conversation, Matthew takes prescription medication. He repeats the saying that Ruth used on him during the picnic, God helps those who help themselves. And he insists that he needs to keep the gun because he can’t trust the sheriff to keep the family safe.
Aside from the last few years, when Alan has taken care of Ruth, Matthew’s prediction turned out to be true. Matthew’s mind was twisted, but I think he did hear the Voice of God. He just didn’t know what to do with it.
Ruth looks over and sees a red chess piece, bringing her back to the present. Kid is on the baby monitor screen and the unloaded gun is in her hand.
She finds an old safe in the attic, but can’t get it open. Then she notices Kid leaving the house. Molly comes to the front door, worried about Henry. She’s sure that he’s lost or in trouble and needs Ruth’s help to find him. Ruth is caught up in her own crisis and can’t spare any energy for anything else. She asks Molly, “When are we?”
Molly: I think that something terrible is going to happen.
Ruth: It’s happened. I saw you in my bedroom. You were just a little girl.
Molly: I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.
Ruth: No. You did right. But it didn’t take. He’s back. In the present, not the past. But I’m gonna fix it.
Henry is in the woods with Odin Branch and Young Willie, possibly already in the Filter having his mind blown.
Ruth is absolutely desperate at this point. She’s afraid of Kid and afraid of Matthew and afraid of whatever Matthew is, now that he’s back from the dead. She slams and locks the door in Molly’s face, then hurries away. Ruth comes to a quick stop when she discovers that Kid has rehung a family photo that has broken glass over Henry’s face. It looks like it could be from a bullet or some other kind of violence.
Ruth is in the dining room, just outside of the living room. Kid is a few steps away and starts playing another old record, Blue Moon, sung by Elvis Presley.
Ruth asks if Kid hung the picture up. He says he did, because that’s where it belongs, isn’t it? He found it in the shed. Kid says he also found this album. Ruth asks him to tell her who bought the record. Her says that her husband did, and they played it at her wedding.
He’s been speaking softly and acting nonthreateningly. That continues as he approaches her and begins a slow dance with her in his arms. He telegraphs every move to give her a chance to refuse, then looks relaxed while they’re dancing, with his head resting on top of his.
Ruth is not relaxed. She asks him what the combination to the old safe is. Without hesitation, he tells her that it’s her birthday. Once she has what she needs, Ruth pulls away, saying she feels light-headed. She asks Kid to get her something eat, so he goes straight to the kitchen.
Wendell crept down the stairs while Ruth and Kid were dancing, but was smart enough to stay in the shadows. Ruth gives him some money and sends him to the mall, telling him to buy a few years worth of birthday presents. Wendell tries to argue that he shouldn’t leave her alone with Kid, but Rut insists, so he leaves.
Kids comes back and asks where the boy went. Ruth plays dumb, and pretends that she doesn’t know. Kid “suggests” that she lie down on the sofa. He wants her to stay where he can see her, given her condition. The condition of fake light-headedness or timewalking?
Ruth lays down. She’s taken back to a memory of Henry pretending to be sick to get out of going out into the woods with Matthew. She explains to Henry that Matthew does love him, but he had an illness called glioma (brain tumor) before Henry came to them that caused headaches and hallucinations. Matthew’s brain illness was fixed by some combination of God, surgery and other medicine, but Ruth think’s it’s coming back. She intends to take him to his doctor in Boston, and they’ll get him all fixed up again.
Henry tells her that Matthew won’t go to the doctor this time. Matthew doesn’t think he’s sick, and thinks that even if he is, he could pray the illness away.
What happened to “God helps those who helps themselves”?
Ruth asks what Henry was doing outside in the rain with no shoes. She doesn’t realize that Matthew was the instigator. As she’s talking, Matthew comes into the doorway. Puck the dog, who has been lying peacefully next to Henry’s bed, now becomes agitated. Matthew asks if everything’s okay. Ruth says that Henry has a bit of a fever and needs to rest. Henry and Ruth both tense up. Matthew very obviously only pretends to believe her, but he leaves without further trouble.
Henry says that Matthew was teaching him. Ruth pushes Henry to just tell Matthew that he hears the Voice of God, so that Matthew will ease up on him. There’s a knock on the bedroom door and it’s young Alan, calling Ruth into his office at the police station. Puck has gone missing and she’s brought a photo of the dog and Henry to see if Alan can help.
Alan dismissively says that the dog is cute, but lost pets aren’t his department. Ruth replies that Henry loves Puck, and the dog doesn’t have any tags, since Matthew couldn’t stand the tags jingling. The sound must have interfered with him hearing the Voice of God.
You’d think God could have sent him a message informing him about the wonders of earplugs instead of allowing him to kill one of God’s innocent creatures. Someone should really tell the entire cult that there are excellent earplugs on the market these days.
Alan spend a minute trying to convince Ruth to run away with him, never mentioning Henry. When Ruth declines the offer because she can’t leave Henry behind, Alan tells her that her wants her to bring her son. All she has to do is pack a bag and pick a spot on the map.
They’re interrupted, and Ruth leaves. She walks straight into her kitchen and finds the rat poison box in the trash, then goes to the backyard to look at the turkey vultures circling over the woods. But there’s a chess piece on the fence post, which places her in the dining room, with Kid giving her the eggs that he made her.
Kid’s choice of songs is on the nose:
Kid sits down with her and shows her one of the empty pill bottles, saying he found it in the trash. He hands her one of her sedatives, telling her, “God helps those who help themselves.” At least someone remembers the lesson.
Ruth stares at him, but takes the pill and drinks some water. Kid looks pleased. He tells her that, “It’s better this way. The two of us.” He’s speaking gently. The whole thing feels like a Twilight Zone episode. You know a terrible twist is coming, it’s just a matter of which way it will break.
Nancy Sinatra is singing the lines, “Some people never die, but some never live.” Like that stillborn baby who maybe became an immortal.
Ruth brightens up, remembering that she used to have an after-dinner ritual. She asks Kid if he knows what it was. Of course he does. She used to take a bath. There’s a glimmer of sexiness in his answer. He offers to draw one for her, then gets adorably shy for a moment before he leaves. He’s the confusing man-child Matthew was worried about.
Ruth drops the sedative on the table. Alan’s palming lessons came in handy after all. She tries the safe again, now that she knows the combination. It opens, but the bullets aren’t there. Meanwhile, her bath is ready, and Kid is calling for her.
Blue Moon is back on the record player, skipping on the line “a love of my own” over and over. Dear Lord, it pains me to hear that. It kills the record to leave the needle skipping like that.
But, my childhood nightmares aside, Kid and Ruth have switched places. He’s wandering the house looking for her, while she’s standing in the overflowing tub. She’s hiding behind the shower curtain, screwdriver at the ready to use as a weapon. Ruth Deaver has become a capable woman since her husband died.
It’s also a flip of the Psycho shower scene. The woman in the tub has the weapon instead of her obsessive stalker. Unlike Anthony Perkins, Kid doesn’t creep up quietly. He asks if she’s in the tub, and she responds by asking, “Who are you?” It’s the question she and Henry were using in their 20 questions game. Kid answers with Henry’s last answer, “I’m smaller than a teacup.”
As he begins to pull the curtain back, she stabs him in the side, jumps out of the tub, and runs into Matthew’s funeral. Some insensitive person is telling her that she’s still young enough to remarry. Meanwhile, Kid is bleeding and looks truly shocked.
Shocked that the old lady got the jump on him? Shocked because he thought things were going so well? Stayed tuned until the last 5 minutes of the last episode of the season to find out.
Kid’s blood is red. At least we know he’s a somewhat normal corporeal being. Swedes do age really well.
The funeral turns into Ruth’s wedding, then she makes it through the dense crowd of guests into Henry’s room. She’s packing a suitcase for him, getting ready to leave Matthew and go with Alan. She has the gun and puts it in the suitcase, but begins to have second thoughts. Her present day self begs her past self to “leave him.”
She grabs the chess piece on the dresser, is startled by a vicious dog, either Truck or Puck (more Pet Sematary references throughout this episode), and flips back to another funeral. She doesn’t remember the funeral, but her younger self is there, wearing a veil and crying. Both Ruth’s are in a black dress and veil. Young Alan is also there. She asks him who’s in the casket, if it’s her, but he just gives her his condolences.
This seems to me like another clue that Kid is her son. Maybe the baby was actually Alan’s baby? Either way, she was so distraught that she blocked this funeral out. This funeral was at her house, when she was much younger. Odds are good that it’s the baby’s funeral. Her mind brought her back here as a clue, and put her in the same outfit. It’s the only time she stays her older self while her clothes change.
But there are also precog elements. The loss she’ll experience at the end of the episode and the loss of the baby might be the two biggest losses of her life. Alan is standing next to the open casket.
Ruth doesn’t try to look in the casket. Instead, she goes to the kitchen to get a drink of water. Henry and Matthew come home from the woods. It’s very early morning, after Henry faked the fever. Ruth woke up during the night and discovered they were gone. She was worried and wants this to stop.
Matthew tells her that Henry heard the Voice of God this time, too. Ruth confesses that Henry is only saying that because she told him to. Matthew brings up one of his favorite topics, the sin of bearing false witness, and asks Henry what the truth is. Henry insists that he really heard something this time.
Matthew sends Henry to his room. Ruth becomes angry. For the first time, present day Ruth has an extended interaction with someone in a memory. She argues that she and Henry will be leaving him that night. Her bag is packed. Matthew doesn’t take he seriously. He knows she won’t leave, because she never does. This is a memory, and she can’t change it. The “Dr Vargas” that she threatened to take Matthew to is really her neurologist.
Matthew taunts her a bit, then encourages her to ask him her real question: Where are the bullets? But he says that he doesn’t have the answer, because he’s really her. Ruth yells at him that she should have shot him in his sleep to protect Henry. Matthew points out that it’s a little late for that. She didn’t do anything for Henry, because she was too scared herself.
Ruth screams that she packed her suitcase. Matthew goes through the process: Then she unpacked it-clothes in the drawers, gun in the linen closet.
Ruth realizes that she packed the bullets in a pocket of the suitcase, but she never unpacked them.
She races out to the yard to dig up Truck, who’s buried in the suitcase. One of the dog’s joins her, starting the hole. Alan has dug this hole twice recently, so it’s easy for her to dig quickly. She gets the suitcase, then the bullets. Kid is watching her from a window in the house.
She races back inside the barn to where she left the gun and shakily loads the bullets. Matthew’s voice echoes: Do you know what false witness is?… He was Paul, he wasn’t Saul…Because your life belongs to God…Before you tell me it’s irresponsible, the bullets are locked away. He’ll never find them…But I can’t help you, because I’m not me, and you can’t remember… It wasn’t ringing. You could hear it too, if you just knew how to listen…What’d you ever do for Henry? Nothing, because you were too chickensh*t!
Approaching steps can be heard on floorboards/stairs. Ruth is so wound up that she fires several shots before she can see who’s coming. When she’s done, she sits back for a moment, then looks to see who she’s shot. Alan is lying on the floor, covered in blood, barely alive. She goes to him. He uses what little strength he has left to reach up to her.
In the morning, Ruth emerges from the barn, stumbling and covered in blood. She takes a shower, and we get the other iconic part of the Psycho scene, blood being washed down the drain. But this isn’t the beginning of an exciting Hollywood thriller, it’s the end of a tragic love story. So, instead of artfully swirling around the drain, the blood turns the water red, then washes away. Ruth and Alan’s threads ran through each other’s lives. If his life is over, what does that mean for hers?
Once she’s clean, Ruth dresses up, doing up her hair and putting on make up. The door bell rings, and she checks herself over once more before answering. It’s Alan.
This is the time in the past that a neighbor called him because they’d heard gunshots at her house. He explains that he’s just back from New Hampshire for a few months, and this and that, but works his way up to admitting that he came back for her. He offers to leave again if she still doesn’t want him. Ruth throws her arms around him and says, “Don’t leave, please.” He hugs her back and says he’s not going anywhere.
The camera pulls back to show two chess pieces, side by side. The queen is standing and the king has fallen.
Sissy Spacek deserves an Emmy nomination for this episode. Sissy navigated the variations in ages and situations she had to jump between, all while playing cat and mouse with Kid, like the Oscar and Golden Globe winner that she is.
The entire cast deserves a best ensemble award for their chemistry and overall talent.
Wendell understands when it’s important to follow instructions and get out of the way, a very helpful quality. You can theorize that he could have helped Ruth if he’d stayed home, but there’s an equally good chance that he’d be dead or seriously injured. I think Ruth also picked up more clues than we realize in this episode’s time travels, and she wouldn’t have been able to concentrate if Wendell had been home.
Which leads to the next question: How did Ruth get to be such a good shot? She hit Alan multiple times in the chest, when it was dark and she couldn’t see him.
It’s definitely realistic for her to end up shooting him accidentally, with or without Kid’s influence. She was always so anxious and afraid, which is what prompted Alan to move in with her in the first place, and just having a gun in the house means there’s a significant chance that someone will accidentally be killed by it.
I really want Kid to be Rosemary’s Baby, so he probably isn’t. They’ve made it too obvious an option this episode and last. But someone has to be that baby who died in labor. Nobody stays dead in Castle Rock. Maybe Molly is the baby. She never got along with her family and saved Ruth from Matthew as much as she saved Henry. Maybe the baby’s story is another one being saved for another season.
I need to know the stillborn rate at Castle Rock Hospital. Is there a baby stealing ring? Do they steal the babies and raise them in cages like factory farmed animals, trying to trigger their powers into manifesting?
I think that Kid underestimates Ruth. He told Alan that, “time is Ruth’s enemy,” but it really isn’t. Sometimes she gets lost, but there’s always a connection between the present and the memory she travels to. She’s not wandering aimlessly, or repeating the same memory over and over for no reason, the way people with dementia do.
Ruth’s travels are purposeful, to provide information, inspiration, a necessary reminder, or suggest a course of action. She’s traveling instinctively, so it looks random to an outsider. But she could probably learn to control her travels. It seemed like the chess pieces were helping with that already. Then maybe she could go back and teach her younger self to travel. It would be interesting to see how far she could stretch the boundaries, but there won’t be time this season with only 3 episodes left. And with her having to deal with shooting the love of her life and all.
I think that Ruth’s reasons for refusing to be with Pangborn after Matthew died were complex. She told him that she felt too guilty about their affair to continue, and that she didn’t want to jump into another relationship right away because of Henry. But deep down, she also knew that keeping Alan too close too Henry wasn’t a good idea. She could sense Alan’s hostility toward Henry, on top of his tendency to be controlling. That’s why she waited until she needed someone desperately before she agreed to be with him. She loved him, but she knew that ultimately issues would arise. And in the end, he was still blind to reality, and she still had to protect herself and her family.
While Alan has “known” all along that “Henry did it”, Ruth has known the truth all along, that Molly actually pulled out the breathing tube and finished Matthew off. And Ruth knows that Matthew was abusive and out of control, refusing medical treatment, so his death was a justifiable homicide on Molly’s part, and self defense on Henry’s. None of it could ever be proved in court, so hopefully no one will decide to officially confess to anything.
Matthew may have been going to try to “correct” Henry’s hearing the night of his fall, the way Odin planned to correct Willie’s. That could be what Henry ran away from and what he made himself forget. That kind of procedure, using such unsanitary methods, so close to the brain, would be ridiculously risky, especially on a child, never mind the pain and disability it would cause.
Who could blame Henry for doing anything it took to escape? Even if that isn’t what happened, we know Matthew was insane and prone to putting guns to his own head. He may have been doing other painful, frightening, unethical experiments on Henry to help him hear the schisma better. At the very least, he was taking a child out in the rain, in the woods, in the middle of the night, with no jacket or shoes. That’s the beginnings of a neglect case. The whole “picnic with a gun” wouldn’t look great to a case worker either.
Matthew had become dangerous, but he did love Henry, this episode made that clear. Henry had two parents who loved him, but whose marriage was failing because of Matthew’s illness and Ruth’s affair.
Wendell says that the dead can change their skin and even look like your allies. Wendell has the power to see and speak the truth, just as his father avoids it, so it’s important to listen to him. The number of dead citizens, both recent and from the past, is stacking up. It’s possible that Kid was using information that he got from Ruth’s mind, and going along with her memory lapses, in an attempt to keep her calm, instead of actively trying to convince her that he was Matthew. But the other dead and their demons may impersonate loved ones for more dangerous purposes. More shades of Pet Sematary.
Vox.com did an interview with showrunner Sam Shaw, who also wrote episode 7:
Collider did an excellent analysis of the use of mental illness in horror movies, and where this episode fits in.
Just for fun, here’s a review of Bill Skarsgård’s, um, work.
While I haven’t put the level of committment into the subject that the author has, I do admit to fantasizing about the ultimate bad boy Skarsgård combination of The Kid, Erik Northman from True Blood, and Stellan’s character Martin Vanger from The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.
Now imagine being Sissy Spacek, playing mother to André Holland, whatever she is to Bill Skarsgård, and partner to Scott Glenn.
Images courtesy of Hulu.