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‘Castle Rock’ Reaps a ‘Harvest’ of Sorrow

Posted 2018/08/08 478 0

Castle Rock Harvest Review

Welcome to our spoiler-filled Castle Rock reviews, in which we explore Hulu’s new Stephen King-inspired series. (If you’re looking for a spoiler-free review of the show, click here). This week we look at episode five, “Harvest.”

castle rock episode 5 review

Harvest

Things have turned melancholy in Castle Rock – not that they were very cheery to begin with. But this week’s episode, “Harvest�, seems awash in regret and sorrow. Everyone here seems to be going through hell in their own specific ways, and to further the whole “going through hell� allusion, there’s a raging forest fire off in the distance that no one seems to be able to put out.

As the fire burns on Black Mountain, the sky of Castle Rock takes on a sickly, orange tinge. You can practically smell the smoke in the air. Five days have passed since the shoot-out at Shawshank, and Henry – who was dead-set on getting the hell out of Castle Rock immediately – is still around.

But before we see Henry in the present, we first visit him in the past. In 2016, precisely, where he’s in the midst of a check-up. He undergoes a series of tests, including a CT Scan, all in the hopes of finding out why he has a mysterious ringing sound in his ear. The tests reveal nothing.

Now, here in Castle Rock, the ringing has returned. Of course, that ringing could be blamed on the shotgun that went off right next to Henry’s ear during the prison shootout, but still, there’s something amiss here. A ringing sound has plagued Henry in the past – so what could it all mean?

The ear-ringing isn’t the only problem Henry is dealing with. His father’s recently unearthed casket – waiting for burial in a new grave – has begun leaking, due to the extremely pleasant sounding phenomenon “exploding casket syndrome� – which is very real; you can read all the grisly details about it here!

Since Henry is sticking around longer, he’s set up security cameras all over his mother’s house to better keep track of her, and to make sure she doesn’t wander out of the house in a fit of dementia. (The security feed can be monitored via cell phone.)

One thing Henry doesn’t have to worry about is going through with a hearing to get the Kid released. After the massacre at Shawshank, the Warden has had enough – she sets the Kid free, into Henry’s care. This is good news for the Kid, bad news for pretty much everyone in Castle Rock.

Henry brings Kid to a doctor for a check-up, and assumes he can just casually leave the Kid at the doctor’s office. When that doesn’t work out, the doctor says she can probably get the Kid a bed in mental hospital Juniper Hill, but it’ll take a few days. Which means Henry has to stash the Kid somewhere.  

Enter Molly Strand. Molly’s office is inside a vast, abandoned shirt factory, so she has plenty of room. She offers to let the Kid crash there, which Henry seems a bit nervous about. And who can blame him? The Kid is, after all, kind of creepy.

And dangerous.

castle rock episode 5

Pictures in a Book

We get to see just how dangerous he is when night falls. The Kid wanders out of the shirt factory and into the streets of Castle Rock. He casually enters a house, where a family is celebrating a birthday party. Based on what we hear (we never see them), it’s clear this family is in the midst of a very pleasant time. Yet, the moment the Kid comes within their vicinity, chaos descends. Everyone begins violently arguing with one another, and it becomes apparent that the father kills the entire family save a baby, and possibly himself. It’s as if the Kid sends off toxic fumes that poison anyone close enough to him. Of course, the logistics of this don’t quite add up. Henry has been near the Kid dozens of times, and he’s yet to become a crazy psychopath. But person we shouldn’t try to apply common sense to such supernatural forces.

By morning, Jackie Torrance wanders into the shirt factory and finds a very nude Kid. The two end up chilling in her cab. Or, more accurately, she’s chilling, while the Kid sits there very awkwardly. Jackie reminisces about how she wants to be a writer, and how it’s hard to write about Castle Rock because all the “cool stuff� – like killer dogs – happened back “in the ‘80s.� She also casually tosses off a reference to her uncle – who was also a writer, and who went nuts one winter and tried to kill his entire family. And in case you can’t figure out who that is, Jackie underlines things by stating she took her Uncle’s name to “piss people off.� (Her real name is Diane.)

Jackie’s conversation apparently isn’t stimulating enough for the Kid, who ends up on the roof of the shirt factory. Molly shows up, and heads up to the roof to talk him down. In a fit of misery, or perhaps regret, the Kid states that he shouldn’t be here; he should still be in the hole in Shawshank. Which raises an interesting question: is the Kid knowingly evil, or is whatever supernatural badness he spreads an accident; an uncontrollable side-effect of his very existence. It’s a fascinating development, and this episode doesn’t provide any direct answers.

Elsewhere in Castle Rock, Alan Pangborn seems to be in the midst of an emotional crises. We see him reflecting over a decimated chess set in Ruth’s house – and we’re treated to a flashback of a far more lucid Ruth receiving the chess set as a gift from Alan. The look on Alan’s face in the present is harrowing, and Scott Glenn – who already has a rough, hard face that looks like its been chiseled from cold slate – plays up the character’s inner turmoil perfectly.

The town is naming a bridge after Alan, and he doesn’t seem particularly happy about that. But he dutifully goes to the naming ceremony, with Henry and Ruth in tow. As Alan attempts to give an awkward speech, Henry notices two mysterious people in the crowd, apparently staring at him (one of whom is clearly Rory Culkin; these characters remain a mystery for now, but remember them – they’ll be back later).

Alan doesn’t get to finish his speech, because Ruth decides to jump off the bridge into the river – causing Henry to jump in after her. Later, at the hospital, where Ruth is being treated, Henry listens as Alan laments the past. Alan talks about how he tried to propose to Ruth in 1991, but it didn’t work out. He discusses leaving Castle Rock, only to come back. And he reveals an incident in which gun fire was reported out at Ruth’s house, causing Alan to investigate. When he went to the house, Ruth embraced him, and begged him not to leave.

The acting between Glenn and Andre Holland here is worth highlighting. Glenn gets the bulk of the dialogue, and once again, the sorrow and misery of this character comes through. He sounds so very weary; so very broken. When the series started, Alan was gruff and tough. Now, he seems beaten-down. Holland spends most of the scene listening, and “listening� as an actor can be tricky. You have to make it look like you’re really listening, not just waiting for your own lines. Holland, who is a phenomenal performer, sells this easily. We can see the thoughtfulness in Holland’s eyes, and we get the sense that he’s softening on Alan – a man he clearly used to resent. Henry is starting to realize that the love between his mother and Alan really might be genuine.

As if this scene weren’t heartbreaking enough, both men then head into Ruth’s room, where Sissy Spacek once again gets to shine. As she reflects on her dementia, she whimpers, “It’s like I opened a book, and all the pictures…someone tore them out.â€� It’s an unsubtle line, but it perfectly sums-up Ruth’s mental state, and Spacek’s delivery is awash in despondency.

Castle Rock Alan Episode 5

Are You the Devil?

After leaving the hospital, Henry heads back to his mother’s home, and has phone conversation with someone we can assume is his wife before he gets there. Whether or not they’re still married remains to be seen. But during the course of the conversation, it becomes clear Henry has a son – Wendell. And he wants Wendell to head to Castle Rock to spend time with his grandmother before her mind goes completely.

Entering Ruth’s house, Henry is surprised to find Molly there waiting for him. She tells him she entered using the key hidden on the porch – the same key she used years ago to sneak into this very same house and kill Henry’s father. Molly runs down the events of the day involving the Kid, and then stresses that the Kid “feels wrong.� She once again attempts to explain to Henry her extra-sensory abilities – something Henry not unkindly tries to shrug off.

Here, Melanie Lynskey gets a chance to show why she’s such a talented performer. “Oh, you don’t believe me…,� she says, and you can feel the heartbreak in the way Lynskey delivers this. Heartbreak not just at Henry – the man she cares a great deal for – not believing her, but also at the fact that she once again is unable to convey her psychic abilities properly. The inflection in Lynskey’s voice is the inflection of someone who has said these very words dozens of times before, to dozens of people. People who refuse to believe.

Rather than waste time arguing, Molly proceeds to list a bunch of facts that she’s seemingly plucking right from Henry’s mind – she knows his ear is ringing; she knows he feels guilt over the clients he couldn’t save, and over the fact that he’s neglected his son. And she knows that he hasn’t eaten all day.

Henry is (understandably) stunned, and Molly caps things off with a warning: “I’m telling you, there is something wrong with that Kid.� As if on cue, the Kid enters the room, and Henry decides it would be best if he stayed here for the night rather than going back with Molly.

While Henry is willing to let the Kid stay, he also is taking Molly’s warning seriously. So much so that rather than let the Kid sleep in the house, he directs him to sleep in the unattached garage out in the yard. A garage that happens to have an old piano – which the Kid inexplicably knows how to play. “I remember…,� the Kid says, and it’s clear from the way Bill Skarsgard delivers this line that piano playing isn’t the thing the Kid is remembering here. There’s something else. But what?

Long after Henry has turned in for the night, the Kid remains awake. And he’s not alone. Out on the bridge, a drunken Alan pries off the plaque with his name on it and tosses it into the river. (Side-note: based on the dedication date on the plaque, we now have a confirmation of when this story is taking place – October, 2018.) After the plaque-tossing, Alan gets a notification on his phone. It’s the security camera footage from around Ruth’s house, which is displaying the Kid creeping around outside.

As has been made clear in previous episodes, Alan knows who the Kid is, and he’s understandably not cool with this creepy menace skulking around. Rushing home, Alan encounters the Kid in the woods, and reveals something shocking: 27 years ago, when Alan was still sheriff, he pulled over Warden Lacy. This was the night Lacy first captured the Kid, and at the time, the Kid was in the trunk of Lacy’s car. Alan discovered this fact, and let Lacy go, because Lacy convinced him the Kid was an evil force that needed to be contained. Alan underlines this story with one final shocking fact: even though this event happened over two decades ago, the Kid hasn’t “aged one goddamn day.�

“Are you the devil?� Alan asks.

“No,� the Kid replies after a beat.

“Then what the fuck are you?� Alan demands, before breaking down into a story about how he spent his life trying to do the right thing, and it brought him nothing good. In fact, it only resulted in more misery – like the woman he loves slowly losing her mind.

The Kid cuts him off, and claims that he can help Ruth. The episode closes with the Kid’s ominous, enigmatic words: “You have no idea what’s happening here, do you?�

No, Alan doesn’t. And neither do I. Just what is your deal, Kid?

Castle Rock Bridge

I Understood That Stephen King Reference! 

  • Before he’s released from Shawshank, The Kid watches an old educational video about leaving prison and going back into society. The video is hosted by a man named Lou Hadley. In The Shawshank Redemption, a violent guard has the name Byron Hadley (played by Clancy Brown in the film). One can assume Lou Hadley is his offspring. 
  • A doctor tells Henry she might be able to get the Kid a bed at Juniper Hill. Juniper Hill is an asylum that was first mentioned in Stephen King’s It. Henry Bowers, the bully who had it in for the Losers’ Club, ends up there as an adult. The asylum has been mentioned in several other King works, including Needful Things, The Dark Half, The Tommyknockers, and more. 
  • During Alan’s speech at the bridge naming ceremony, he talks about how he once wanted to be a magician. This is consistant with the character as he appears in King’s books. King mentions several times that Pangborn is an amateur magician who is very good at sleight of hand. In fact, Alan uses his magician skills to help stop the demonic Leland Gaunt at the end of Needful Things.
  • The most overt King reference of the episode is from Jackie’s story. As she tells the kid, she had a uncle who “flipped his lid” one winter, and tried to “axe his wife and kid at a fancy ski resort.” This is, of course, a reference to The Shining. Jackie goes on to add that she took her uncle’s name – Jack– to piss people in her family off. It’s a minor thing, but I’m happy the show took the time to explain this. When we first learned this character was named Jackie Torrance, I thought it was a bit lazy. Explaining that this isn’t Jackie’s actual name – her real name is Diane – sets things right.
  • At one point, the kid stands on the roof of the shirt factory, and we can hear the barrage of thoughts and sounds he appears to be hearing. One is a barking dog, which may or may not be Cujo. Another is someone clearly asking, “Wanna see a dead body?” This has to be a direct pull from The Body, the story that became Stand By Me.
  • Alan mentions that the last time he saw the kid, it was 27 years ago. In King’s It (which, of course, had a film adaptation featuring Bill Skarsgard), Pennywise the Clown resurfaces in Derry every 27 years.

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