Editor’s note: Spoilers ahead. If you haven’t watched the episode yet and don’t want to know what happens, go watch it before reading this.
The first five minutes of episode two of Hulu’s “Castle Rock” is Stephen King Easter egg city. In a voiceover from Dale Lacy (Terry O’Quinn), the former Shawshank Prison warden who killed himself on the first episode, we get a thorough rundown of all the awful things that have happened in Castle Rock over the past couple of decades.
You might be familiar with a few of them. The rabid dog, perhaps (“Cujo”), the body by the train tracks (“The Body,” aka “Stand By Me”), or the strangler (Frank Dodd, in “The Dead Zone”). Other terrifying things (that don’t appear in any King book to date), like Lacy’s brother, who jumped off a roof during a high school football game. And, of course, the biggest plot point of them all, so far: the prison itself.
Lacy knew that all those awful things are connected, somehow, and he apparently spent most of his career trying to figure out what that connection was — a task that, eventually, clearly overwhelmed him.
Henry Deaver (Andre Holland), the Castle Rock native who’s back in town to represent a mysterious inmate at the jail (Bill Skarsgard), starts digging into what Lacy knew. He discovers in Lacy’s office stacks of papers referencing something ominous — Bible verses, postcards, all sorts of creepy things. Lacy knew something was amiss. Deaver, himself a victim of all the creepy things going on in town, knows something’s up as well.
There’s someone else in town who also senses the darkness in Castle Rock’s heart: former sheriff Alan Pangborn (Scott Glenn), who finds the new Shawshank Prison warden drinking at a bar. He tells her that Lacy “locked the devil in a box” — and he warns her: “Don’t let that kid out.” I think we can all assume Pangborn’s referring to the mysterious prisoner. He uses more colorful language in that last sentence. This is Hulu. It’s for grownups.
— Stephen King (@StephenKing) July 10, 2018
The Shawshank staff decides to put the prisoner in a cell with a musclebound Aryan Brotherhood type dude, to “take care of him.” Instead, the prisoner presumably takes care of him. The guards find Nazi guy dead in his cell, and after an autopsy, discover he’s riddled with metastatic cancer — something he didn’t have 24 hours before.
The rest of the episode offers up more backstory on Henry, who it appears most of the town believes is responsible for his father’s death more than 25 years before. There’s also more revealed about the oddly compelling, mentally unstable Molly (Melanie Lynsky) who grew up across the street from the Deavers, and is still hung up on Henry, decades later.
The episode wraps up with Henry figuring out he can get into the prison by joining a prayer group with the local church — the church his late father was the pastor at — and going in to sing for inmates. While there, he of course encounters the prisoner, who just happens to be outside in the prison yard, on the other side of the fence where is boarding the bus back to the church. They exchange words, Henry snaps a couple of photos, and the connection is made.
Meanwhile, a voiceover from Dale Lacy relays some more cryptic information about Castle Rock, and the prisoner — and makes reference to a “defender” of the town as Alan Pangborn is seen, closing out the episode. If you’ve read “Needful Things” or “The Dark Half,” you know that this wouldn’t be the first time Pangborn has risen to the challenge in Castle Rock’s hour of need.
MOVIE/BOOK REFERENCES: Too many to mention. “Cujo.” “Stand By Me.” “The Dead Zone.” “The Shawshank Redemption,” of course. Even better, there’s a reference to Nan’s Luncheonette, which appeared in “Needful Things.” In the show, it burned down, after the owner, Nan, tried to blackmail the governor’s chief of staff — and it was revealed she’d been running a brothel in her diner for years.
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