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.
When the first info came out about the “Castle Rock” series, many thought it was going to be an anthology series, featuring different stories each episode about the titular Stephen King town. Three episodes into the series, however, and it’s clear the vibe is much more akin to “Fargo,” the FX series that takes place in the world the Coen Brothers created for their movie, retaining the overall vibe and many place names but adding characters and stories to create something totally new.
Case in point — the all-new character Molly Strand, the Castle Rock real estate agent who is revealed in the first moments of Episode 3 to be much, much more mysterious than she appears. Remember how it seems like everyone in town believes Henry Deaver was responsible for his father’s death? They’re totally wrong. It was 11-year-old Molly, who, in a flashback, is shown taking Pastor Deaver off his ventilator and watching him die. Why did she do it? What or who caused her to commit such a heinous crime?
In 2018 Castle Rock, Molly is trying to mount an ambitious scheme to revitalize the town, but her plans are thrown into disarray by the arrival in town of Henry. As she tells him when he comes to visit her, she’s got a psychic connection with Henry, and has since she was a little girl growing up across the street from him. She can feel his pain and his thoughts — not unlike the abilities exhibited by, say, Ted Brautigan (“Hearts in Atlantis”), or Dick Halloran (“The Shining”).
Molly’s troubles are just beginning, however. When she gets home, she finds her house has been broken into. She’s out of the OxyContin she’s been taking in order to quell the voices she hears in her head. When she finds the teenage drug dealer she’s been buying from, he tells her he’s out — but to try the Timber Line Cabins on the outskirts of town, where his supplier, Derek, is living.
What’s at the cabins? Oh, nothing. Just a bunch of creepy children in terrifying paper mache masks, re-enacting a homicide trial. No big deal.
The judge at the trial is Derek, who whisks Molly out of the “courtroom” and into his cabin, where he’s about to sell her the drugs — until the cops show up and arrest both of them. The next day, Henry bails her out of jail, just in time for her to appear on a public access TV show to reveal her big plan for the revitalization of Castle Rock.
Plagued by psychic visions and voices in her head, Molly can’t cope. Instead of promoting her project, she blurts out all the details about mysterious prisoner at Shawshank — the one Henry came back to town to represent.
The next day, the warden at Shawshank, who has been trying to keep the existence of the prisoner under wraps, is none too happy — but Molly’s outburst does get Henry an audience with him.
The prisoner, as gaunt and unsettling as ever, asks Henry, “Has it begun?” Has what begun? Henry doesn’t seem to know, but we viewers do. There’s something bad afoot, and it’s only going to get worse.
“Castle Rock” might not be written by Stephen King, but it’s in his universe. This is only the beginning.
MOVIE/BOOK REFERENCES: There’s a scene where Molly comes home, after the break-in, and thinks she hear something upstairs. Grabbing a chef’s knife, she heads up the stairs. If that’s not a nod to Wendy Torrance trying to defend herself from her psychotic husband in “The Shining,” I don’t know what is.
BAD ACCENT ALERT: Molly’s teenage drug dealer pronounces Skowhegan “SKO-HEGAN.” Hulu, this is utterly unforgivable. Do you not know anybody from Maine? Good grief. This happened in “Wet Hot American Summer: Ten Years Later,” too. Repeat after me: SKOW, rhyming with cow. HEGAN, rhyming with vegan. Sheesh.
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