The thing I’m enjoying most about “Castle Rock” so far is the fact that the show feels like it could easily have been made in 1995. It strikes the same sort of tone that ‘90s cult favorites like “The X-Files,” “Eerie, Indiana,” “The Outer Limits” and “Twin Peaks” all struck: weird, mordantly funny, a touch campy and sometimes actually scary.
Granted, “Castle Rock” is made in 2018 for a streaming network, which means there’s way more swearing, nudity and violence than any of the aforementioned shows had. Case in point: the bloodbath committed on episode four by the prison guard, Dennis Zalewski, in which he gunned down an unknown number of other guards at Shawshank before being shot himself.
Going into episode five, which went up on Hulu today, it’s pretty clear to viewers that the mysterious prisoner (Bill Skarsgard) had something to do with driving poor Zalewski to murder. It’s less clear — though not implausible — that the prisoner also has something to do with the wildfires raging in western Maine, not far from Castle Rock. And he may have something to do with Henry Deaver’s increasingly disruptive bouts of tinnitus, something he suffered from on and off for years.
Most of the main characters still haven’t made the connection between the prisoner and the bad stuff going on, despite Alan Pangborn very clearly warning them that the prisoner is pretty much totally evil. In episode five (the best of the show so far, in my opinion), Henry is too busy getting his father’s casket (which is mysteriously leaking blood!) reburied at the church, and with getting his mother Ruth’s house wired with cameras so her can keep an eye on her, in case she wanders off.
Oh, and he’s been busy getting the prisoner out of jail, which may or may not be a good idea. As this episode shows, the prisoner may not entirely be in control of the demonic urges that seem to emanate from him.
Anyway, Henry has to put the prisoner up somewhere until he can be admitted to a psychiatric facility, so he asks Molly if he can crash at the old mill property she bought in downtown Castle Rock. This is clearly a horrible idea, as Ruth Deaver realizes when she has some sort of prophetic vision of something terrible happen.
That night, the prisoner leaves his temporary home and wanders through town, silently entering the home of a family that is hosting a birthday party for their toddler son (who has a birthday party for a small child at 9 p.m.? But I digress). The prisoner, using his evil wi-fi, causes the father to go insane and murder his family. Yikes.
The next day, the town holds a renaming ceremony for the bridge downtown, which will be named for local hero and former sheriff Alan Pangborn. While Alan is giving a speech, Ruth is distracted by a barking dog, and before anyone notices, she’s run off, and is seen standing on the guardrail of the bridge, before jumping off.
Hours later in the hospital, a badly shaken Ruth declares that she saw “that dog.” Cujo, presumably? She then says, prophetically: “Nothing stays dead in this town.”
Meanwhile, Molly finds the prisoner standing on the roof of the mill and talks him down. She later tells Henry that when she hears the prisoner’s thoughts, it’s “like listening to the pain of everyone in this town all at once.” Whatever’s actually up with him, it seems as though it’s happening to him and not of his own volition.
Henry decides to put the prisoner up in the barn in back of his mother’s house. Out of nowhere, the prisoner starts playing an old piano — something Henry seems both taken aback and pleased by. How did he do that? Is he remembering something from a past long forgotten?
Alan Pangborn, however, sees no such possibility for redemption in the prisoner. Alan sees him in the cameras Henry set up on the property, and confronts him out in the woods. Alan tells him he saw him 20 years ago, when Dale Lacy had him tied up in his trunk, taking him to the prison. The prisoner hasn’t aged a day since then. Alan knows there’s something evil afoot.
But as the prisoner tells him, “You have no idea what’s happening here, do you?” You’re right, buddy. He doesn’t. Neither do we. But I’m sticking around to figure it out.
BAD ACCENT ALERT: Henry mildly screws up the pronunciation of “Bangor.” He doesn’t quite commit the mortal sin of saying “Banger,” but he comes pretty close to it. I’ll let it slide this time, Andre Holland.
MAINE IN-JOKE: Yet another radio tuned to 100.3, the same frequency as the King-owned WKIT!
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