Castle Rock Recap: An Act of God

Castle Rock

Habeas Corpus
Season 1 Episode 2
Editor’s Rating *****
Photo: Seacia Pavao/Hulu

In a style that’s perfect for a streaming service like Hulu, the second episode of this Stephen King-inspired series picks up exactly where the last hour ended, as Officer Zalewski investigates the crazy things he’s seen on the monitors at Shawshank Penitentiary. Of course, we kind of know before he does that it’s all an illusion and that there will be no bloody bodies in the halls of the prison and that “The Kid” will be safe in his cell. Who is this mysterious figure who can control perception and what does he want?

The dead-and-decapitated Warden Lacy narrates this King reference-heavy episode (and it would be cool if Terry O’Quinn narrated everything, yes please thank you) from beyond the grave. He speaks mysteriously of a plan, and it ain’t necessarily God’s. He says that in Castle Rock, “Every inch is stained with someone’s sin.” There have been suicides, murders, and enough strange activity for a TV series. And we see a young Lacy building the cell that will house the prisoner found after Lacy dies. Why did he build it? Lacy says, “One day, God answered.”

Henry arrives to speak to the Warden’s widow and basically sneak a look at the dead man’s things. He finds prayer cards, bills, and a folder of news clippings, including articles that reference the plots of “The Body” (aka Stand by Me), Needful Things, and Cujo. He finds old Verse of the Day calendars that have all been stopped on the same page: “Even at that hour of night, the jailer cared for them and washed their wounds. Then he and everyone in his household were immediately baptized.” (Acts 16-33). What does that mean? The dead Warden is clearly the “jailer.” Did he think saving The Kid would save him and his wife? As Lacy’s widow kicks Henry out, he notices a really sturdy, foreboding lock on the basement door. Could there be more kids down there?

When Henry goes to the Warden’s church, we meet Jackie Torrance (and if that name doesn’t ring a bell, you really shouldn’t be allowed to watch Castle Rock). The current pastor speaks of redemption in the flesh and how Lacy thought of the natural world as his church. Lacy is being presented and remembered as a good, God-fearing man. Why did he have a prisoner in a closed part of Shawshank Penitentiary?

It’s the main question nagging at his predecessor as she drinks wine at the Hilton Augusta and Alan Pangborn plops down in the seat next to her. He tells her a story about once pulling over Warden Lacy when he was a cop. Lacy told Alan that he had figured out what was wrong with Castle Rock and leaves her with a warning, “Don’t let that fucking kid out.”

The new warden is so confused about what’s been going on at Shawshank, but she is going to get some answers from the kid. Working with her skeevy assistant, she moves the kid to a new cell with a cellmate who has swastikas tattooed on his head. He seems nice. Of course, we know what will happen, and a few scenes later it’s the Nazi who ends up dead, his entire body riddled with cancer, after the Kid warns him, “You don’t want to touch me.”

Before that happens, we learn a little more about Molly Strand. It turns out she was Henry Deaver’s neighbor when she was young and was kind of sweetly obsessed with the cute boy across the street. She writes his name in her notebook and sees him get in a car late one night. Later, after Henry’s father is found dead, a deputy comes to question a young Molly, who claims to know nothing about Henry’s disappearance. The scene ends on a fascinating and strange beat as steam comes out of the young girl’s mouth as if her room is freezing cold. What exactly are the extent of Molly’s powers and what is her relationship to what happened to Henry? She tells her sister, played by the great Alison Tolman, that she has an “undiagnosed psychic affliction,” but what the heck does that mean?

Meanwhile, Henry runs into Jackie again at a bar called The Mellow Tiger. She tells him how the city turned his disappearance and the death of his father into an urban legend, spreading the rumor that the young boy pushed his adoptive father off the bluff and ran away. She wants to see his feet to see if the story that he lost three toes to frostbite is true. Henry has another goal. He’s trying to get to the bottom of who called him from Shawshank, and he lucks into Zalewski entering the bar, sending him a note to meet later.

Henry goes home to find Alan digging up a dog in the backyard in an insanely on-the-nose Pet Sematary reference. Ruth thinks the local stray, who was hit by a truck, is still alive. (It isn’t.) It’s a good scene for Glenn and Holland, and we see that Molly is still watching her neighbor from across the street. When will she finally talk to Henry?

The officer and Henry stage an “Act of God” to get the attorney to the prison, setting up a traveling church outside the penitentiary. As Henry stands near the fence, someone pushes the Kid out the door so the attorney can finally meet his client. As a dog digs up Lacy’s head, we learn that the narration we’ve been hearing has also been in the form of a letter to Alan. Has he passed on his obligation? His curse? His need to be the defender of Castle Rock, whatever that entails?

Four Past Midnight

• So is the Kid the literal Devil? It would be very Stephen King if he turned out to be as the writer loved stories of evil men come to peaceful towns.

• If you’re wondering what the 1488 on the Nazi prisoner’s head means, check this out. I thought at first it might be a reference to the Stephen King short story turned film, 1408. If you really squint and stretch, you could say that it is. It’s up to you.

• A reminder that Jane Levy rules. She instantly makes this show more interesting, as she did Evil Dead, Don’t Breathe, and even Suburgatory. She’s a phenomenal young actress and we only hope Castle Rock does the most it can with her.

• Wondering what the title, “Habeas Corpus” means? It literally means “that you have the body” and is a legal term that relates to false imprisonment. The prisoner must have his time in court. Although it might be best if this prisoner was kept underground.

Castle Rock Recap: An Act of God