Henry Deaver turns from his investigation into the mysterious kid held prisoner at Shawshank Penitentiary to the questions remaining about his own disappearance as a child, and his father’s death. The storytelling this week is often a bit clunky, and the episode ends with a disturbing workplace massacre that doesn’t really fit the tone of the show, but the performances are still keeping Castle Rock relatively grounded … for now.
The thing to realize about “The Box” is that while Henry’s focus has been shifted to his own past, Dennis Zalewski, the corrections officer who brought Weaver into this mess, is slowly losing his mind. His arc this episode is bookended by two great uses of music, starting with a defiant “Clap Hands” by Tom Waits as Zalewski believes he’s making some change at a place that really needs it, and ending with “Crying” by Roy Orbison as he loses his mind. Both music choices are indicative of a strength of this show: It’s not particularly era-specific. Music choices can be from any era and there’s not a lot of pop culture, tech, etc. that would pin it to a certain year.
The Kid surely doesn’t care what year it is, quoting Revelations to Porter’s creepy second-in-command, but this episode is more about Deaver’s hunt for the truth about his own disappearance and how to care for his ailing mother. It starts when he tells Alan, while the two are working to move the remains of Henry’s father, that he’s planning to take Ruth back to Houston when he leaves in a week. In a strangely overwritten scene, the two then get into it regarding Henry’s disappearance. Why was Alan out there in the first place? Everyone presumed that Henry was dead. Why bother? He was trying to keep Ruth happy, which means to Henry that the two were already having an affair. That’s the kind of exposition dump and logical leap that only happens on TV. Henry even accuses Alan of moving Matthew’s body because of the affair.
Alan comes home to play a few psychological games with Ruth. He suggests perhaps moving, which feels a bit confusing at first, but it’s likely reverse psychology, making sure that Ruth is defiant about staying when Henry brings it up to her. Alan knows how to play games.
Molly is playing a few of her own with her teenage crush. She wonders if the reason that Henry is so passionate about the Kid is because it reminds him of his own kidnapping. It sounds like she’s even about to confess to killing Henry’s dad when Dennis Zalewski interrupts with a drawing of the water tank cell. What good would that do? Dennis wants to take down the entire abusive system at Shawshank, and Henry makes it clear that this needs to be a case only about the Kid. Dennis is cracking, made clear when he says, “Bad shit happens here because bad people know they’re safe here.” Some very bad shit will happen with Dennis before the episode ends.
In one of the more intriguing scenes in “The Box,” Zalewski goes to talk to the Kid, encouraging him to stay strong. The one-sided exchange ends with a fist bump, and it feels like something creepy happens. There’s a music shift and a look in Dennis’s eyes. Does the Kid “poison him” like he did his Nazi cellmate? Or does Dennis react the way he does at the end because he feels like the Kid is all he has left to live for? Either way, he returns to his post and draws smiley faces on the surveillance screens.
Henry is cycling through microfiche at the library, looking for details about his own disappearance. The hunt takes him across the name Vincent Desjardins (a name that should be familiar to fans of “The Body” and Carrie), who was released just before Henry’s disappearance, and had a felony count. He goes home to ask Ruth about Desjardins — Henry’s mother is awfully lucid when the plot demands it — and he wants to know why they never talk about those 11 days. She needs to talk about Texas instead. Both of them are avoiding serious subjects in different temporal directions — Henry wants to talk about the past; Ruth wants to talk about her future.
While Molly is trying to sell the Lacy home (and has to reveal what happened to Warden Lacy when the potential buyers find his cremains in the freezer), Henry goes on a field trip to the Desjardins home near Castle Lake. It’s creepy and desolate, and it looks like a piano fell through a rotted upstairs floor — which is one of the coolest images so far in a show that one wishes was a bit more visually striking at times. Henry spots something creepy in the backyard that could be the place where he was held captive. He breaks the lock and finds evidence of something wrong. It could be where a dog was kept, or something (or someone) else.
As Henry is wrapping his brain around this discovery, a car pulls up. It’s Vince’s brother, who apparently does haircuts at this distant, creepy locale. (Whose hair is he cutting? Escaped convicts’?) Anyway, the old man both offers some exposition about the house, and reveals that he has Henry’s police file under his bed. It turns out that Vince’s brother always lived there, and didn’t have a dog, but he swears that he never touched Henry. Of course, we know he didn’t. It’s obviously a red herring — it’s only episode four and the Deaver story has to be about more than a hoarder in the woods.
The Desjardins arc is more of a device to reveal something Alan Pangborn has suspected for years — Henry Deaver really did kill his father. After Henry confronts Alan about not investigating Desjardins, the former cop reveals that the reason that he buried the case is because Henry’s dad wrote, before he died, “Henry Did It.” Alan was trying to protect Henry. The revelation gets in Henry’s head and pushes him to Molly, who comforts him.
The next morning, the idea that he may have actually killed his own father shatters Henry Deaver enough to send him back to Texas. He calls Dennis to tell him that he’s off the hearing; he’ll advise the Kid to take the settlement. It’s enough for Zalewski to crack, taking a gun and shooting down fellow officers at Shawshank. It’s a disturbing scene, especially given recent mass shootings, and it ends with the shotgun death of Zalewski himself. Any Stephen King fans knows that Shawshank has seen its share of carnage and drama, but Castle Rock has just taken it to a new level.
Four Past Midnight
• I know a show like this doesn’t often hold up under a lot of scrutiny, but now that the world knows the Kid exists, wouldn’t a doctor have seen him by now? Even just to confirm abuse by Lacy? And might an exam reveal something “special” about a kid who seems to be something more than human?
• The title at first feels like a reference to the coffin of Matthew Weaver being moved home again, but it could easily refer to the prison or the cell in which the Kid is being kept. It could even refer to the shed that Henry thinks he was held captive in. There are a lot of boxes this week.
• There’s a shot of Shawshank Penitentiary from above this week that reminded me of the tarring scene from Frank Darabont’s beloved film.
• There are only four major references this week, including “The Body” and The Dead Zone for sure, and arguably to short stories “The House on Maple Street” and “The Reaper’s Image” — click here for more details.