A strong episode of Hulu’s hit based on the world of Stephen King ends with the confirmation of something we’ve suspected since we first laid eyes on him: That creepy kid that they found in the abandoned sector of Shawshank Penitentiary is immortal. He looks exactly the same in 2018 as he did when Sheriff Alan Pangborn saw him in the trunk of Warden Lacy’s car, 27 years ago. And it’s understandably freaking Alan out. In a thematic twist that feels very loyal to King’s writing, Alan isn’t so much scared of this non-aging creep — he’s seen his share of weird in Castle Rock — but annoyed that while he gets to watch the love of his life succumb to the ravages of time, The Kid stays the same age. Life is just not fair.
Another thing that feels “very King” about “Harvest” is the introduction of raging wildfires on Black Mountain on the edge of town. King loves the ticking clock provided by things like storm clouds on the horizon, and the fires create a strong thematic and visual backdrop for “Harvest.” There’s a smoky, red-orange palette this week that intensifies the sense that The Kid may have literally crawled out of Hell and is willing to turn Castle Rock into one on Earth.
Henry Deaver is more of an observer this week than ever, still reeling from the massacre that ended last week’s episode, and flashing back to other times when he had neurological testing to determine why he hears strange sounds. Remember that “sounds” have played a role throughout the series, including something that perhaps only Henry could hear when he was younger. The implication is that he still does. And The Kid seems to be able to hear something that others cannot. Are they hearing the same noise? And what does it mean?
The various characters of Castle Rock come closer to converging this week as the bad press after the massacre forces Warden Porter to let The Kid out. (She probably wouldn’t keep her job either, right? That could be the last we see of her.) As he won’t be able to go to Juniper Hill (a name that should be familiar to King fans) for a few days, Henry feels responsible for his well-being, and so puts him up in the room above Molly Strand’s office.
After he’s done building a makeshift cell — it’s all he knows — we get to see the terrifying extent of The Kid’s powers as he wanders out one night and makes his way into the home of a family celebrating a kid’s birthday party. What starts off as a happy occasion devolves into fighting and violence, and the impression is that it’s spurred on by the presence of The Kid. Is he doing this intentionally or is he just an otherworldly instigator of evil, someone who brings out bloodshed and hatred just through his presence? And can we now that say for sure that Zaleswki’s workplace massacre was at least partially due to his proximity to this evil entity?
One person with a unique way of understanding The Kid is Molly Strand. Remember, she can “hear” what’s unsaid, and not only thoughts but past behavior. She hears outright horror when she’s near The Kid. It’s something that has never happened to her before. Molly is clearly being developed as the conduit between The Kid and Henry Deaver, the former a channeler of pain and the latter someone with whom Molly has always had a stronger connection for some reason. How this all relates to Henry Deaver’s disappearance and Molly’s murder of Mr. Deaver are the major questions, but it feels like the writers are getting closer to answering them.
It’s also not yet clear if Jackie Torrance will be more than a cool reference to her uncle from The Shining. She does get to see The Kid naked, and then hangs out with him in a car, lamenting how she missed the truly crazy days of Castle Rock. She longs for the insanity of the stories she’s heard told in bars. She’s going to get what she longs for (but let’s hope they give Jane Levy a little more to do before that happens).
While we’re learning more about The Kid, Alan Pangborn is starting to crack. It should be a happy time in his life — the town is naming a bridge after him after all — but tragedy unfolds at the event. Before then, we see how much Alan truly loves Ruth — and it’s important to note that Henry sees it too. He’s been understandably cautious about his mother’s relationship with Alan, but this episode is designed to allay his fears about her well-being.
However, no one can stop the horror of what happens at the bridge. While Alan is giving a very King-esque speech about magicians, Ruth becomes spooked by a Cujo-esque dog, climbs the bridge, and jumps. Henry jumps after her, and she survives, but it further illustrates to them how her dementia is increasingly putting her physical safety in jeopardy. It’s a well-constructed episode in that we see how much Alan cares for Ruth — he tells Henry that he bought her a ring back in ’91 but she didn’t want to remarry, otherwise they would be — and that’s what adds more gravity to the final scene, in which The Kid promises the devilish deal that most people could see coming. “I can help her,” he says. “You have no idea what’s happening here, do you?” Does anybody?
• This was arguably the strongest episode so far visually, from the red-orange color palette of the wildfires to the shot of Ruth on the bridge to even the flashback of Lacy and The Kid — it had a visual language that I hope continues.
• Did you notice that both Henry and The Kid, when given the neurological test during which they have to repeat five words, end with “family,” even though it wasn’t the fifth word given to them? In fact, it was the only word they had in common. Just a coincidence or a subtle connection by the writers?
• Castle Rock is really starting to feel more and more like an old-fashioned broadcast network TV miniseries like The Tommyknockers and Storm of the Century in the way it’s bringing the needs of characters together and building toward what will (hopefully) be a terrifying climax.
• Looking for a few King Easter Eggs? Did the name Hadley ring a bell? Check out this week’s references, including The Shawshank Redemption, Cujo, The Shining, and good old Juniper Hill.