We’ve spent a great deal of time breaking down the Easter eggs and references on Hulu’s Castle Rock to works like Needful Things and The Body (the novella adapted into film as Stand by Me), but have we missed the biggest one? Is this show really more indebted to The Dark Tower than anything else? That saga that started with the perfect The Gunslinger, which has one of the most memorable opening lines in the history of literature (“The Man in Black fled across the desert, and the Gunslinger followed”), eventually expanded to feature what is called the Multiverse, a series of alternate realities that sometimes contained different iterations of the same people. One even contained a writer named Stephen King. “Henry Deaver” finally explains the background of the young man known only as The Kid, up until now — he, too, is Henry Deaver, and he knows what happened to the version of him from our universe 27 years ago.
This is way too complex an episode to recap beat by beat, so let’s just break down what happened to Bill Skarsgård’s version of Henry Deaver. Living a relatively normal life with a wife with whom he’s trying to start a family, Henry is working to cure dementia — he’s developed a brain implant that seems to work on a cat named Puck. It turns out that the Ruth Deaver of this reality also suffers from dementia, but she didn’t stay with Matthew Deaver, moving to Florida with Alan Pangborn and living happily ever after. (Isn’t that kind of poignantly sweet given the action of “The Queen”?) This Matthew Deaver survived — he wasn’t killed by Molly Strand — and his descent into madness continued. In this reality, Henry comes home after learning that Matthew killed himself. Trying to restart a fuse one night, he descends into the basement and finds a kid in a makeshift cell not unlike the one Warden Lacy created in a rundown section of Shawshank in our reality. In the cell? The young version of the character we’ve come to know as Henry Deaver. The kid who disappeared almost thirty years ago.
Stick with me, here. In 1991, the young Henry Deaver of our world went to the woods with his father Matthew Deaver, who wanted him to hear God. He basically traveled to an alternate universe in which the Deavers had another son and he looked nothing like our Henry. Thinking that he had proven the existence of God and the Devil, Matthew Deaver caged our version of Henry for what must have been 11 days in our reality. It explains why he had no frostbite when he suddenly appeared on Castle Lake. At first, no one believes him, but the alternate Molly touches his hand, seeing everything that she and he did in our plane of existence. Now believing him, she races to the woods with the two Henry’s, suddenly transporting both of them to Castle Lake. In the confusion, the alternate Zalewski (and wasn’t it nice to see him again?) shoots that version of Molly, explaining The Kid’s confusing line about seeing her die in the woods. Henry 1 is spotted by Alan Pangborn on the lake; Henry 2 was found by Warden Lacy and kept prisoner for 27 years, until this season’s premiere.
What does this mean, and what does it say about Castle Rock? Which Henry Deaver is the right Henry Deaver, and can the Kid version of Henry return to his universe? Does the fact that the connection is so thin through these alternate planes in the woods of Castle Rock explain why the city has been beset by violence and evil for decades? There are still a great deal of questions to be answered by the season finale.
There’s another question to ask in terms of screenwriting, which may not have an answer other than the delayed resolution required by episodic television. Why didn’t Henry 2 tell this story earlier? Why did he look so catatonic and downright dangerous every time he appeared? Perhaps he did tell Warden Lacy, and 27 years of listening to the good warden’s Bible Talk drove him somewhat mad? That might make sense. And we should remember, when Warden Porter asked him his name, the first two words spoken by this young man were simply “Henry Deaver.” One does have to wonder about all the weird behavior since then, however, especially with Ruth, who he almost seemed to relish in frightening into killing her husband. But note something that may matter: Henry 1, when transported to the other universe, behaves super creepily too, needing sunglasses and possibly killing a bunch of people at Juniper Hill, just like his alter ego. Perhaps when these realities break, it allows evil to take shape in those who travel between them.
There’s something else we should take into account after “Henry Deaver” that we haven’t really talked much about — this show may owe as much to Lost as it does to Stephen King. Don’t forget, J.J. Abrams is a producer here. There have been hints of Lost-like mystery in previous episodes, but the flashback structure of this one, along with the way it seemed to both answer and ask new questions at the same time, felt greatly indebted to the ABC hit. Of course, one could argue, that show owed a great deal to Stephen King in the first place. And now we’ve come full circle.
Four Past Midnight
• We haven’t talked enough about the music on this show, which was excellent this week. Or the fact that Thomas Newman, the 14-time Oscar nominee, composed the opening theme. Newman’s first Oscar nomination? It was for The Shawshank Redemption. What was I saying about circles?
• Walking through Castle Rock as he returns home allows for a number of references to places from Stephen King literature, including The Castle Rock Call and the Mellow Tiger.
• Did you recognize the woman who kills a baby version of Matthew Deaver only for him to “resurrect” in an early flashback? That was Mamie Gummer, daughter of Meryl Streep. Castle Rock has a somewhat bizarre habit of over-casting familiar faces in small roles like Gummer, Frances Conroy, and Allison Tolman. Maybe these characters will be expanded upon in future seasons.
• How on Earth could they wrap this up with only one more episode? What do you expect from the finale? Will Henry 2 return to his world? Make your predictions below.