Episode 4: The Box
Starring: André Holland, Melanie Lynskey, Bill Skarsgård, Sissy Spacek, Scott Glenn, Noel Fisher, Josh Cooke, David Selby
Director: Michael Uppendahl
Writers: Scott Brown, Sam Shaw, Dustin Thomason, Based in the works Stephen King
Reviewed by Sidney Morgan
This review CONTAINS SPOILERS. You’ve been advised!
Castle Rock excels at character development. Their backstories are intriguing and mysterious, while their allegiances are never really made clear given the moral ambiguity of their actions and behaviours. Alan Pangborn, Ruth Deaver, and Dale Lacy, though good people on the surface, seem to be guilty of some shady past activities. Even Molly, a seemingly sweet person, is burdened with a terrible and dark secret. But what about Henry? The man is reserved, choosing not to speak with many people in Castle Rock, though his past could have something to do with that. Going into this episode, we didn’t know a whole lot about him, other than his disappearance and eventual self-exile to Texas. But The Box changes this as Henry finally decides to do a little digging.
Few people seem to know what happened to Henry (André Holland) when he went missing. Most of the town’s folk don’t believe the abduction story and actually hold him responsible for his father’s death, going so far as to claim Henry faked the whole thing. But that would be too convenient (and frankly, lazy writing). The problem is that Henry doesn’t remember much about that time or the events either. He’s repressed those memories, likely due to some traumatic experience. But his dreams are haunted by images and being back in Castle Rock seems to have made it worse. Wanting answers, and to clear his name, he sets aside his case to ask questions and do a little investigation.
He tries discussing it with his mother, who turns out to be surprisingly lucid, but it leads nowhere. Whereas he’s trying to uncover his past, she worries about her future. (Alan has indirectly told her that Henry’s planning to put her in an old age home back in Houston.) The tension that surfaces so easily hints at some deep unresolved issues between them. And while no answers are given, Ruth (Sissy Spacek) has to know something. Otherwise, why is she avoiding the subject? So knowing this is a dead end – for the moment – Henry pursues another lead, one that brings him to the Desjardins household. The man who lives there now is Josef (David Selby), brother of Vince, the same Vince who was a member of Ace’s (Kiefer Sutherland) gang in The Body, or its excellent movie adaptation Stand By Me.
The Desjardins house looks old and creepy (about time… most houses so far look too nice), and is conveniently situated in the forest, in the middle of nowhere. There, Henry finds a shed and after breaking the lock, sees a bowl of rotten food with a spoon in it. Who or what could have been kept in there? An animal? Henry? The Kid? Josef claims not to know anything about that, but he does admit to recognizing Henry.
This leads him to give Henry a box which contains the police files from the investigation into his disappearance. In the words of the Church Lady (Dana Carvey), “Isn’t that convenient”! You’ll just have to accept the contrived way he came into its possession, but it does allow Henry to find an interesting nugget of information: Alan had searched this house. However, he did so without a true intent to search or find anything. Odd, no? Well, Henry thinks so and confronts Alan (Scott Glenn) about it.
Too many things didn’t add up in Henry’s case, starting with the lack of signs he’d been outside in the dead of winter for eleven days. But it didn’t matter as Alan’s investigation was a farce from start to finish, a smoke screen. He believed, and still does, that Henry was responsible for his father’s accident, and consequently death. And why? (** SPOILER ALERT**) Because Henry’s father wrote him (Alan) a note saying so… What? Woah! So, why protect Henry then? Why conduct a joke of an investigation? Certainly not just for the fancies of a woman, right? Perhaps he knows something about Henry that forced him to bury the case file? Frustrating, yet brilliant to answer a question, but pose five more.
In this episode, Shawshank prison is the focus of two intense events. First, assistant warden Reeves (Josh Cooke) visits the Kid and essentially threatens to rip out his teeth and feed them to him unless he gives up his name. Oh boy. Talk about poking the bear. In response, the Kid (Bill Skarsgård) stands up, looking frighteningly imposing and proceeds to quote the book of Revelations:
He had a name written that no one knew except Himself.
He was clothed with a robe dipped in blood…
This references one of the four horsemen of the apocalypse who, depending on the interpretation, represents Christ, pestilence, disease, war or even the Antichrist. Without going into the reasons for these interpretations, it does hint at the Kid’s nature. But making him look bad at every opportunity seems like obvious misdirection. I would be surprised if he were something as obvious as a demon or even the devil himself. With Dale’s ominous warnings and grand plan, isn’t it possible that the Kid is part of the fight to eradicate the evil in Castle Rock?
The second Shawshank event involves Dennis (Noel Fisher). From his first appearance in episode one, it was clear there was something wrong with him. He doesn’t like what’s going on at Shawshank – guards are seen hitting and abusing prisoners. Yet, he keeps himself from blowing the whistle fearing he’ll lose his job. But with the discovery of the Kid, things change. He takes a special interest in him, becoming obsessed. Dennis begins to look feverish, complaining he can’t sleep, and as his coworker reminds him, he barely smiles. And here, he finally snaps. Perhaps it’s the job and the place, or perhaps it’s the Kid who influences him. Or maybe there’s something else, like the evil that lives in Castle Rock? Whatever the reason, the result is truly shocking and has a sobering effect on Henry.
The title of this episode, The Box, is enigmatic. It wasn’t randomly chosen, so what could it refer to? Does it refer to Matthew Deaver’s exhumed coffin? The shed that Henry finds at the Desjardins property? The box which contained the police file? What about the jail cell that holds the Kid? Or is it something less literal?
Boxes fascinate us. They tease our curiosity, exciting us to the potential surprise they may contain. We open them to get that birthday gift, that box of chocolate, or that new television is so much fun. Sometimes we play with that curiosity to have a bit of fun. How else can we explain the existence of a Jack-in-the-box? But opening them can also have terrifying and deadly consequences. New and old stories keep reminding us of this. Opening that sarcophagus unleashes the mummy’s curse. The Ark of the Covenant kills (or melts…) you. The Lament Configuration brings pain and suffering (Hellraiser). Pandora’s box… Well, you get the point.
So you see, some boxes should never be opened. Their secrets should remain secrets. In Castle Rock, perhaps this means that Henry shouldn’t look into his past. Perhaps the Kid shouldn’t see the light of day (as Dale’s voice-over warned us). Heck, Alan makes it clear to Warden Porter what to do with him. Whatever the box the title refers to, it doesn’t bode well for some of our characters or the town itself.
Once again, the episode does not disappoint. With Henry’s backstory developing, his role in Dale’s plan is starting to take shape, though it’s impossible to tell yet where his allegiances lie. As it is with the Kid, who remains just as mysterious. When he speaks of a robe dipped in blood, a red garment, could he be referring to the Crimson King from The Dark Towers? It would explain the uncharacteristic behaviours some of the characters are exhibiting.
Castle Rock is a brilliant show. Each episode so far has added to the layers of complexity, teasing out some of the deep mysteries of the town and its people. It’s a slow burn, but it’s quality storytelling. An absolute must watch!
Castle Rock is streaming on Hulu.