Season 1 | Episode 1 | “Severance” | Aired July 25, 2018
Castle Rock is Hulu’s new original show produced by Stephen King and J.J. Abrams. It is based on the work of King in that a large chunk of his stories take place in the fictional Maine town of Castle Rock. The show is an original story told inside King’s multiverse, and they have the rights to about a dozen of King’s works.
The Mystery of Castle Lake
The first episode, titled “Severance,” begins in 1991 with a police officer in the woods. He is searching for an eleven-year-old boy who has been missing long enough that he is presumed dead. We see on his jacket that his name is Pangborn and bam, right off the bat we have our first Stephen King universe tie-in. Alan Pangborn was the sheriff of Castle Rock in King’s novels The Dark Half and Needful Things. Pangborn rests on a cliff edge looking over a frozen lake and drinks his coffee.
There is a deep and eerie noise that seemingly is coming from across the pond. He ignores the sound, but when he looks over the lake, he sees a boy standing in the middle of the ice where he wasn’t just seconds before. Pangborn carries the boy to the car and is shocked to find that there isn’t any frostbite on the boy.
Seventeen Years Later
The opening title is shown, and we are now in 2018. The local prison’s warden, Dale Lacy (played by Lost’s Terry O’Quinn) is preparing for his last day before retirement and making breakfast for his blind wife. He drives away, passing train tracks that are about to be blocked and waves to a couple of boys playing. This could be a subtle nod to King’s novella The Body which became the film Stand by Me, both of which took place in Castle Rock itself.
He then arrives at a familiar location, the edge of the cliff looking over the lake, and has a rope tied to a tree with the noose around his neck as he sits behind the wheel of his car. A shaggy dog appears coming over a hill and with a look of spite Dale floors it, and we hear a snap and see blood hit the interior of the car as it plunges into the lake. As it does the camera is very sure to show us that the car has a sticker for Shawshank Prison on its bumper. Of course, this is a reference to King’s novella Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption, later adapted by Frank Darabont into IMDB’s #1 film of all time The Shawshank Redemption.
We then are introduced to the prison and its new warden played by Ann Cusack. She is speaking with her deputy and trying to find a way to fit more prisoners to get more funding from the state, reminding us that Shawshank at this point is a private prison. One of the guards, Zalewski (played by Noel Fisher), mentions that the entire prison is double booked except for a wing that closed after a fire in 1989. The new warden can’t understand why warden Lacy wouldn’t reopen the cellblock and she orders Zalewski to count the beds in the section. During the inspection, he notices footprints in the ashes which lead to a sealed ladder going down into an empty metal room. In the room are a chair, a coffee can of cigarettes, a bible, and Bill Skarsgård trapped in a cage.
We All Float Down Here
After an inmate count and fingerprinting the new warden and prison staff have no idea who the prisoner is. Everyone assumes it was Dale Lacy’s prisoner and slave. The prison staff asks the prisoner many things, but the only response he gives is “Henry Deaver.” Deaver happens to be the boy found on the lake in 1991. We cut to Henry Deaver as a capital defense attorney in Texas as he makes a pleading case to prevent an old woman from going being executed. He fails to persuade the jury, and she is executed. While drinking and visiting a tourist trap that his client mentions to him he gets a call from Zalewski, secretly telling him about the prisoner and that he has been asked for by name.
We are then introduced to Molly Strand as she buys Percocet from a high schooler. She explains to him that she has a condition and that’s why she needs the pills. While driving through town, she sees Henry get off a bus, and she becomes very anxious as she speeds away.
Henry is now at the local church looking for his father’s grave, but the church’s back area has been paved over. He goes inside the church, and we see that his father was the Pastor there until he died in 1991. We also find out that Henry is adopted as he is black, and both of his parents are white. Henry returns to his home, and his mother (played by Sissy Spacek, the original Carrie in the film adaptation of King’s first novel, she also reads the audiobook version) doesn’t recognize him and shows signs of dementia.
Henry also discovers that the sheriff who found him, Alan Pangborn, is now living in the house with his mother to the dismay of Henry. When Henry went missing his father was found on the frozen lake bed with a broken back. He died before Henry was returned and people, because of Henry’s perfect health, assumed that Henry had just run away, resulting in the death of his father.
Henry’s Mystery Man
Henry goes to Shawshank to meet the prisoner, but the Warden denies his existence. While they are meeting we get what could be another King reference in cutaway shots to the prisoner in a glass cell watching a mouse run along the walls of the prison, a possible reference to The Green Mile. I say possibly because The Green Mile didn’t take place in Castle Rock or Shawshank. So if anything, this could just be a little nod to the King story. While Henry is leaving, he makes eye contact with Zalewski, and he seems to know that the call came from him.
We then have a three cutaway scene take place in which Henry asks Alan about Dale and Alan mentions Dale killed himself right where Alan found Henry in 1991. We also see Molly in her basement looking through a box with a flannel shirt, an hourglass, and a missing poster from 1991 with Henry on it. The third scene is of Zalewski in a watch room at Shawshank with security monitors in front of him while he looks through a baby name book. In the monitors we see the prisoner disappear from his cell and when Zalewski notices the monitors begin to show the corpses of his fellow guards. He hits the alarm.
Henry visits the site of Dale’s suicide and looks over the cliff Dale drove off and where Henry was rescued. We then see a flashback to Dale in the metal room with the prisoner. He is smoking a cigarette confirming it was him that was keeping the boy locked up. Dale tells the prisoner that, “When they find you ask for Henry Deaver” before he climbs up the ladder and the episode ends.
Castle Rock is available Wednesdays at 12 a.m. on Hulu.