Wednesday, August 8, 2018

REVIEW: 'Castle Rock' - The Trauma of the Past Continues to Hurt Everyone in the Town in 'Harvest'

Hulu's Castle Rock - Episode 1.05 "Harvest"

A stranger comes to town. Castle Rock honors Sheriff Pangborn.

Trauma of the past is such a huge theme that defines all of the stories in Castle Rock. It's a unifying concept because of the central town where everyone lives. This is a town defined by all of the past tragedies that have occurred here. It's something that Jackie is completely obsessed with as well. It's not just as a casual town historian either. She actually wants to be a part of a serial killer story. That's so absolutely twisted and explains immediately why she is drawn to The Kid even though she doesn't know anything about him. Moreover, Henry is seen by the town as the boy who killed his father. That is overwhelming to his entire identity in this community. It fuels his desire to get out of here as quickly as possible. But it also draws him into staying because he's curious about the answers that have long plagued his memory. He even suffers from a deafening noise in his ears that has existed since he was a teenager as well. Meanwhile, Ruth is clearly triggered and haunted by something as simple and innocuous as a dog barking. Her current condition plagues her in being unable to remember every single detail or share her motivations to the people who love her the most. She wants to explain. And yet, she lacks the context to truly understand herself. That means Alan is forever chasing a love that will never be as significant and moving as it once was because Ruth's memory is being taken from her. And finally, Molly just wants to move past all of the trauma of the past and build a new identity for the town. However, she finds herself having to interact with these figures whose lives have been forever changed by tragedy. Her hearing their thoughts and feeling their emotions only further builds those connections for her and makes her want to reach out and connect even though it can be so distracting to her ultimate goals for the community as well.

All of this talk about the past explodes amongst the characters the moment that The Kid is released from Shawshank. The conclusion of last week's episode signaled that things were about to really intensify in this community. As such, it's very lackluster that "Harvest" continues to move at a leisurely pace. The community is still rocked by the massacre at the prison. And yet, it's not the first tragedy that has occurred in this place. It quickly becomes odd news. That's so twisted and tragic while also being fitting to the current environment the show is airing in. Every day there is some tragedy reported in the news. But the public has become deaf to all of those abuses of the system because the amount of them is so overwhelming to the average person. The outsiders to Castle Rock are shocked by the actions taken by Dennis. Henry just saw a man who was desperate to testify about the abuses of power that occurred in the prison system. And now, he attends a ceremony where a moment of silence is given to the victims who actually perpetuated that system of abuse. Henry understands that. But the rest of the world just copes with this being the best that their community can be. The private prison system ensures that everything is wrapped up in a neat bow so that even more scrutiny doesn't come their way. That means Warden Porter getting yelled at by her superior and then releasing The Kid to the public. That's such a pivotal moment. The series started with him being discovered and no one knowing why the previous warden kept him locked in a cage or if he truly belonged in the prison. Henry fought for his release. Dennis was eager to testify. And now, there is the potential of moving forward with life. The Kid can once again define his story and discover who he is while everyone else can focus on their own persona dilemmas.

And yet, the release of The Kid seems to trigger a sense of tragedy and destruction amongst this community. Dale Lacy believed him to be the devil in disguise. As long as he was kept out of the sunlight, the community of Castle Rock would be safe from his vicious violence and influence. It was only after he stepped outside that Dennis became more agitated and willing to commit mass murder. And now, the entire world is changing. The color scheme of the series shifts to a burnt orange because the neighboring woods are on fire. The local fire department is overwhelmed and hasn't been able to put it out just yet. As such, it leads to the creepy visual of people around town wearing masks. Castle Rock isn't ordered to evacuate just yet. But it's easy to see how this new natural disaster is slowly enveloping this community. It means that there isn't a huge crowd for Alan's big ceremony. That's how he would want it as well. But all of this seems tied to The Kid's release. Henry takes him to doctors knowing that he needs help remembering who he is and the life that he had before he was taken by Dale. They too inform him that context will be key for restoring his memory. It's going to take time and Henry doesn't have that. He wants to get back to his life in Houston. He is doing his best to give everyone what they need while ensuring that he will be updated on everything going on with them. He compromises with his mother by putting in a new security system to keep track of her. Someone still eventually breaks into the house. And Henry even invites the devil to stay with him. That could become such a massive mistake. It is bound to be the thing that forever changes Henry's life. But the mysteries of The Kid are still aplenty with the show purposefully keeping the truth from the audience as well.

Alan is suggesting that The Kid is some kind of supernatural being because he hasn't aged a day after twenty seven years. When Dale first kidnapped him, he was pulled over by the sheriff. He allowed him to go despite the severity of the situation. The two men simply had to trust each other. It was far from the worst thing that Alan had ever seen in this job. He knew that Dale had a moral code. And in the beginning, Alan was strong in his belief that keeping this man in this solitary cell would bring salvation to Castle Rock. As he got older, that conviction started to fade. In the lead up to his suicide, he was no longer certain that he did the right thing. He still had no clarity on who The Kid was. He didn't know what he was. All of this fuels the confrontation that Alan has with him. He understands the situation better than Henry does because he was close with the warden and had a previous run-in with The Kid. He knows that something is off with this guy. He may actually be the devil. Dale believed that but wasn't able to keep him at bay for long. Of course, Alan doesn't know that Dale was the one who told The Kid to get into contact with Henry. The reasoning behind that is still a mystery. And now, Alan just wants to kill The Kid in the hopes that it would put an end to all that is happening in the town. He wants to be the silent savior. He is already being memorialized by this town. He doesn't like that because he sees it as the town moving past him even though it still needs to be saved. He doesn't have the luxury of simply running away to another life. That's something afforded to Henry even though he is still torn up about leaving his mother and not being able to help all of his clients. That's why he feels compassion for The Kid even when Molly is able to articulate that something evil resides within him.

In the end, Alan doesn't kill The Kid because he promises to help cure Ruth of her cruel and destructive disease. This episode provides more context for their relationship. It comes with the clarity that something more was going on in the Deaver house. The preacher may not have been a good man at all. Alan was Ruth's protector. He always wanted to do right by her. He was patient. And now, he can love her. But he's distraught after losing one wife to death and another to dementia. He doesn't see that as fair or just. He wants someone to blame. The mystery surrounding The Kid is as good as anything else. It would be so easy to see this guy as the devil. It's sinister that he is referred to as a kid. He is certainly a victim to his circumstances. That's the perception the characters give him. The show wants the audience to see him as capable of causing chaos and destruction simply by invading the innocent lives of the people in this town. He's immortal. And yet, the show chooses not to show the contents of Dale's trunk when Alan searches them. In the present day, Alan is able to say that he is haunted by that face. He can never forget it. But the show is still leaving the possibility open that The Kid is a victim who may share the same condition as Molly. He just happens to hear all of the sinister thoughts and emotions from people on a grand scale. She is able to feel that the moment she gets close to him on the ledge. But the suggestion is still present of supernatural explanations throughout this story. The Kid tells Alan that he will he able to heal Ruth. As such, that's enough of a reason to keep him alive. In that moment, The Kid seems assure of himself. Alan is willing to give this a chance to win back the life he has always wanted. And yet, it's bound to come at such a cost as well.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Harvest" was written by Lila Byock and directed by Andrew Berstein.
  • It's absolutely terrifying to see Ruth be able to get to the ledge of the bridge and jump off of it with no one really noticing her. It's clear that the dog barking triggers something within her. But Alan looks out at the crowd and his supportive love is suddenly missing. Henry notices as well and isn't able to get to her in time. Of course, she survives this jump as well. It just proves that she may be more damaged than anyone realizes.
  • Jackie explains to The Kid that she was born Diane Torrance but changed her name in honor of her uncle, Jack Torrance from The Shining. She did it first to piss off her parents. But she also did it to feel more of a connection to the town and its traumatic past. All of the danger and excitement happened so long ago and she's envious of that. And yet, she still calls Molly when danger presents itself with The Kid.
  • The body of Henry's father was moved to the church a week ago. And now, it is suffering from exploding casket syndrome - which is an actual thing! All of the transportation and change in climate may be forcing the body to explode inside the pressure cooker. As such, fluid is leaking out. It's not a pleasant sight at all and just makes another hassle Henry will have to deal with.
  • It's absolutely terrifying just watching The Kid roam around the city at night. At times, he simply wants to recreate the living situation he has known for the past 27 years. But other times, he's exploring. He also just casual breaks into a house. A home that eventually makes way to tragedy even without him being the one to pick up the knife and slaughter the family that is living there. 
  • Emmy winner Richard Schiff plays Warden Porter's superior at the private prison company who is yelling at her for creating even more of a mess at Shawshank. That's unusual casting especially if that's all there is going to be. It would make sense if it was just a vocal cameo because he's busy as a series regular on ABC's The Good Doctor. But it's also strange to cast such a recognizable actor in that small part as well.