It’s not unusual on TV to see an episode go through events we’ve already seen from another character’s perspective, or to see what another character was up to at the same time. What is unusual about Castle Rock’s “The Queen” is that Ruth wasn’t absent from the previous episode, “The Filter,” so there are a lot of scenes that are direct repeats — sometimes from different camera angles, sometimes extended, but relatively unchanged. The question becomes whether there’s something to be gained from seeing them this way and, while I’m sorry to say so, my gut reaction’s “no”.
Had this episode fallen at a different point in the season, or not had the weight of answering what happened at the end of “The Filter,” this could’ve, and should’ve, been a beast of an hour. A spotlight episode centered around Sissy Spacek that tries to portray what it’s like to have Alzheimer’s? That’s beautiful, but instead of being about Ruth, “The Queen” is about what Skarsgård may, or may not have, done to her and, ultimately, what she does to Alan Pangborn.
“When I come back, I’m not going anywhere, and neither are you.” Last week I talked about Alan being a goner, the moment he said that line, and “The Filter” let him live. Now Alan’s dead and there’s this discouraging subtext around trying to take care of a person with Alzheimer’s on your own. Maybe that’s being sensitive, and this episode has gun ownership on its mind, too (not to mention one pointed call out to Walmart, as the place where’s Henry’s dad (Adam Rothenberg) bought his gun).
Juniper Hill suffers a fire, which doesn’t reflect well on psychiatric hospitals. Alzheimer’s is considered a brain disorder, not a mental illness, but “The Queen” includes a reverse Psycho scene, too, with Ruth waiting inside the shower with a screwdriver to stab Skarsgård’s character when he opens the curtain. The entertainment world is always fast to have people who aren’t completely in control of their mental faculties act out violently and, while the events of “The Queen” (or at least some of them) could’ve happened, it plays into the trend of depicting people with Alzheimer’s and other disorders as dangerous.
Episode Verdict: While “The Queen” goes to great lengths to emphasize the gun’s role in what happens (how many times do we see it on the shelf in the linen closet?), I wish we could’ve seen an episode from Ruth’s point of view that wasn’t tied to her killing someone at the end.
Other thoughts on “The Queen”:
- Here are some of the new scenes we get this episode:
- How the dog in the suitcase died – A precursor to Ruth shooting Pangborn by accident, we see her let the dog out and find out he was hit by a car shortly afterwards.
- Alan teaches Ruth magic – Alan’s palming trick comes in handy when Ruth uses it to avoid taking her medication.
- Wendell explains his video game to his grandmother and makes the foreshadowing comment about the dead sometimes taking the form of allies. Unlike Wendell’s relationship with his father, what’s really cool about their dynamic is how much they listen to one another. Video games isn’t a topic especially tailored to Ruth, but she’s interested in what he’s interested in.
- Matthew breaks from the script of Ruth’s memory to tell her to stop trying to change the past. She didn’t run away with Alan then and now their attempt to make up for lost time has ended unnaturally.
- A scene that remains unexplained: What Ruth was thinking when she jumped into the water during Alan’s speech.
- Interesting style choice: having Sissy Spacek appear in every time line, especially since Schuyler Fisk‘s already been cast as young Ruth. Yes, it highlights how Ruth is being transplanted into these memories, but it also blurs the lines of what’s real. Does she ever see Skarsgård’s face or does he always appear as her husband?
- That Molly was by the house is one of the episode’s unforeseeable moments, but besides her one-track focus on Henry, she should’ve been aware that something happened at Juniper Hill and have reacted to Ruth telling her Skarsgård was in the house. Unless she thought Ruth was imagining things, she still should’ve done her due diligence and made sure everything was OK.
New episodes of Castle Rock stream every Wednesday on Hulu.