For the wages of sin is death… – Romans 6:23
Even before we see the words “Previously on Castle Rock,” the first clip in the recap for Castle Rock’s season finale is Henry arguing that his client shouldn’t be given the death penalty. His client, “the oldest death row inmate in…Texas,” had been sitting on death row since 1993, but ended up being put to death when the case didn’t go Henry’s way in the pilot.
While she would’ve had Skarsgård beaten in age (if he bothered to age, that is), in years, Skarsgård was in Shawshank two years longer. Her case was legal. She may not have committed the crime she was accused of, but the verdict came through the proper channels. Skarsgård’s didn’t, but he got to live. The decision in her case wasn’t Henry’s alone to make. The decision in Skarsgård’s was, but where does that leave Castle Rock?
It leaves Skarsgård in a cage, that’s for sure. After hoping Henry would be the person to save him, and not counting on him forgetting that they’d ever met, Henry has become Skarsgård’s jailer, unable to shoot him when he gets the chance (because of reasonable doubt) but perfectly willing to make him spend another indefinite jail sentence in Shawshank.
Does that make Castle Rock a critique against the death penalty, or the US prison system in general? A warning of the dangers of blindly following the status quo, instead of forging your own path, because that’s what Henry does. Whether or not Skarsgård’s the devil, helping him get back to his world would’ve benefited everyone, yet Henry decides to copy his father and Warden Lacy, and take the “easy” route, rather than break the twisted cycle.
People are always talking about listening to the voice of God on this show, but Henry doesn’t listen to anyone – not his son, not Molly, and certainly not Skarsgård, and it’s that lack of character growth – the stagnancy of Castle Rock – that hasn’t left me with the warmest feelings towards the show.
In keeping with Stephen King and his books, I do think that it’s cool that the season has a genuine ending, with a one-year time jump to give most of the characters a coda. Whether spurred by Skarsgård’s comment about being happier in his time, Molly got out of Castle Rock, while Ruth died four months after Alan (her near jump into the water again this episode making you hope it was of natural causes). A closing credit scene is cute but not necessary, and that’s where I’m leaning towards Castle Rock overall. The plot had more layers than developments, and while I’m glad some King fans are enjoying it, it’s not a show I’ll be telling people to binge anytime soon.
Lingering Questions After “Romans:”
Does Henry not remember what happened?
- This episode we learn Henry did push his father off the cliff at Castle Lake. It was premeditated (he retraced his footprints in the snow) and he had a motive (his dad had told him he was going to kill his mom). That was in our world, though, not Skarsgård’s. While the possibility has been raised that he wouldn’t remember anything from Skarsgård’s world, does that mean these memories are repressed, or is Henry’s voiceover supposed to indicate he’s in denial?
Was Skarsgård evil?
- He didn’t react to the riot that broke out in the prison cell (which, as the place Henry has to confront him, couldn’t have been better chosen), but if you want to talk about bad things happening, Henry’s been accused of having the same effect on people. Skarsgård can blame it on not belonging to this world, but what’s Henry’s excuse?
What was the point of having Wendell return and hear the voice of God, too?
Why kill Warden Porter?
- The entire finale is preoccupied with death, but why have Warden Porter be the episode’s major kill? Completism (the other wardens had terrible deaths, so she can’t escape one, too), or an excuse to bring up that Shawshank’s been evacuated, so Henry has free access to the water tank cell?
Castle Rock Season 1 is streaming on Hulu.