Castle Rock is a series on Hulu based on the vast library of Stephen King’s works. Our “Curiosities and Connections” series that takes a look at the references to Stephen King’s other works in each episode, which may give us hints as to what we can expect–and what the answers to some mysteries may be–in future episodes of Castle Rock. If you’re just joining us, please be sure to take a look at our other “Curiosities and Connections” articles for episodes one, two and three, and four as well.
My first connection actually isn’t a King universe connection, but it’s worth mentioning, as the core issue comes up time and again in this episode, and most likely has been in the back of your mind as you’ve watched the show so far. Bill Skarsgård’s character has been locked in Shawshank for decades–1991 at the latest–because it was believed that he was the incarnation of the devil. The question is, well, is he or is he not? Alan Pangborn confessed that he believed it when he had a chance to get in the way of the imprisonment. Our main characters, Henry Deaver and Molly Strand, do not believe it.
So, what’s the connection? A popular Twilight Zone episode, “The Howling Man,” featured a leader of an obscure religious sect that had captured a man he believed to be the devil. A visitor, horrified by the man’s howling and imprisonment, lets him out, only to find that it really was the devil locked up in there. It may not be that Skarsgård’s character is the devil like in the episode, but he had some odd scenes that seemed to connect him with chaos in the town. Being near him when something bad is happening causes Strand’s Shining to act up, as if he is a conduit for every bad thing that has ever happened in the area.
Two of the things Strand hears when she is near the former inmate is a kid asking if “You guys wanna see a dead body?“, possibly the most famous line in Stand By Me, where a group of kids set out into the wilderness to see a corpse.
Rewinding to earlier in the episode, Deaver is trying to explain to Strand why he doesn’t think she should be so trusting of Skarsgård’s character, who still won’t give up his real name. He says that the former inmate could be the “Bangor strangler.” This is a sly reference to Stephen King’s hometown of Bangor, Maine.
Alan Pangborn is asked to give a speech for a dedication ceremony. He starts out by saying that when he was a kid he wanted to be a magician. His lifelong love of magic is important in Needful Things, where it is just an old hobby until it turns the tide during the climax of the book.
Strand’s friend, Jackie Torrance, who we saw in an earlier episode talking about serial killers, hangs out with Skarsgård’s character. She talks about how nothing interesting happens in town now, but there used to be serial killers and “psychopathic dogs.” The dog was Cujo, a dog that contracted rabies and killed a handful of people in the area. Serial killers cover Frank Dodd from The Dead Zone and Joubert from Gerald’s Game, possibly others.
Torrance then goes on to say that she had an uncle that “tried to axe murder his wife and kid at some fancy ski resort.” She then took on the uncle’s name to annoy her family. Of course, this is Jack Torrance from The Shining, who tried to do exactly what his niece described. This reference is interesting as well. In King’s original book, Torrance actually tries to kill his family with rocque mallets (essentially croquet mallets). It’s only in the Stanley Kubrick film that Torrance takes up an axe. King is notorious for hating the Kubrick film, so it’s interesting to see that film get the nod, though the film is unquestionably more famous than the book or the later miniseries.
Pangborn mentions that he has carried a torch for Henry Deaver’s mother Ruthie since 1991, so even if the major events of Needful Things did take place, Polly, his girlfriend in the book, must have been written out of the show.
At the very end of the episode, Pangborn confronts Skarsgård’s character. One of the things he’s enraged about is Ruthie’s failing mental capacities. Skarsgård, who talks a little bit now, says that he can help her. How can one “help” dementia? Well, The Green Mile is referenced in the opening credits. In it, an inmate (not of Shawshank) named John Coffey has the ability to heal with his hands and expel the disease, at one point even totally healing a woman that had a brain tumor causing her to lose her mind. Although most of the pain and disease was expelled quickly into the air, the trouble from this could only be expelled by Coffey passing it on to another person.
As of right now, I’m thinking that the mysterious inmate has a similar power. Having to pass the pain on in a way similar to Coffey may have been what convinced Skarsgård’s tormentor that he was evil. It would also be a very King thing to have a religious character be unable to recognize a blessing or even a neutral ability and assume it was of an evil nature.
That’s all we have for this week’s episode of Castle Rock; check back next week for our “Curiosities and Connections” article for episode six, after it is released on Hulu August 15! And if you think you noticed something that we missed or have your own theories on the show, feel free to let us know in the comments below.