A well-met conversation on that cockadoodie Castle Rock finale

Castle Rock -- "Romans" - Episode 110 - Some birds can be caged. Henry Deaver (Andre Holland), shown. (Photo by: Dana Starbard/Hulu)
Castle Rock -- "Romans" - Episode 110 - Some birds can be caged. Henry Deaver (Andre Holland), shown. (Photo by: Dana Starbard/Hulu) /

A Constant Reader and a horror fan discuss how Stephen King’s body of work informs the bonkers twists in the Castle Rock finale.

The Castle Rock finale was definitive proof that showrunners Dustin Thomason and Sam Shaw know their way around a Stephen King novel. After setting the stage for what seemed like an eternity, the final hour of the series wrapped up all the seemingly disparate tales of horror into a comprehensive conclusion that added up to more than the sum of its parts.

King is the undisputed master of horror, but he’s also the master of lengthy passages of descriptive prose. Over the years, when I tell people that I’m a huge fan of King’s work, they often say that they’ve tried his books, but they test their patience. A common complaint is that King takes too long in getting where he needs to go. But no one ever said he was the master of brevity. He’s the master of horror. And attention to unrelenting detail is an important factor in getting readers to where we need to be for the final, shocking act.

Now that the first season of Castle Rock has concluded, it clearly has all the hallmarks of a classic King novel. Groundwork was laid in the first five episodes of the season, detailing the lives of various characters as they encountered ominous and otherworldly horror within the city limits of their sleepy Maine hamlet. Slowly but surely, we watched as a malicious brand of energy snaked through the town, sinister intent seeping in to every nook and cranny.

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The slow burn of horror is advantageous here because by the time the final showdown between Henry and the Kid took place, the evil had settled deep into the bones of the show, setting the stage for one wham bang of an ending.

Once the credits rolled on the Castle Rock finale, I was left with the feeling a good Stephen King book gives me: One part satisfaction, one part confusion, and three parts pure terror. After making doubly sure there were no monsters lurking under my couch, I checked in with Hidden Remote co-editor  and Sandy Casanova to chat about it all. We went deep on the Kid’s real identity, the complex nature of time travel in King’s universe, and why we need all the Bingo cards for Season 2.

Erin: So wow. I just finished the Castle Rock finale, and I am blown away. I’ve been a Constant Reader for over two decades, and the final two hours of the show gave me so much to mull over. Sure, there were iconic Easter eggs placed along the trail as the episodes skipped along, but the manner in which the series wove together all of King’s bedrock philosophies on the evil forces in our universe was so fulfilling. But before I flip into full book nerd mode, I really want to hear what you thought of the finale! Gimme all your theories!

Sandy: It took a few episodes for me to really get into it, but I’m a huge fan of Stephen King’s universe so I kept at it. I’m so glad I did! What a finale! I had no idea how they would be bringing this story full circle with only one episode left.

I really think the finale was left open to interpretation, and I’m letting my imagination run wild with this one — I’m pretty convinced the Kid is all evil. He tells people what they want to hear, things only they would know, and wanted to lure Henry Deaver into the woods to open up the same portal to bring more evil and destruction to this world! As a Constant Reader though, I’m really interested in your thoughts!

Erin: It definitely took me a few episodes to buy into the world of the show too, but I’m so glad I did! There’s so much to tease apart in the last two episodes, and the Kid’s true identity is a huge part of that puzzle. So let’s start with the idea that there are multiple universes out there. In King’s magnum opus, the sprawling, seven-tome Dark Tower series, he sets a foundation for his multi-verse. The tower itself is the epicenter, with six beams crossing through it, keeping it in place. In the space between the beams, however, there lie monsters. These voids are sometimes referred to as “Todash Space”, but those familiar with IT may know it as the “Macroverse”.

Either way, this ominous space is where most of King’s horrifying creations originate. How does the evil seep in, you ask? Well, there are places throughout the universe called “thinnies” where the protective fabric of existence has been worn away and where anything can happen. You can identify a thinny by a slight wavering in the sky and by the horrible noise it makes. According to Wizard and Glass, it’s a “physically upsetting” sound akin to the “smell of rotten meat”. Sound familiar?

Castle Rock — “Romans” – Episode 110 – Some birds can be caged. Bill Skarsgard and Henry Deaver (Andre Holland), shown. (Photo by: Dana Starbard/Hulu)
Castle Rock — “Romans” – Episode 110 – Some birds can be caged. Bill Skarsgard and Henry Deaver (Andre Holland), shown. (Photo by: Dana Starbard/Hulu) /

In the woods of Castle Rock, there almost certainly lies a thinny, and this thinny has opened a portal for evil to creep in and taint the town in myriad ways. The two Henrys came into direct contact with it, and, as a result, they’re in this mess. So, our first question is: is the Kid an actual version of Henry from an alternate universe or is he lying? Is he a lost soul or evil incarnate?

Sandy: Cool! That’s so interesting! So since we can both agree that the thinny was there and it opens a portal, I’m leaning more towards the Kid lying. I don’t think what he tells Molly in episode 9 really happened. But if I’m wrong, I’m okay with the other theory. They’re both great and I think they purposely threw so many things at us to give us all these possibilities.

For a minute, I thought the show would also be diving into Salem’s Lot when Wendell got off the bus. Do you think it was just an Easter egg or a hint for season 2? I would definitely watch that!

Erin: Totally agree! I don’t think there’s a 100% right or wrong in terms of what we’re supposed to think at the end of the series. I love that there’s enough material from King’s works to weave together some sort of story, but nothing is for sure. However, since my brain desperately wants to make some sense of it all, I’m gonna go a bit further. Let’s address the time travel component here for a moment, especially given that King’s historical time travel novel 11.22.63 was adapted by Hulu a few years ago. In 11.22.63, a thinny-like opening in the time continuum opens up in the back of a diner in Maine. This gives the main character, Jake Epping, an opportunity to go back in time so he can attempt to stop the JFK assassination. But King’s repeated assertion in that novel is that the past doesn’t like to be changed. The past always fights back and tries to right itself.

So if we sort of mesh King’s ideas of time travel and divergent universes together, we get an alternate timeline in which Ruth and Matthew Deaver’s biological child did not die. This is a possible timeline, but it’s likely not the true timeline. The true timeline is probably the one in which the Deavers adopted a child. Therefore, whatever creature the Kid is may actually be more like a nefarious Doctor Strange, pulling one potential reality out of an infinite deck of possibilities just to influence Molly in the present. He’s telling a version of the truth, but it’s one that serves him well.

And so much yes to Salem’s Lot! I noticed that sign when Wendell got off the bus but, oddly enough, that Easter egg may also just be another nod to the Dark Tower. First off, the vampire creatures from Salem’s Lot are assumed to have come from Todash Space, making their origin similar to that horrifying Gollum creature that popped out of the Kid’s face in the woods. Second, there’s a character in Salem’s Lot named Father Callahan who disappears without a trace part way through the novel… only to reappear in the final three books of the Dark Tower series. Given the exciting Shining teaser in the finale’s end credits scene, I’m not sure we’ll see any vampires in Season 2, but time will definitely tell!

Sandy: Ooo, I love what you’re saying about a malicious Doctor Strange. Half the fun of watching Castle Rock was all the Easter eggs I kept looking out for. So while I loved when the show took a sci-fi turn suggesting it was nothing more than an alternate reality, when the Kid’s face morphed for a second, I was ecstatic. Because it just opened the door to so many theories.

I’m with you on The Shining! And I hope we see Jackie Torrance (Jane Levy) again, I absolutely loved her! Castle Rock had way more King references than I thought it would. We should play Bingo along with it next season!

Castle Rock — “Romans” – Episode 110 – Some birds can be caged. Bill Skarsgard, shown. (Photo by: Dana Starbard/Hulu)
Castle Rock — “Romans” – Episode 110 – Some birds can be caged. Bill Skarsgard, shown. (Photo by: Dana Starbard/Hulu) /

Erin: The face morph gave me such a jump scare! I was not anticipating that! For some reason I thought that the sky was going to open up again and the thinny was going to work its black magic on the two Henrys yet again. It was very interesting to me that the series chose to conclude with Henry imprisoning the Kid once again in the bowels of Shawshank. It doesn’t seem like a permanent solution, and I feel like future seasons of the series may have to circle back to that situation. All I know for sure is that deranged Mona Lisa smile is going to haunt my dreams for a good long while. From IT to Castle Rock, this has been the year of Bill Skarsgard fully embodying King’s concept of evil.

Also, so much yes to The Shining! The Kubrick version is certainly a masterpiece in its own right, but it’s a bastardization of King’s original work, and he never liked it. Someone tried to right the ship with a miniseries in the 90’s, but it aired on network TV, so it was always doomed to fail. I love the idea of a gender flip with Jackie and, while I know the entirety of Castle Rock Season 2 won’t focus on The Shining, this opens the door of justice for King’s most beloved work. Bring on the Bingo cards!

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Sandy: Same! I wasn’t expecting that twist. But I agree, even more shocking to me was that Henry decided to lock the Kid in that cage again. It made me feel bad for him even though he was just a monster one scene ago. Bill Skarsgard is amazing! I can’t wait to see him in It: Chapter Two.

Maybe King will be more involved in season 2. I followed his tweets about the show, he fully supported it and I loved that! It’s going to be one fun Bingo game!

‘Castle Rock’ Season 1 is available in its entirety on Hulu.