CASTLE ROCK Review: “Harvest”

Everything in the Rock starts to rot.

Note: This post contains spoilers for Castle Rock.

"I guess everyone thinks they grew up in the worst place on Earth, huh?" 

Five days have passed since Dennis Zalewski's (Noel Fisher) massacre at Shawshank Prison, and Henry Deaver (André Holland) – who was ready to turn tail and head the hell out of his hometown – is still stuck in Castle Rock. Fires are raging on Black Mountain, casting a hazy glow over the entirety of this haunted municipality, while Dale Lacy's (Terry O'Quinn) replacement as warden (Ann Cusack) is having her ass chewed out by the company board. They don't care how she gets rid of that kid (Bill Skarsgård) who was found in Lacy's secret cell – a walking crisis that has now taken out one neo Nazi and perhaps influenced Zalewski's shooting spree – but if he's not buried beneath the yard by Monday, they'll have no problem throwing her career under the bus. It's as if the flames of Hell have been slowly escaping from that iron cage along with the potentially supernatural being, allowing ashes to fall from the sky thanks to the forest fire. 

In turn, Warden Porter does the most logical thing: she makes the kid somebody else's problem and releases him out into the world. It's as if Castle Rock was preparing for the boy's arrival by catching fire, as we immediately get a glimpse of his ability to infect everything around him like a virus. Henry sets him up with a place to stay in psychic real estate agent Molly Strand's (Melanie Lynskey) office loft.  However, anybody who expected the prisoner to stay in one place after literally spending decades in a dark hole was a fool, as the kid wanders about town, entering a seemingly-happy family's abode and watching as they turn against each other – his mere presence (which is unbeknownst to the brood) driving the otherwise cheery patriarch instantaneously mad. It's pretty clear that he’s the evil that possibly drives every horrible event in this New England hamlet, so how does any human hope to stop him from continuing a silent spread of contagious blackness? 

In Episode Five of Castle Rock ("Harvest"), Molly Strand's assistant Jackie Torrance (Jane Levy) underlines one of the show's central through-lines, while also providing proof of what's frustrating some viewers regarding Hulu's mysterious Stephen King series. After stumbling into Molly's office and finding the kid – who's inexplicably just walking around bare ass – she takes him for a drive to smoke some pot before illustrating how, as an aspiring writer, she yearns for the town's darker days, where serial killers and rabid Saint Bernards ran loose and made things actually interesting for once.

Immediately after, she explains that she took her name from her uncle – yes, the notorious murderous caretaker of the Overlook Hotel who butchered all those people almost forty years ago – as a means to spite her parents. In this instance, series creators Sam Shaw and Dustin Thomason are indulging their own nostalgia for horror's paperback past, while also adding simultaneous explanation/fan service that's somewhat unnecessary. While the name fits with the aspiring edgelord writer’s MO (her real name is Diane BTW), do we really need a "Jackie Torrance" in Castle Rock to remind us of The Shining? Survey says: not really!

In fact, the slow build toward revealing the prisoner’s reason for existence is starting to get a little tiresome, as it seems readily apparent where the narrative is headed. For anyone who's read King's texts, they'll note the similarities between the boy and Bob Gray (a/k/a Pennywise the Clown from IT), right down to Skarsgård's casting. A supernatural being discovered in a subterranean environment, Alan Pangborn (Scott Glenn) even asks the kid (at gunpoint, no less), "Are you the Devil?" 

Though he tells Alan "no" – before informing the former lawman that he has "no idea what's happening" – we get the sense that Castle Rock is setting up the newly-released jailbird as being the source behind all the bad times Jackie so desperately wants to return (and, in turn, exploit for her own writing). Only, we've heard this sort of King Tale spun before and much better (or, at the very least, with a much brisker pace). If this all turns out to be wheel-spinning for the sake of a weak-ass riff on one of the Horror Master’s favorite tropes, there's going to be a fair deal of Constant Readers truly disappointed in JJ Abrams & Co. 

The rest of "Harvest" is dedicated to more plotting and foreshadowing. After a horrible event at a bridge dedication in honor of Alan – where Henry's mother Ruth (Sissy Spacek), apparently experiencing a bout with dementia, jumps into the water below – the lawyer calls home to try and get his son Wendell (fellow Derry refugee Chosen Jacobs) to come see his grandmother one last time before her mind slips into oblivion. Meanwhile, Molly warns Henry that "something's not right with that kid" (yeah, no shit), and Alan drunkenly takes the boy out into the woods and interrogates him at the business end of a pistol. Seems Pangborn had a run-in with him twenty-seven years earlier – an interval of time that further connects the prisoner to Pennywise – and let him go, proving the age old adage that should you spend your whole life trying to do the right thing, the best you can hope for is a roadway named after you in a town that houses an ancient evil.

To be continued, Constant Readers, but let's hope the next chapter is just a touch more eventful. 

Harvest is available to stream today on Hulu. Read our ongoing Castle Rock coverage here

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