Note: Spoilers ahoy for the first season of Castle Rock.
The first season of Castle Rock was outstanding. Sure, there were a few pacing glitches here and there, but JJ Abrams, Sam Shaw and Dustin Thomason's first trip to Stephen's King's favorite haunted municipality was big, weird, and ambitious in fairly unexpected fashion. The fact that showrunners Shaw and Thomason even tried to approach the horror author's most metaphysical fixations – namely parallel dimension plots echoed from King's Dark Tower series and his Peter Straub collaboration, The Talisman – demonstrated that they were willing to get risky when it came to the types of tale they're telling in Castle County.
But what about that last scene? For those who may have missed it, after we leave Henry Deaver (André Holland) and his supernatural prisoner (Bill Skarsgård) beneath a now abandoned Shawshank prison, the credits roll and Castle Rock's initial self-contained story – as Shaw and Thomason have stated that each season will tell an original, stand alone King-inspired tale – has seemingly come to a close.
Suddenly, the creatives’ names cease flashing on your screen, and we pick up with Diane "Jackie" Torrance (Jane Leavy), aspiring true crime author and historian regarding all her hometown’s horrible happenings, who's seated in the Mellow Tiger, puffing a butt while she pounds a beer and her laptop’s keys. Seems Jackie’s working on a book titled Overlook, and then states that she's heading "out west for a research trip to finish it." Given her uncle is Jack Torrance – the crazed caretaker of Colorado's infamous Overlook Hotel – and Diane took his name to spite her parents, it's safe to assume those tragic grounds are her final destination.
But why would they head to the Rockies if the show is called Castle Rock? Well, that's a good question, but the alternate dimensions illustrated by The Kid are proof that Shaw and Thomason are more invested in an interconnected King universe than just exploring the Rock’s urban legends. In fact, Shaw recently dropped this rather tongue-in-cheek line to THR:
"Castle Rock is really just a state of mind."
As the Reporter's story even goes on to note, Thomason agrees with his creative partner that the title really is more of a mentality than a setting, which curiously hints at their vision for the series as a whole. After all, in the opening credits – which are comprised of excerpts from famous King novels – we even glimpse quotes from both IT (via the line "they float, Georgie...") and The Shining (with the word "REDRUM" and the number "217"), neither of which occur within the town’s limits. Hell, there are even details scattered about Henry Deaver's story, such as The Kid's emergence from his hole 27 years later (the same interval of time as Pennywise takes before rising from his lair to feed), that subtly connect it to outside King territory. Could that also explain the final look on the prisoner's face, slyly smiling as he sinks back into the dark, knowing his return is all but written?
But which universe are we working off of? Print or film? Jackie may be saying that she's headed out west, but at the end of King's version of The Shining, Jack bashes his own skull in after being possessed by the "manager" demon that inhabits the Overlook. Then the boiler explodes, leveling the structure and taking Jack's body with it. In Stanley Kubrick's classic film adaptation of the novel (which the author has affirmed his hatred for numerous times over the years), Torrance (famously played by Jack Nicholson) freezes to death in the hotel's elaborate hedge maze after trying to kill his psychic son Danny (Danny Lloyd). So, unless it’s been rebuilt (or they're following up the movie and not King's text*) then there's nothing really left for Diane to visit.
Unless season two of Castle Rock becomes a Doctor Sleep crossover instead of a pseudo-Shining sequel. That horrific check-in on Danny Torrance – whom we meet up with as a hospice worker struggling to fight off his dad's alcohol disease – would be an interesting stealth integration of classic King characters in new and fascinating ways (not too unlike having Scott Glenn show up as retired Sheriff Alan Pangborn during the first season). Granted, Adult Danny lives in Frazier, New Hampshire, so unless Jackie is meeting up with the True Knot’s sworn enemy (who returns to the Overlook’s ruins to show down with the geriatric vamps at the end of Sleep), this scenario seems highly unlikely. Plus, Mike Flanagan is adapting that novel (with Ewan McGregor and Rebecca Ferguson in the leads) for a 2020 release, so it’s tough to see that well being dipped into twice (though Skarsgård played two subterranean ancient King evils in a year's time, so who knows).
In that same THR interview, Thomason said:
"Stephen King is obviously obsessed with stories, obsessed with writers, obsessed with the question with how one interprets their own narrative. In a way, ending with Jackie writing her book and finally arriving at this moment where she gets to deliver in purple prose her own experience of having put an ax in Gordon's head as only she could, part of the fun and the idea of that was to solidify some of the notions of people and their own stories that exist. Stories are a really important part of what we set out to [explore] at the beginning, and ending on Jackie and her amusing interpretation of her story with the hopeful promise of something to come felt right to us."
So, in all actuality, we may never see Jackie again, as the stinger could've just as easily been a capper on the first season's themes regarding alternate timelines that individuals walks, and that altering your own destiny is certainly possible, even if it often seems improbable. What the scene could signify is nothing more than Torrance realizing that her story extends way beyond the town’s limits (not to mention snarkily giving herself the name of a deranged killer). It's about manifesting one's own talent into an actual path, which may eventually stretch toward some snowy mountains.
Then again, in a new interview with Entertainment Weekly, Shaw offers the following:
"Here’s where we’ll probably be infuriatingly tight-lipped, but what I would say is that we would sure love to see Jackie explore the Overlook Hotel. Part of the fun of season 2 and beyond will be seeing what some of the questions [will be]. The penultimate episode of this season points to the idea that there are other worlds than these, and in this final tag there’s this sense that there are worlds of Stephen King’s that this show may explore eventually that are more far-flung than the state of Maine."
To be continued, fellow King fanatics.
*Which would seem highly unlikely, given the horror master's an EP on the series.