“Warden Lacey…told me that he’d always thought the Devil was just a metaphor but now he knew the Devil was a boy.” – Ex-sheriff, Alan Pangborn
Henry’s been dreaming about the time he was missing in 1991. He hears his father’s voice, calling to him, and then has glimpses of the winter woods, a chainlink fence, a dirt floor in a basement, and a toy car. While he dreams, something in the house is watching him and he wakes to the disturbing feeling that someone was in his room. Yup, we’re back in Stephen King country. Creepy with a capital K.
Once again we get a title -“The Box” – with multiple potential meanings and all of them significant.
Our focus initially (after the lead-in scene with Henry) isÂ Dennis Zalewski, the Shawshank guard who contacted Henry initially. We know he’s young and that he and his wife are expecting their first baby in a month. We know he hates the job and the things that happen as a matter of routine at the prison but feels he has no other option for work that will provide health care and a stable wage for his family.
After some reluctance, he’s embraced the role of whistle-blower. He’s agreed to testify for Henry’s case against Shawshank’s wrongful imprisonment of The Kid and heÂ dreams of blowing the doors off the place in terms of prisoner mistreatment and corruption. Maybe even pursuing schooling for a law degree one day.
Unfortunately, until then he’s stuck in the job and one of his regular duties is a shift in the central surveillance room, very much a “box” filled with tv monitors with video feeds from every corner of Shawshank. It was on the monitors in this room at the end of the premiere episode that Dennis saw his colleagues all lying dead in the corridors and cells while The Kid wandered free from his containment.
It’s obvious that, possibly even before his massacre hallucination, Dennis does not enjoy this aspect of the work. The colleague he takes over for routinely comments on how he could smile more as she leaves.
Meanwhile, The Kid remains in the solitary cell (another “box”) that he was moved into earlier as psychopath fodder but alone now after said psychopath suddenly died of a LOT of cancer. Sleazy Reeves pays him a visit there in an attempt to pressure him into playing ball by recounting his experience as a “private security” soldier in the Middle East, torturing Saddam loyalists for information.
His horror stories do manage to provoke The Kid into speech, but only to quote the Bible.
“He has a name written on him which no one knows except himself. He is clothed with a robe dipped in blood and his name is called the Word of God” – Revelation 19:12-13
With that, The Kid walks towards Reeves, forcing him to give ground and back out of the cell, starting to panic. The Kid simply pulls the cell door closed, locking himself back in, giving Reeves a look that conveys no small level of contempt for the man’s bullying tactics.
Pangborn and Henry get some quality time together when the ex-sheriff (and Henry’s de-facto step-dad) drives him out to the body stash landfill where the deceased buried in the Castle Rock churchyard were moved to. Henry wants his father’s body brought back (in its “box”) to rest near the church he presided over in life. Alan thinks the whole thing’s a waste of time.
While marking the grave for removal, Henry informs Alan that he plans on taking his mother with him when he returns to Texas after The Kid’s hearing. He plans on putting her in a home in Houston. Alan offers to marry her to “make it legal” but Henry points out that her mental health in deteriorating. If she doesn’t even know what year it is, how can she legally enter into a marriage?
They have a confrontation about Alan’s relationship with Ruth – how long it’s been going on and whether the Rev. Deaver knew about it. Alan walks away.
When Alan gets back to Ruth, he tries to introduce the idea that she move to Houston to be closer to Henry and sheÂ states very firmly that she’s happy right where she is. Their relationship has a genuine affection and concern. It really sticks out in the context of all the weirdness of Castle Rock. Reminds the viewers of what humanity looks like at its best.
Henry is discussing The Kid’s case with Molly at the Mellow Tiger and she points out The Kid’s kidnapping might be reminiscent of Henry’s own experience as a child. Henry has another flash of the cage he dreamed about and Molly tries to share her own visions (possibly including disclosing her role in his father’s death) but they are interrupted by Dennis needing to talk to Henry privately.
When they’re alone, Henry reminds Dennis that they shouldn’t be seen together until the hearing is over. Dennis informs him that the cage The Kid was found in has been removed so he’s drawn him a picture. He begins to list the atrocities committed by the guards and supervisors at Shawshank but Henry tells him that, for the interests of the hearing, he needs to stick to details related to The Kid that they can prove because otherwise Dennis’ credibility will be questioned.
Dennis gets it but he’s also realizing he’s just as much a prisoner and that Castle Rock itself is to blame.
“Y’know they always say that Castle Rock has some kind of luck? Not really luck though, is it? Bad sh*t happens here because bad people know they’re safe here. How many times can one… town look the other way?” – Dennis Zalewski, Shawshank guard
Dennis heads back to work and as he moves through the prison, we see abuses being carried out in every environment. He visits The Kid in solitary and tries to give him a pep talk (although it might be more for himself than The Kid). Before he leaves for his shift in the surveillance room, he teaches him how to do a fist bump.
(As a brief reminder: the words The Kid spoke to his cellmate before the cellmate was found dead of sudden and pervasive metastasized cancer were “DON’T WANT TO TOUCH ME”)
Starting his shift in the surveillance room, we immediately see a shift in Dennis’ demeanor as he gives in to the distress and anger he’s experiencing on the job and draws happy faces on all the monitors with a dry-erase marker.
Henry’s now down at the County Clerk Records Office going through microfilm of the newspapers (because every horror story involves records on microfilm – it’s totally a thing) starting from when Dale Lacey first took over at Shawshank in 1985. Presumably, Henry’s looking for The Kid’s real identity, possibly from a missing child report.
He finds the article on the prison fire in 1987 and then stumbles on updates on his own disappearance in 1991 and a mention of a local named Vincent Desjardins who “was not charged” despite being a person of interest. (By the way, notice how the microfilm viewer is very distinctly “box” shaped.)
He goes home and finds his mother gutting trout in the kitchen sink. He asks her about Desjardins and then starts pressuring her about what happened to him as a child even as she becomes more agitated in her movements. When he forces a confrontation, she deflects with anger to his plan of moving her to Texas.
“I may be old but I’m not stupid, Henry Deaver. This is my home. I’ll leave it in a box.” – Ruth Deaver
As the Real Estate Queen of Castle Rock, it falls to Molly to sell the Lacy house. Showing a couple from Des Moines around, she tries to mask the fact it’s a death-motivated sale. Unfortunately, the history professor husband, Gordon (Mark Harelik, Preacher) finds Dale Lacy’s cremains urn in the kitchen freezer where she’d stowed it. Caught out, she blurts out a reassuring,”He didn’t kill himself in the house.” Love this woman.
Sitting down with the couple, Molly comes clean with how common horrible deaths are in Castle Rock. (Turns out she lives in the house where Frank Dodds, the Castle Rock Strangler, killed himself.) Murders and crimes aside, she points out the benefits of buying in this country, not the least which is a 39% reduced cost compared to the next zip code over.
Although the wife (Lauren Bowles, Veep) looks skeptical, the husband becomes entranced by one of Lacy’s painting of Castle Lake (and it looks like the view from the bluff that we’ve seen multiple times already) and starts to negotiate for the house’s art to be included in the sale.
Henry drives out to the Desjardins property which looks largely abandoned and derelict, what with the piano that fell through the ceiling into the kitchen and such. Seeing a small shed (or “box”) in the back, he decides it would be a good idea to break open the padlock. Maybe he thought it would lead to a basement and the cage he’s been seeing in his memory flashes but instead (and just a weirdly) he finds nothing but an old bowl of cereal and milk on the floor.
He hears a car drive up and comes around to the front to find an elderly man examining his car. The man, thinking Henry is a customer for the barber shop he operates out of a back room in the building, explains that he inherited the property from his brother.
When Henry starts asking questions about Vincent Desjardins and a missing child case in 1991, the man, Joseph Desjardins (David Selby, Legion), realizes who he is and shows him a box he’d salvaged/hoarded filled with Henry’s police file from the 1991 incident.
As they discuss the files, Joseph reveals that his brother had NEVER lived in Castle Rock. Vincent had moved south and left Joseph the house where Joseph was living when Sheriff Pangborn came to question him in 1991.
This leads to another confrontation between Henry and Alan. Henry accuses Alan of not doing a proper investigation in 1991 into either Henry’s disappearance or his father’s fall. Alan responds by revealing that Rev. Deaver had written out “Henry did it” on a paper when he was in traction after being rescued.
Alan claims that he did what he could to keep theÂ district attorney from charging Henry for his father’s death. In shock, Henry accusesÂ him of lying and leaves, distraught.
Molly hears his thoughts as he arrives at her house. Henry shares what Alan told him and she tries to reassure him. She invites him to stay the night.
In the morning, while Molly’s in the bathroom, Henry calls Dennis and leaves a message that there’s been a change of plans.
It’s raining in town when Ruth Deaver sees her dead husband’s casket returning to The Church of the Incarnation. She doesn’t look happy about it. Terrified would be more accurate.
Dennis is getting ready for his shift when he receives the voicemail Henry left. The message is that Henry has decided to take settlement offered to The Kid and that Dennis would not be needed to testify.
He enters the surveillance room as per usual. His colleague cracks another joke about “If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands,” to which he obligingly claps. Glancing around at the video feeds, he sees more instances of guards abusing inmates. He also sees that Henry Deaver is seated outside the Warden’s office, ready to sign off on the deal. As he continues his survey of the monitors, the music of Roy Orbison’s “Crying” begins to play.
(The use of music in this series has been nothing short of brilliant, by the way.)
He pulls out the dry erase marker and starts marking up the screens again. We see The Kid in his cell, looking around with an air of anticipation. Back to Dennis and he’s punching in the code to release the emergency sidearm, the same as he took out the night he hallucinated the prison massacre.
As he exits the surveillance room, he lets the door swing open and we can see that instead of happy faces, he has drawn Xs over the monitors he saw dead people on during his hallucination. The camera pans in, the music still playing, and we watch as Dennis climb the stairwell to access the cell catwalks.
As he enters the screen on the first Xed-out monitor, a guard greets him and Dennis shoots him in the head.
He proceeds through the prison, killing co-workers and leaving behind the exact scenes of carnage he had been granted a vision of the night he’d activated the lock-down alarm. Now the alarm is ringing again and he’s taking down corrupt and sadistic guards everywhere he goes.
Outside the Warden’s office, Henry hears the alarm and opens the office door to investigate. Officer Boyd sees him and yells at him to get back to his seat but gets shot from behind by Zalewski, splattering a shocked Henry. Coming face to face with Henry, Dennis suddenly seems to become aware of his surroundings. He tells Henry,”I want to testify,” a second before a flash-bang is thrown into the room, knocking them both out.
Guards come in from behind Henry and fire a rifle round right next to him, deafening him. More guns are fired at Dennis and when the smoke clears, he’s dead and dripping blood all over the floor.
I’d have to go back to check but it’s possible that Zalewski glimpsed his own death on the monitors that first night. Oh, that gives me chills.
It’s a theme in most media that concerns itself with a Devil-like influence that the actual acts of violence and horror are without exception carried out by humans who, consciously or unconsciously, harbored the seed of the intent. In Officer Dennis Zalewski, we have a man who wants to be a good man, to make the world a better place for the child he’s about to welcome. And when his chance to blow the whistle on the abuses he’s witnessed is taken, the seed sown the night he saw his co-workers dead and dying blooms suddenly and with terrible results.
Castle RockÂ streams on Hulu with new episodes dropping every Wednesday.
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