There’s a point in any sort of horror-thriller narrative where the pace begins to pick up dramatically, the first drop of the roller coaster which will drive the action for the rest of the season.
At this point, the pieces are in place. The players have been introduced. The danger has been identified. The catalyst has been triggered. Now the business of scaring the pants off the audience begins in earnest.
Although “Harvest” holds true to the style the series has established – weaving tidbits from the past into the present-day action as it unfolds – it spends less time on the exposition. There’s a sense that we have only been gathering the elements necessary so far.
Henry Deaver back in town. Check.
Warden Lacy’s captivity of The Kid revealed to the world. Check.
The Reverend Deaver’s body returned to his Castle Rock church. Check. (Not sure how this is an essential element but Ruth’s face when she saw the casket in “The Box” convinced me that this is an important piece.)
One central character drivenÂ to violent madness by contact with The Kid. BIG CHECK.
In the aftermath of the (most recent) Shawshank tragedy, Henry’s recurring hearing issues reemerge after having a gunshot discharged right next to him. A flashback to a 2016Â hospital visit in Texas illustrates that the cause is a mystery to medical science. Throughout the episode, the ringing returns at certain specific moments.
Back in the present, there are news reports covering the prison massacre as well as a nearby forest fire threatening the entire county. Henry is trying to get The Kid’s trial date sorted out when he arrives at the Church of the Incarnation to meet with the young pastor (who has just finished posting the signage for Zalewski’s funeral).
Henry thinks the pastor wants toÂ discuss details about hisÂ father’s (re)burial butÂ instead the pastorÂ shows him thatÂ the Reverend Deaver’s casket is LEAKING due to a phenomenon called “exploding casket syndrome.” Yuck. Cue Henry’s first ear disruption and a couple of PTSD-like flashes of Zalewski’s final moments.
This segues to Warden Porter’s office where Henry saw Zalewski for the last time and where the stressed-out warden is now taking a call on speaker from a representative of the Board who outlines the situation in aggressive tones and tells her to make it go away but not to tell him or the Board. She’s on her own and if she messes it up again, she’ll be thrown under the bus with Zalewski’s memory.
Concerned with his mother’s failing mental health, Henry installs a camera monitoring and home security system. Pangborn isn’t impressed with it but Henry insists it’s for her safety.
Henry gets a phone call informing him that The Kid is going to be released the next day. In the prison, The Kid is watching a ridiculously dated video on how to reintegrate into society after being incarcerated. In a painfully pointed turn of phrase, the instructor advises ex-cons to “reframe your own narrative” when meeting with potential employers or possible new friends.
The Kid digests this advice with totally flat affect.
Henry’s waiting for The Kid when he gets released from Shawshank with nothing but the grey sweatsuit and new-looking runners he’s wearing. When Henry offers his hand to shake and introduces himself in an attempt to give The Kid a fresh start, The Kid doesn’t move or speak. Henry gently asks him his name and still nothing.
Y’know, for a dead man, Warden Lacy sure gets a lot of screen-time. In another flashback to the cage he kept The Kid in, we’re treated to a recitation of the Bible and his comparison of Noah’s Ark to this cage his built for The Kid. This is an older Lacy, very close to his “retirement.”
He confesses that when he first captured The Kid, he was ablaze with his faith and the message he’d received from God through his dreams for six nights in a row.
“…you looked so small next to my faith. Now? Now, you still look small but I look old. I am old. After all these years, I still don’t know what you really are or if I did the right thing.” – Dale Lacy
Filled with uncertainty and facing unknown repercussions once The Kid’s captivity is revealed, Lacy removes his gloves (which I assume he’s has worn religiously when interacting with The Kid for the past thirty years) and touches the boy’s hand and face.
As a refresher: The ONE THING we have learned about The Kid is you NEVER TOUCH HIM.
I guess we know now what caused Lacy, a lifelong dogmatic Christian, to commit suicide.
Henry apparently takes The Kid directly to the hospital from the prison pick up and has him checked out for neurological damage. The doctor diagnoses retrograde amnesia and recommends Henry takes him home where familiar surroundings will hopefully restore his memories.
Obviously, Henry didn’t give her the full history of The Kid’s stay at Shawshank.
Furthermore, Henry thought he could leave The Kid with them for treatment. The doctor says that’s not possible but that she could probably get him a bed at a nearby in-patient facility for Monday.
Which leaves Henry to find somewhere for The Kid to stay until then. Molly comes to the rescue with her giant empty, run-down realtor’s office building. They inflate an air mattress and tell The Kid to stay put.
Yeah, that’s gonna work.
Ruth Deaver is having another “sun-downer” episode, hallucinating something about Henry (?) having a fever and (probably) her late husband keeping him outside. Pangborn tries to bring her back to the present and reassure her that everything will be okay. She seems to recognize him but won’t be reassured. She senses that something bad is going to happen.
And, of course, that brings us straight back to The Kid.
He walks out of Molly building and onto the streets of Castle Rock. He finds a house where a family is celebrating a child’s birthday. He walks into their house and watches the celebration (complete with present, cake, and LARGE cake knife) from the darkness.
And this is where we find out how powerful The Kid’s presence really is. Despite Lacy’s gruesome suicide, the flashback of Molly’s murder of the Reverand Deaver, and Zalewski’s bloody slaughter of his co-workers, listening to the family’s celebration suddenly devolve into rage and violence and tragedy is the first moment of gut-twisting horror the series has presented and it’s a nightmare of a terror-track.
The other thing that seems clear is that The Kid has no control over his effect on his surroundings.
And I’m pretty sure that’s the most terrifying thing I figured out this episode. How would you like to be the thing that makes everyone give in to their darkest inclinations? A presence that voids all social convention, emotional attachment, ethical principle? I’m not sure how they managed it, but the writers have struck a sympathetic chord in me for The Kid who is literally the physical manifestation of Evil.
In contrast to The Kid’s presence, Pangborn and Ruth’s relationship continues to epitomize the depth of love and humanity two people can bring to a relationship. Just watching her tie his necktie for him is a simple yet profound moment of tenderness. Pangborn has a lot on his mind lately and he flashes back to a happy memory when he has a moment alone.
The chess pieces we’ve glimpsed in various scenes so far turn out to come from a set Pangborn surprised Ruth with when she first developed cognitive issues.Â The writers cleverly build many layers into these flashbacks as short as they are sometimes. Not only are the chess pieces explained, the timeline is fleshed out because their dog (who we saw Pangborn dig up in “Habeus Corpus“) is still alive and needing letting out.
Getting back to The Kid, he gets an unexpected visitor in the morning when Jackie shows up with coffee, presumably for Molly. (Might’ve been a good idea for Molly to give her a heads-up that someone was staying in the upstairs BEFORE she showed up for work but that would’ve deprived us of a naked Kid finding her lying on his air mattress holding his switchblade.)
I’m a little bewildered as to why The Kid was wandering around naked. Molly stated clearly that there was no shower. Did he sponge bathe in the bathroom? Where did he find a sponge?
When Pangborn cornered Warden Porter with his warning about not letting The Kid out (which didn’t work out so well, obviously) he mentioned that the town was dedicating a bridge to him. Ruth is incredibly proud of him and gives him a pep talk before his speech, joking that he’ll do fine if he just pictures her naked.
Henry comes by to borrow the car and Ruth says he can have it after Pangborn’s ceremony. The men try to correct her about Henry coming to the ceremony but she makes it clear that she expects him to attend.
Before Pangborn’s speech, the M.C. holds a moment of silence for the Zalewski’s victims at Shawshank and Henry has another ear pain episode accompanied by flashbacks of Zalewski’s before he was gunned down.
While Pangborn gives his speech, a dog in the crowd starts barking and draws Ruth’s concerned attention. Henry is bothered by his ear and doesn’t notice her get up until Pangborn notices that Ruth isn’t in her seat. When Pangborn starts calling for Ruth, Henry sees her standing on the bridge’s beams and, as he runs towards her, she jumps into the river. He jumps in after her.
WIth sirens blaring through the center of town, Molly returns to her office to find it empty. She notices a pile of soap shavings on the ground and then gives Henry a call to let him know The Kid is M.I.A. What she misses is that The Kid has carved a figurine of himself and left it on the bridge in her town model, standing in the spot where Ruth jumped from.
The actual Kid is in Jackie’s car listening to her talk about Castle Rock’s sordid history while she gets high. She bemoans the fact that nothing dramatic has happened in the town since she’s been alive (recent Shawshank massacre aside, I guess) and reveals that she named herself after her Uncle Jack who went crazy with an axe at a ski resort.
At the hospital, Henry and Pangborn wait for word on Ruth’s condition. Pangborn shares some details about how his relationship with Ruth evolved. He ends it by confessing that he thought he could keep her safe.
When the nurse tells them Ruth is awake and lets them in to see her, Ruth is embarrassed and ashamed to have ruined Pangborn’s party. Pangborn denies she did anything of the sort and then just holds on to her hand for dear life. She explains that “the damned dog” caused all the trouble and that “nothing in this town stays dead.”
Henry is stunned when she likens her dementia to his childhood amnesia.
“You know how it feels, don’t you? To forget your own story?” – Ruth Deaver
Jackie calls Molly when The Kid suddenly decides to climb to the roof of an old factory on his own. Molly follows to try to talk him down but has difficulty with all the telepathic static he gives off. When he whispers that he should still be back in the hole, she tries to reassure him that Warden Lacy was deranged but, hearing the things he’s hearing – the screams of the birthday family, the deaths of firefighters who died in a helicopter crash, random Lacy ramblings – she doesn’t seem so sure herself.
Henry arrives back home, talking on his phone with his estranged wife, Marret. He’s hoping that his son, Wendall, can come to visit Ruth before her dementia gets so bad she doesn’t recognize her grandson. Marret agrees to send Wendall up by bus.
Entering the house, Henry finds Molly waiting for him. She tries to explain that The Kid “feels” wrong but Henry doesn’t get it. She tries again to explain how she “hears” people and realizes that Henry doesn’t believe in her ability. In a last-ditch attempt to convince him, she verbalizes everything she can sense he’s going through from his ear ringing to his guilt to the fact he hasn’t eaten all day.
Henry’s expression seems to indicate he’s starting to believe and she states again that there’s something wrong with The Kid just as The Kid enters the house.
Molly drives off and Henry sets The Kid up in a loft room above the detached garage building. They discover The Kid knows how to play piano when he picks out a strident hymn melody on the surprisingly in-tune cobweb-covered upright in the loft.
Presumably, Henry tucks him in and tells him to stay put before heading back to the main house.
Because that worked so well the first time.
We find Pangborn drinking himself into a stupor on his namesake bridge, vandalizing the commemorative plaque. His phone alarm goes off and the app Henry installed gives him the feed that shows The Kid looking straight at the camera and walking off.
Pangborn tracks him to the woods adjacent to the house and confronts him with a fascinating reveal from his memory of the night, twenty-seven years ago, when he pulled Warden Lacy over for speeding. Lacy not only told him the Devil was a boy and that he’d caught him but then-Sheriff Pangborn actually opened the trunk and saw the boy Lacy had captured.
And this is the brilliance with which the show is written. Casting back to the parole preparation video The Kid watched before leaving Shawshank, the instructor on the video states,”The person youÂ were when you went in? That’s not the person walking out today.”
Well, it turns out, in The Kid’s case, he is exactly the same person Lacy locked up in that cage twenty-seven years ago, having not aged a day since Pangborn let the warden drive off that night. Pangborn asks if he’s the Devil and The Kid denies it.
Struck by the unfairness of losing Ruth to her dementia and The Kid’s apparent eternal youth, Pangborn pulls his gun and asks him where is the justice in doing his best by the town only to have the woman he loves slip away.
Staring at the barrel, The Kid states that he can help Ruth. (If he isn’t the Devil, he’s definitely doing a good impression.) Pangborn visibly hesitates at that offer.
With an almost imperceptible micro-expression of pity, The Kid gets the final words of the episode, asking Pangborn and the audience simultaneously,”You have no idea what’s happening here, do you?”
Castle RockÂ streams on Hulu with new episodes dropping every Wednesday.
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