Castle Rock is burning. Not just because of the wildfires raging across the hills that surround the town, either, although their hazy orange glow, reflected in the skies above, gives this new episode — “Harvest” — an appropriately infernal vibe. Consider the opening flashback, in which Henry Deaver seeks treatment for the unexplained ringing in his ears that’s plagued him on and off since he was a teenager. “I guess everyone thinks they grew up in the worst place in the world, huh?” the doc asks with a smile. In the lawyer’s case, of course, the answer is a resounding yes. But the implication, via a smart script from Lila Byock, the dreamy direction of Andrew Bernstein and the inclusion of real-life, ripped-from-the-headlines horror that’s become part of this show’s dramatic schematic, is clear: Everyone did grow up in the worst place in the world. The world is not a nice place to grow up in at all.
Things could be worse, of course — like if, say, a human embodiment of evil was wandering around, spreading madness and pain like a telepathic Typhoid Mary. Freshly released from prison, The Kid is finally a free man. Reluctantly, Henry places him under the care of his friend-with-benefits Molly Strand, who sets him up in her largely vacant office space. There’s a mildly heartbreaking moment the next morning when she returns to check on him and sees he’s constructed an ersatz cage out of stuff lying around the building. That’s the only way he really feels comfortable sleeping, apparently.
What Molly doesn’t know is that the enigmatic young man spent the evening roaming the streets, breaking into a house and driving a happy family into a paroxysm of domestic violence by his mere proximity. We don’t see it, but the sounds of a child and his baby brother screaming as his parents lay into one another — presumably with the kitchen knife the intruder portentously stared at before departing — are awful enough.
It’s possible that this scene is actually rewinding back to the Kid’s own upbringing in an abusive household. Much of the story surrounding him this week centers on the idea that his total amnesia could be cured if he were exposed to the house he grew up in, wherever that might be. But later events give us reason to doubt he was ever an actual kid at all. Like, for example, a genuine flashback to the night that the devil lad was abducted by Warden Lacey, sets the stage. Turns out Sheriff Alan Pangborn actually pulled the prison official over that night, saw he had someone tied up in his trunk … and let him go.
This sure does complicate our impression of Pangborn as a damaged but basically stand-up guy, the type who’ll muddle through an acceptance speech after the town bridge is renamed in his honor, then get drunk and destroy the structure’s commemorative plaque that same night because he feels he doesn’t deserve it. The man is right — he doesn’t!
But the former lawman is right to suspect the Kid. After meeting up with resident cool girl Jackie Torrance (who named herself after an writer uncle who tried to kill his family at an expensive ski resort — ring any bells?), the silent stranger seemingly prepares to toss himself off a nearby roof. The idea that he’s merely surveying his new domain never crosses anyone’s mind.
Nor does the similarity between his precarious perch and the out-of-nowhere bridge jump that Ruth Deaver attempts during that big award ceremony earlier in the episode. She seemed provoked by the barking of a dog that’s more than a little reminscient of Cujo, Castle Rock’s most famous canine killer; the ominous presence of two mute weirdos in the background of that scene doesn’t bode well either. What no one knows is that the Kid made a little sculpture of a woman and placed it on the bridge in Molly’s diorama of the town the night before. It’s like he knew what was coming.
Eventually, Pangborn discovers the Kid wandering around the Deaver family property. Drunk as a skunk and packing heat, the old sheriff reveals that the strange young man hasn’t aged a day since he was locked in that trunk 27 years ago. Was he ever even really a child at all?
“Are you the devil?” Pangborn asks. “No,” the Kid quietly replies. “Then what the fuck are you?” he explodes in response, a lifetime of guilt and regret pouring out of him. Why does his beloved Ruth have to slide into dementia when this weirdo remains untouched by age, anyway?
“I can help her,” comes the Kid’s frighteningly friendly reply.
Perhaps he can. Earlier in the episode, he watched a video for parolees, advising ex-cons to “Tell your own story, be your own hero, choose the life you want to live … who are you?” If you’re an immortal telepath who lived in a cage for three decades, messiah has a nice ring to it, no?
But if the mystery man is indeed some sort of second coming, he’s a dark one. We’ve heard the voices in his head and they’re an unending torrent of screams, cries, whispered secrets. (They even include Stand By Me’s famous line “Do you guys wanna go see a dead body?”, uttered over half a century ago in King-verse time.) “He feels wrong,” Molly says, when she describes her own psychic impression of the Kid to Henry. No one — not Pangborn, not anyone else — should make a deal with this sinister figure whether he’s the Devil or not.
Previously: There Will Be Blood