Hulu’s Castle Rock
Season 1, Episode 2: “Habeas Corpus”
Directed by Michael Uppendahl
Written by Sam Shaw & Dustin Thomason
* For a recap & review of the premiere, “Severance” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “Local Color” – click here
Corrections officer Dennis Zalewski (Noel Fisher) finds that the mysterious feral kid (Bill Skarsgård) got out of his cell, then murdered a bunch of other inmates at Shawshank State Penitentiary. The corridors are all but filled with blood. Zalewski sounds the alarm, checking his weapon. Prisoners in their cells are calling out. Boyd (Chris Coy) nearly gets shot when he sneaks up behind his buddy.
Turns out, it was all a “false alarm.” Nothing even happened.
We get a bit of postmortem narration from Dale Lacy (Terry O’Quinn), talking about their town of Castle Rock. All the strange things that have happened there. He recalls 1961, a fall after a body was found “out by the train tracks.” Dale remembers taking a brutal hit on the football field. At that same time, his brother was in his mascot’s uniform taking a dive off the top of the school to his death in the parking lot just nearby.
This was his first understanding of “this place” and what it does to people who live within its boundaries. Later, as a grown man, he waited for God to give him purpose. Then one day he began building that cage below the prison.
“Every inch is stained with someone’s sin”
Henry Deaver (André Holland) goes to see widow Martha Lacy (Frances Conroy), asking questions about a prisoner her husband might’ve talked about before. Of course he’s not even armed with all the information himself concerning this prisoner. He just knows something’s wrong. While around the Lacy house, Henry stumbles onto a folder full of newspaper clippings about incidents in their town. They’re all Stephen King stories: Cujo, Needful Things, The Body (which was made into Stand By Me), and more. Soon, Martha realises who Henry is and asks him to leave. Not before he spies a locked basement door. Hmm.
We get a brief introduction to the wonderfully named Jackie Torrance (Jane Levy) at a church meeting. I wonder where she falls in the family line? Henry goes to the church where he talks to the current pastor at his dad’s old church about Dale. The pastor is maybe the only one in Castle Rock who admires the work Henry does for capital punishment.
At a hotel bar, Alan Pangborn (Scott Glenn) sits down for a drink next to Porter (Ann Cusack). They chat a bit. Or, well, it’s more a one-sided conversation of him yakking about the “Buck Rogers shit” cops have to deal with today. He also mentions pulling over the former Warden Lacy, who was talking spooky shit about their town. Dale said he caught the devil and locked him “in a box.” Evil in human form. Alan warns Porter not to let the kid free. So creepy. Back at the prison, she and her deputy Reeves (Josh Cooke) talk about getting rid of the problem. They find a box of old fingernails, too.
Reeves takes the feral inmate with him down to a cell block where the kid’s put in a cell with a hard Nazi fuck. This is a tiny cell they both can’t possibly stay in. Theory is, the kid will be dead in no time. I’m inclined to believe that won’t be the case. Surely I’m not alone, right?
“It’s nice to see redemption in the flesh…”
We begin seeing more of the past between Molly Strand (Melanie Lynskey) in brief bits, as she remembers them as kids. They lived across the road from one another. They passed messages via their bedroom lamps at night. Late one evening, young Molly saw Rev. Matthew Deaver (Adam Rothenberg) call his son down to the car, then they went off alone together in the dark.
In present day, Molly conserves her pills, and she goes to meet her sister (Allison Tolman) at a restaurant. The subject of Henry comes up, naturally. The sisters have an antagonistic relationship, mostly centred on Molly’s use of painkillers to “muffle other peoples noise.” She has her own plans, which her sister doesn’t approve of— their relationship’s not getting any better. All of which is exacerbated by the fact Molly has forged some financial papers in her sister’s name.
At a bar, Henry gets talking to Ms. Torrance. She gives him some history about the town, a “fuck club,” all sorts of stuff. Lots of hidden secrets in that place. She knows all about Deaver, too. She tells him how kids used to dress up like him then Instagram and “blackface” made it beyond nasty. The tale says Henry killed his dad out there back in the day.
In his cell, the feral young man is confronted with his Nazi roommate (noteNote: the white supremacist is reading Lord of the Flies— a Stephen King favourite, where he got the name for his fictional town of Castle Rock). All he does is whisper: “You don‘t want to touch me.” Dude, this is going to get ugly. And what about Henry’s involvement with the prisoner? He and Zalewski wind up getting together in secret. The corrections officer’s terrified, he doesn’t want to lose his job, he won’t be a part of any court case. Castle Rock’s a place of urban and social decay. The prison’s one of the only places to work, really. Such is the case with many small towns all over the United States, even if this one’s just fictional.
“Evil outlasts us all”
Henry decides on using the church as his disguise. He goes with the pastor and others from the “prayer partner” group up to Shawshank. They sing in a choir, as well. All the charitable sorts of things churches do at penitentiaries and the like. All the while the mysterious young man’s dispatched the Nazi. He’s like an unstoppable force. The medical examiner determines the Nazi had “metastatic cancer” throughout his body.
Then, the young man gets let out in the sunlight for the first time since Dale trapped him under the prison. He meets Henry through a chain-link fence. The lawyer snaps a quick photo before the guards drag the feral inmate away.
There’s also a note Dale wrote to Alan. A few last secrets to share. I don’t trust Pangborn. Not one bit. Neither should any of you!
Fantastic follow-up. Some reviewer on Letterboxd said this series is scarce on horror? What kind of show are they watching? Ridiculous! If you don’t think this is horror, you have a very limited view of what constitutes the genre. Step back, let the rest of us adore this fantastic creation.
“Local Color” is next. Remember Molly mentioned it as a local TV show? Gonna get interesting. More interesting, that is.