Hulu’s Castle Rock
Season 1, Episode 7: “The Queen”
Directed by Greg Yaitanes
Written by Sam Shaw
* For a recap & review of the previous episode, “Filter” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “Past Perfect” – click here
Ruth Deaver (Sissy Spacek) runs for her gun. She hides, as she hears the kid (Bill Skarsgård) searching for her. We jump back to a while before, when Alan Pangborn (Scott Glenn) brought home those chess pieces for his lady. Then we see the dog out in the road, hit by a car, which Alan has to do put out of its misery. This is the dog they buried— the dog who once belonged to a young Henry Deaver (André Holland). This whole episode brings up bad memories of Ruth’s former husband, the reverend.
Then suddenly Ruth wakes in the night with blood in her bed. But she comes to and it’s day, and the dog is alive. Once she leaves the bedroom, the blood’s not on her anymore. She hears her son and Alan having a quiet argument. She goes to get new sheets in the closet. It’s there she sees the gun on the top shelf.
Poor Ruth slips between the past and present frequently, such is the case with Alzheimer’s and similar diseases which chip away at the living patient’s mind. It’s a horrible thing. At least Ruth, when lucid, knows what’s happening to her. But there’s a “confusion with time and space” we’re witnessing happen right in front of us.
The doctor suggested to Ruth she might want to think of new “living arrangements.” It’s more Alan who can’t deal with it, not Ruth— the one actually suffering with the disease. That’s when she tried to develop “a system” using those chess pieces, so that she might distinguish the past from the present, and vice versa. There’s a bittersweet quality to seeing Ruth go back in time, watching herself. She’s remembering good memories, not the bad, though her brain’s still deteriorating.
OH, MY HEART! Ms. Spacek is a gem. This episode, within 12 minutes, has broken Father Gore. So wonderful, so devastating, all at once. Might be the best episode of television in 2018, solely for the first third.
We’re moving back towards the present, as Wendell (Chosen Jacobs) comes to visit grandma. This is when Ruth remembers sitting in the pews with Henry (Caleel Harris), catching glances of young Alan (Jeffrey Pierce) across the way and seeing her husband, Reverend Matthew (Adam Rothenberg), cast a dark glance at her. Yet it’s all jumbled with current day. Just like when Ruth sees the kid outside her window in Matthew’s old suit, believing it to be a vision of her husband.
Afterwards, she walks through the house like it’s the woods, alongside her son and her husband. She’s happy. Underneath is an unease. Matthew stops them and they begin their picnic. He then puts down a revolver between them talking of a “beautiful experience” and referencing Psalms, then tells the story of a Japanese soldier who “kept fighting FDR until 1974” (a reference to Hiroo Onoda). Ruth’s very worried, as her husband goes on a long-winded speech about suicide. It culminates in him supposedly hearing God— or, the noise in the woods, the one Henry hears to this day.
Then, suddenly, we’re back to the table, where grandson and grandma talk about the chess pieces. Ruth lets him in on her system, how to find her “way out of the woods.” Wendell calls her a “time walker,” parallels her Alzheimer’s with the abilities of characters in a smartphone game he plays. Only problem is, this kind of inspires her to throw out a bunch of pills, so she can stay focused. This is right when the kid turns up, but she sees him as the reverend. All that darkness Matthew seemed to hold in him has returned. Ruth sees reports of the fire at Juniper Hill, the face of the kid on the news, and she feels the presence of her husband.
Jump ahead, to Ruth and the gun, hiding from the kid. Molly Strand (Melanie Lynskey) comes to the door, telling Ruth something bad might be about to happen to her son. This is when the old woman tells Molly she knows what she did as a girl in their home. Except it “didn‘t take.” She sees her husband in the kid, believing Matthew’s come back. The kid puts on a song played at the couple’s wedding. Then, they have a dance. He knows everything, even the combination to the safe upstairs. This puts Ruth on edge. She sends Wendell away, planning on taking care of things herself.
Slipping between space and time again, Ruth’s in Sheriff Pangborn’s office searching for their lost dog, the one her husband poisoned to death himself. They also talk about her deteriorated marriage. Castle Rock made it hard for them to be together. She worried how people would talk. “Fuck this town,” he said. Alan wanted to run away with her and Henry, start a life. She couldn’t bring herself to do it.
The kid’s making Ruth some eggs to eat. They sit at the table together while she eats, mostly to placate him. He also found her pills in the garbage, making her take one while repeating “God helps those who help themselves“— her former husband’s favourite phrase. She gets him to draw her a bath. This gives her time to go for the safe and get bullets. Only there’s none she can find. She hides in the bathtub while he looks around the house. When he comes back, she stabs him with a screwdriver and runs off. She has to run through her memories, the house filled with people from her husband’s funeral. It’s a surreal nightmare, like a visual epitome of Alzheimer’s as the past reaches out at her everywhere from the darkness.
“It’s better this way— the two of us.”
We watch Ruth go through the funeral, the gathering at her home. She walks through the memory, seeing Alan, herself. She remembers her husband dragging Henry out into the woods at all hours, seeking the sound Matthew claims to have heard. She told Henry to lie and say he heard the sound. Little did she know he heard it eventually.
She goes on through the past and present, until remembering where the bullets were hidden. She left them in a suitcase she planned to leave her husband with, and that was later used to bury the dead dog. Ruth digs it up, rummaging until she finds the box of bullets.
She gets to the gun, loading it. When the door opens up, she opens fire. But it wasn’t the kid who walked through the door— it was Alan. She shot him, and now he lies on the floor, bleeding, dying. Such a tragic end to the whole situation.
In the aftermath, she cleans herself up, she does her makeup and her hair. At the door, she hears the doorbell. She finds Alan, who’s moved back from New Hampshire. Another memory of the past. This was the beginning of their new relationship. So sad to witness it as their life together ends.
Good lord. I haven’t cried that hard at an episode of television for a long while. Give Sissy Spacek all the television awards, right now. Nothing else left to say. “Past Perfect” is next time, we’ll find out what’s going on with Henry in that weird soundproof chamber.