What comes to your mind when you think of a box? Is it a house? A room? A cell? Or most literally a 6 sided container? Is it safe or confining?
For me, the word recalls the Malvina Reynolds song “Little Boxes” (thanks to a grade school music teacher, long before Weeds incorporated it). Boxes are interesting as a way to organize our lives. Beyond storage, we can compartmentalize our our feelings and emotions. In this way they can help us cope and either deal with or pack away and store things we don’t want to face.
“The Box”, episode four in Hulu’s Castle Rock series based on the collective work of Stephen King, explores this abstract concept. Show creators Sam Shaw & Dustin Thomason do an excellent job of creating a new story with a thematic feel that is true to the source material. While this episode dials back the references, it amps up the the tension. To catch up on previous episodes, click here.
In case you missed “recap” in the title of this post, there are going to be a box-load of spoilers below.
Henry’s box is more of the Pandora variety, as the episode opens on him tormented in his sleep by his disappearance as a child. While the mysterious prisoner found in Shawshank was his initial reason for returning to Castle Rock, solving his own mystery is his motivation now. Having kept the secret of his past locked up for the majority of his life, he now is beginning to unravel the threads.
His self-discovery mission take him all over the greater Castle county area. First visit, his father’s moved grave site with Alan Pangborn. With Alan driving, the two pass a street sign for Maple Street. Much like the “24 Hours in Tulsa” song being stuck in the truck’s tape player, we are left to wonder how long Henry and the former sheriff are going to be stuck at odds with each other. On this trip to have his father brought back to his hometown, Henry accuses Alan of being out in the woods the night he found Henry because he has been in love with his mother, even when Mr. Deaver was still in the picture. It is an odd way to show gratitude towards someone who was searching for Henry, after 11 days of winter when everyone had thought him dead. Additionally weird, because we get the sense that Henry’s relationship with his adoptive father was at the very least, strained.
At the County Clerk Records Office, Henry reads through decades of microfiche, uncovering even more about Castle Rock; “New Warden”, “Warden Work Project”, (so close to another Burton reference) “Nightmare on Christmas”, his own missing child poster, and “Suspect Questioned in Deaver Case: Local Resident Desjardins Denies Involvement.” With a potential new lead, Henry stops by home to get more information. Ruth relays some of the rumors around town, like that the Desjardin’s were former Nazis, but puts it on the same level as Esme Howard who was thought to be a satanist for slaughtering her own pigs (which sounds similar the real life Agnes Waterhouse). Before he leaves, Ruth snaps at Henry for his plans to take her back to Texas with him. She tells him that this place is her home and she will “leave it in a box”.
Despite her deteriorating mental condition, Ruth has very lucid moments where you can tell she’s not gone soft in her old age. In a conversation with Alan, while The Howling Man episode of The Twilight Zone plays on the television, she tells him that she likes fighting. Though this sentiment was in response to potentially moving south, it would be easy to see that she meant more than just sticking out harsh winters. You have to give credit to a woman who likes trout for the gutting activity and who wants to die like a skjaldmær. Backing up for a moment, the particular episode she is watching is interesting because of the similarities to the Castle Rock plot thus far and its potential foreshadowing.
Henry heads to the Desjardin household on Remo Rd. driving out to Castle Lake. He would have completely missed the driveway, were it not for the mailbox. When all signs point to the house being abandoned, Henry takes the liberty of exploring inside and out. After having to walk around the piano that has fallen through the second floor to the kitchen, he spots a shed in the yard. He is drawn to the structure and after breaking the padlock, discovers only a moldy cereal bowl inside. Just then a car pulls up and Josef Desjardins greets Henry assuming the later is there for a haircut since the unassuming cabin is a barber shop. Josef recognizes Henry as the infamous Deaver boy and takes him through the house’s second floor (which looks it would soon qualify for an episode of hoarders-no wonder the floor gave out with so many boxes of stuff). Under a bed, Josef pulls out a box marked Deaver, in it, contains the missing police record of Henry’s disappearance. Josef explains why he has it as both a benevolent act (saving it from the dump) as well as curiosity/preservation (wanted to see what the police said about him). Basically confessing to kidnapping Henry he tells him “you know, I never touched you.”
Having even more questions, Henry confronts the former Sheriff who would have been directly responsible for all of the holes in the police file. Lucky for Henry he does not have to go far to find Alan, who despite having his own trailer, is seemingly always at the Deaver house. Despite Josef Desjardins’ apparent involvement in the disappearance, no charges were filed. This, we find out is because the night before Matthew Deaver died he had struggled to write Alan a note that said: “HENRY DID IT.” It would seem that Alan’s sweeping the entire situation under the rug was to protect Henry without getting to the root at what the real cause was.
At the Mellow Tiger Bar, Henry takes some of the weight off of his shoulders by confiding in childhood friend Molly Stand. He confesses that he’s been experiencing “daydreams” to which Molly can relate that she has a similar experience with her “pictures from the past”.” We know that Molly keeps a literal box of things from her past in her basement.
Their bonding is cut short by a distraught Officer Dennis Zalewski, who tells Henry that things are bad in Shawshank. Finding The Kid caused something to click in him. Before he did not want to get involved for the sake of his wife and soon-to-be child, but now he is awake to the violence and wants to take a stand. His box is the room he’s assigned duty in, nested in the larger box of the prison he works in. He claims to feel as much of a prisoner as the inmates he guards. Dennis wants out and if this was the Castle Rock from Premium Harmony, he could have taken a job at Walmart instead.
In an attempt to do some good in the town for once, Dennis stops by The Kid’s cell, on his way to the surveillance room to tell him, that he has the inmates back. To cement their relationship, Dennis awkwardly teaches The Kid how to fist bump. Then Officer Zalewski enters his post, relieving the CO who in a twist of sexism, she is constantly telling him to smile.
Molly is trying to sell the Lacy House (though it is more like the Newall House) when the history professor from Iowa finds the cremations of former Warden in the freezer (where Molly had quickly tried to hide them). Since he didn’t die in the house, Molly wasn’t required to disclose that information and all of the other murders happened long ago. She shrugs off the morbid events of the past by telling them that a serial strangler died in hers, and she “sleeps like a baby.” Like a baby, in this case, seems to mean waking up every few hours wanting to scream. Aside from Molly’s residence at the Dodd house, she points out the perks of the town with no “Masshole summer tourists” (a cruel remark since the show was actually filmed in Massachusetts). They aren’t scared off, and it appears like the house will have new occupants, however brief they survive.
Following a night spent in the comfort of Molly, Henry called Dennis and tells him that he needs to leave town and plans to have The Kid take the settlement. It is unfortunate that this message was only received via voicemail because if Henry were able to talk to Dennis the final moments might not have occurred. Shortly after entering the surveillance room for the day, he gets the “encouragement” to smile, via “if you’re happy and you know it clap your hands.” This is a call back to the song playing over this similar scene earlier in the episode when Tom Wait’s song “Clap Hands” was playing. This time the song choice is “Crying” by Roy Orbison. In similar mirroring/inverting of parallel scenes, when Dennis seems to go into a trance and draw in dry erase marker over the grid of monitors, before were smiley faces, now they are X’s.
After completing his marking, he draws a gun and heads out into the hallway, bringing to fruition the dream he had previously in episodes 1 & 2. Officer Zalewiski goes on an assassination mission through the prison killing the guards in his path. We watch the violence how we feel most comfortable with it, on television screens as Zalewiski makes his serpentine path down corridors. We meet up with Henry as he enters the Warden’s office just as Dennis takes out a guard before seeming to snap out of it claiming he wants to testify. Just then a flash grenade hits and a shotgun blast takes out the zombie spree-killer.
The death of Dennis Zalewiski is a blow to Henry’s case and the plot as a whole. Though not the main protagonist, his departure seems premature like Janet Leigh in Psycho. Without an insider at Shawshank who will feed Henry information about the goings on with The Kid? Will he even stay in the prison? Where will he go if he gets out? Most importantly what will he do? We have already seen what happens when you get too close to him…it always turns out bad for the other person.
The next episode “Harvest” will be available for streaming on Hulu, Wednesday, August 8th.
Featured image © 2018 Hulu/ Castle Rock gifs from Tumblr all others from Giphy.