Author’s note: light spoilers for the fourth episode of Castle Rock, “The Box.” It is kept as vague as possible, but might be too much for some.
We open on flashes of Henry’s memories of what happened when he disappeared as a child. A chain-link cage, reminiscent of the one the kid (Bill Skarsgard) was found inside in Shawshank and drawn for Henry as evidence later in the episode; a toy car rustling through a pile of dirt; descending footsteps and the shine of a flashlight. Adult Henry (Andre Holland) snaps awake at the sight of a man with a knife at the edge of his bed, but when the light is turned on, no one is there.
This is the beginning of “The Box”, an episode that finds some puzzle pieces starting to snap together and create a more noticeable whole. Henry’s missing time as a child is shown in these flashes, these important but brief moments of clarity, supplementing his investigative work into his disappearance in 1991. This leads him to the Desjardins’ house off the edge of town and more clues about his fractured memory. This is the central focus of the episode, as he questions both Scott Glen’s Alan, whose motivations remain questionable at best, and his own memory of events.
The methodical pace was still present from previous episodes, where a careful hand is at play in keeping things elusive enough but never frustrating. I like the direction it’s heading and how smartly written this episode was (Scott Brown is credited as the writer), taking the time the characters need and deserve to breathe (or in some instances, suffocate). The quick interactions between Henry and Sissy Spacek’s Ruth can be both strained and stern, depending on the time of the day and her memory, especially with news that sets off a betrayal of sorts in their relationship. When Andre Holland and Sissy Spacek are in a scene together, it usually leads to some great, quiet performances. The end of the episode was a wake-up call, though, a push that will thread the story into new territory. The theme of feeling boxed in (hey, like the episode title!) was evident throughout. Fisher’s prison guard Dennis feels as though he, too, is just as trapped as the prisoners. Images of boxes repeat in various locations and a rather important coffin rises from its resting place.
“The Box” (which was directed by Michael Uppendahl) continues the streak of having vivid imagery: in Ruth gutting a fish as she talks about enjoying the gutting more than the eating; Dennis carefully drawing large smiles on all of the monitors in sharpie; an air-sealed coffin rising from a small field; and of a piano having collapsed through an upstairs floor.
But it is the final moments of the episode that provide the strongest moment of the series so far. It is the product of one of the characters feeling trapped, and promises to completely change the rest of the season. It was both shocking and surprising; I expected something big to happen at some point, but I didn’t expect it to be that big or that sudden.
There is also a small nod to The Dead Zone in a funny line of dialogue (by Melanie Lynskey’s Molly), which was a nice touch.
It would be tough to say if I liked this episode more than “Local Color,” as both were great, but this one certainly had the most stunning sequence. “The Box” is a wonderful episode of television, continuing this strong first half of Castle Rock. If this is only the beginning, I can’t wait for what’s in store.
Castle Rock is available through streaming on Hulu Wednesdays.