Author’s note: SPOILERS for the sixth episode of Castle Rock, “Filter”.
Ruth (Sissy Spacek) tells her grandson halfway through the episode about breadcrumbs, reminders for her of what is then and what is now. For her, it’s used as a coping mechanism for her mind betraying her, a way to differentiate where she is in the timeline of her life. For the audience, she’s speaking of the drip, drip, drip of information we’re being given, a reminder that what is then is still under complete mystery, and what is now is at play ever so cleverly throughout the season so far. “Filter” is all about those breadcrumbs, leading us down a path that can possibly give us answers.
Henry Deaver (André Holland) lays his father’s casket to rest once more. The ringing in his ears won’t stop, and he’s starting to notice some rather peculiar people by an RV watching him closely. At least his son is in town for a visit: Henry hoping to both bond with him and to jog his mother’s memory, a familiar face in difficult times. It seems to be working for the most part, though Ruth is still struggling, as she notes herself as she plays chess with her grandson.
This episode has a lot of Bill Skarsgard’s the Kid in it up front, doing some rather human things for a change. He is looking at himself in the mirror, though not for long. He is putting on a record and lying in bed as he listens to it (ominously The Walker Brothers’ “The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine Anymore”). He’s watching some old Deaver home movies. But then he goes and stands in the backyard in a spooky way in a dead man’s suit and creeps out the Deaver household, so he’s not completely off the creepy hook just yet, especially with whatever happened in the house at the end.
Molly (Melanie Lynskey), in an attempt to help Henry remember the trips with his father into the woods, finally finds the opportunity to reveal how his father really died. For someone who claims to know how people feel, Molly did not read the situation or Henry well at all. Honesty came at a fault, and once more the past has caught up with the present, and, for now, severed one of the saner relationships the series had at hand.
But the most fascinating moment, one that seemingly pieces together a lot of the story, is Henry stumbling across a campfire in the woods. He is told by Odin Branch (CJ Jones), by way of interpreter Rory Culkin, that his father had been interested in the idea of schisma, or, in this case, the idea of alternate realities based on acoustics. Taken in part with Ruth’s chess pieces being her connection to her own reality, the loud moaning noise echoing through the forest at times, and the ringing in Henry’s ear, a strange image starts to come together. Time is but a construct and perhaps it’s all connected, after all.
The Filter itself, a soundproof room in the back of the previously mentioned RV, is one of the more intense sequences of the show, an audio/visual nightmare more breakdown than opportunity for truth. It’s an impressive moment, constant cutting and manipulating of unsettling sound and image, and it’s the most experimental the season has gotten so far. It looked pretty violent for something that will give clarity.
I found myself a little disappointed by “Filter.” It answered some questions but created bigger ones. In this case, it led to a mesmerizing breakdown of acoustic alternate timelines, but for these characters, this only leaves a lot of other things on the sideline. It’s focused on Henry, which, as the lead, gives Holland plenty to work with. But it comes at the cost of sidelining a lot of other characters. Jane Levy is downgraded to letting Henry know where Molly is; Scott Glenn spends most of his small scenes in an auto graveyard; and so far Henry’s son (Chosen Jacobs) is mostly relegated to phone user. It’s a small complaint, to be sure, but with such a talented cast, I hope they are used more in the back half, as the picture starts to focus.
But as an episode about Henry, this worked. From the very beginning, we wondered why Henry and his father were in the woods so often, and Henry uses the home movies to follow the very trail (breadcrumbs!) they used before to stumble across Odin. I don’t know what the Filter will lead to, but it’s at least fascinating to know we may be going more sci-fi than supernatural with alternate timelines. Unless these characters are completely wrong, and it’s something far worse. The Kid needs to be consulted!
This episode was good but didn’t end up as riveting as past episodes. It gave some answers to burning questions but did so in a meta sort of way that left even bigger questions on the table. That’s not always a bad thing, but when coupled with two pretty heavy cliffhangers of both Henry in the Filter and whatever happened at the Deaver home, it didn’t become as strong as I’d hoped. “Filter” was more story than character this time, and while it certainly is setting up for something completely unexpected in the back half of the season, it did struggle a little under holding its own for the hour.