SPOILER ALERT: Do not read if you have not yet watched “Romans,” the season 1 finale of “Castle Rock.”
The penultimate episode of the first season of Hulu’s “Castle Rock” offered many answers about why there were two men calling themselves Henry Deaver in the sleepy Maine town, and why one of them was kept in a cage under Shawshank Prison for decades. But those answers came from one of those men — the one otherwise known as The Kid (Bill Skarsgard) — and were therefore not objective. That meant the finale had to address whether or not to believe The Kid’s story about being ripped from his version of Castle Rock and lost in this one.
“For us, this always began at the highest level as a trial itself. You’re sort of watching the trial of The Kid and of Henry at the same time,” co-creator Dusty Thomason tells Variety. “So the reason we started again with that court case in the finale and talking about doubt was we wanted to suggest to the audience, ‘What do you believe?'”
For Henry (Andre Holland), the answer was that he believed there was something monstrous to The Kid. After chasing him in the woods, he saw The Kid’s face change — just for a second — but it was enough to convince him he had to lock The Kid back up.
“The truth is, that image in the end is just a very, very aged Bill Skarsgard, and so the monster you’re looking at is 300 year-old Bill, and so the question of whether they’ve been jumping back and forth in timelines — there are all sorts of questions that are raised in that moment,” Thomason says.
It was intentional that seeing The Kid’s face change came while the camera was positioned in Henry’s point of view, Thomason says. It is another example of how a narrative can be altered by one person’s subjectivity.
“Your feeling about the ending of the season may be related to your feeling about the story that [The Kid] tells in the penultimate episode of the season,” co-creator Sam Shaw says.
While Shaw says it was “a deliberate choice” to present the audience, as well as Henry, with a decision to make about whether or not to “accept the grand unification theory” that The Kid provides to explain many of the “uncanny” event that took place over the course of the season, he admits it is an “even darker ending if you choose to believe [The Kid’s] story that he’s just a luck-less guy Henry Deaver from another time and place.”
Molly (Melanie Lynskey) did believe The Kid’s story. And she also believed him when he told her she was happy in his timeline because she no longer lived in Castle Rock — so much so that she finally left her version, too.
“We felt there was something really satisfying about the guy who got away, in the end, finding himself back in the town, and the woman who refused to give up on the town, in the end, realizing that maybe it’s something that can’t be saved,” Thomason says. “Everybody’s sort of been in a prison at one time or another, and Molly’s prison is the town of Castle Rock and, in a way, her hope of rebuilding it into the beautiful Castle Rock that she dreams of. Letting go of that is a big character choice for her. It’s a moment where we realize she has finally seen greener pastures.”
While Molly made big strides and perhaps even had the most traditional happy ending, Henry, too, was “transformed” by his experiences with The Kid.
“When you meet Henry at the beginning, I don’t think he’s a particularly sunny, happy guy who’s in a great place in his life. And weirdly, despite the dark irony of him being the jailer at the end, I still think he’s got a better relationship with his son and he seems to almost be enjoying practicing some aspects of the law more than he was in the beginning,” Thomason says. “There’s a dark side to it, clearly, but for me there are some aspects of Henry’s life that have gotten better. … He has seen the other side and now his tragic-heroic move is he has to be the savior of Castle Rock.”
While the first season finale had to wrap up the tale of two Henry Deavers, Thomason says the season overall was really “planting seeds for a future.” The show has been renewed for a second season, but he shares he and Shaw actually mapped out “the first group of seasons” when conceptualizing the show. The series is an anthology, with each subsequent season keeping its setting but jumping to a different time period, with some historical canon to mine from Stephen King’s novels but a lot more to be created.
“The truth is there are huge slogs of Castle Rock history that have gone untold in the books,” Thomason says. “In a way the last 20 years of Castle Rock is unwritten, never mind the future.”
But one constant in all of the seasons will be the theme of subjective narratives.
“The interpretation of history is a super important question in Castle Rock,” Thomason continues. “There’s this moment that we love in ‘The Dark Half’ where Pangborn sweeps the entire series of events underneath the rug and essentially makes it seem like it’s a series of natural events when really they were supernatural events. So, how many other times did that happen — how many other times did Pangborn or some other sheriff in Castle Rock do that? The thing we found so provocative from the beginning about Castle Rock as a world capital of nightmares from the Stephen King library was … the town’s already the locus of so much darkness and strangeness that the horizon is pretty unlimited.”