castle rock past perfect review

Welcome to our spoiler-filled Castle Rock reviews, in which we explore Hulu’s new Stephen King-inspired series. (If you’re looking for a spoiler-free review of the show, click here). This week we look at episode eight, “Past Perfect.”

castle rock episode 8

Past Perfect

After last week’s sad, beautiful episode “The Queen,” Castle Rock decides to get back to the horror with “Past Perfect.” It’s a creepy but somewhat frustrating episode, setting up even more mysteries as we enter the home stretch and near the season’s conclusion.

It seems a foregone conclusion that Castle Rock is playing around with alternate timelines. This isn’t entirely out of the realm of Stephen King. The Dark Tower books deals with this (as well as alternate dimensions), but I remain slightly skeptical that Castle Rock will touch on the complicated, confusing Dark Tower mythos.

Even if it doesn’t, there’s something going on here about alternate outcomes to previous events. Ruth touched on this before “The Queen”, when she told her grandson Wendell that they’d had the same conversation about Ruth’s chess pieces before. Later in “Past Perfect”, Ruth asks someone if “Alan is dead this time or alive?” (Emphasis mine). And then there’s the cryptic final line of the episode: as the Kid and Molly gaze out of Molly’s childhood bedroom at the woods, the Kid tells her: “Out there, in the woods…that’s where you died.”

Before we get to that moment, though, Henry digs deeper into his mysterious past. After Molly rescues him from the soundproof room known as the Filter, Henry returns home to find Alan dead and the Kid still around. The Kid tells Henry that Ruth killed Alan, and then suggests covering the murder up to protect Ruth. Henry is, understandably, freaked out and confused by all of this.

The Kid decides to make things even more confusing when he asks: “Do you hear it?” the Kid asked Henry this question before, back at Shawshank, but it makes more sense now. The “it” is the schisma, or the Voice of God, mentioned back in episode 6, “Filter.” “We have to go – we have to go to the woods–” the Kid urges, but Henry cuts him off. He doesn’t want to hear any of this, and the Kid is frustrated. “I waited for you,” he tells Henry, letting emotion enter his voice for the first time in the entire season. “I waited 27 years. I rescued you from that basement, and I never asked for any of this.”

In previous episodes, Henry has had flashes of being in a cage locked in a dirt-floor basement, but there’s never been a connection with this and the Kid – until now. The pieces are very slowly starting to come together, but they don’t quite paint a clear picture yet. It’s like the show is assembling a jigsaw puzzle face-down.

As frustrated as I am by all this obtuseness, there are some strong moments in “Past Perfect.” Henry’s somber reaction to Alan’s death is genuinely touching. “Were you two close?” Wendell asks. “He took care of your grandma,” Henry said. “He tried to be a good man…sometimes he was.”

This is a sharp contrast to the adversarial relationship Henry has had with Alan all season, and seeing him saddened by Alan’s demise makes quite an impact. So does the scene that follows, where Ruth hurriedly tries to explain what happened. In her mind, she didn’t kill Alan – she killed her husband Matthew, who has somehow returned from the grave.

“I don’t know how he came back, but he did,” Ruth says. “Only I stood up to him this time.” It’s heartbreaking, and so is Ruth’s follow-up statement in which she suggests Henry talk to Alan to help her get out of trouble for the shooting. At the moment, she has no idea Alan is gone.

As it turns out, Ruth won’t have to worry about being taken into custody for killing Alan, because it appears Henry is perfectly fine pinning the ex-sheriff’s death on the Kid, who has mysteriously vanished from the scene.

With all this craziness going on, Henry decided to send Wendell out of town. Wendell boards the bus to go back to Boston, but just as it’s about to leave, a bird smashes into the windshield. “Not again!” the bus driver grumbles, because this is just a thing that happens here in Castle Rock. As all this is happening, Wendell is overcome by a ringing in his ears. The same ringing his father has been hearing. Cue the ominous music.

castle rock episode 8 review

“I Was There”

A good portion of “Past Perfect” doesn’t focus on Henry, or the Kid, or Ruth, or Molly. Instead, it focuses on two characters we’ve briefly met before: Gordon and Lilith. The duo were last seen looking at Warden Lacy’s house, and here we learn they went ahead and bought it.

Rather than be dissuaded by the house, and the town’s, dark history, the pair have decided to embrace it. They convert the Lacy home into a Bed and Breakfast with a theme – true crime. A mannequin sits propped-up in the living room, an axe buried in its plastic head. A bathtub overflows with mannequin arms and legs. Gordon and Lilith want to cash in on the horror of Castle Rock.

In a flashback, we see all is not well with the pair. Gordon was a history professor in Iowa, but he lost his job after attacking a colleague that had an affair with Lilith. Now the couple are hoping for a fresh start, but the evils of Castle Rock are ready to prey on Gordon’s violent temper.

The couple are able to get into the previously-locked Lacy basement, where they find hundreds of paintings of the Kid. Instead of being immediately unnerved by all these portraits of the Kid and his dead-stare, Gordon promptly hangs them all over the house. Gazing longingly at one painting triggers something in the diminutive history teacher, and when a couple show up to stay at the B&B, he promptly murders them.

Lilith could turn Gordon in like a sane person. Instead, she helps him cover up the crime. And while they’re in the midst of disposing of the body, who should show up but Jackie. The cab driver is hoping to strike a profitable deal with the B&B – she’ll direct tourists there if they send their guests her way – but Gordon and Lilith quickly rush her out of the house, raising her suspicions.

Jackie isn’t the only unwanted guest to arrive at the B&B. Henry comes calling as well, curious to check out the Lacy basement to see if that is the basement the Kid was talking about.

When no one answers the door, Henry opts to break-in, at which point he finds the many, many, many paintings of the Kid. That’s weird enough as-is, but examining the dates pantied into the corner of every painting, Henry discovers the art work stretches back over decades (or, 27 years, to be precise). But the Kid appears to be the same age in every painting. And he also happens to be wearing a sweater Henry used to own as a kid.

Before Henry (or the audience) can make sense of this, Gordon and Lilith attack, and a violent brawl ensues. In the midst of the scuffle, Lilith stabs herself in the neck and bleeds out on the bathroom floor. Henry flees the house, Gordon giving chase. Henry comes very close to death, but luckily Jackie has decided to return, and she promptly buries the axe from Gordon’s mannequin into the back of Gordon’s head.

While all this is going on, Molly is in crisis mode. She keeps having violent flashes and visions, including one where she herself appears to be dead. There’s also a killer split diopter shot of Molly and a tea kettle that will likely make film nerds go wild.

Panicking, she loads up on pills, and speeds off to Ruth’s house with hopes of finding Henry. But before she can get there, she notices the door to her old childhood home is open. Stoned and weary, she staggers in and find the Kid waiting for her.

The Kid, as is his wont, mysteriously tells her she can help him, because she knows him, and he knows her. Molly has no idea what he’s talking about, but the Kid rattles off a laundry list of facts from Molly’s past.

“How do you know all this?” Molly demands.

“Because I was there,” the Kid replies matter-of-factly. And then he directs her towards her old bedroom window, and casually drops the line about how Molly once died out in the woods.

It’s a hell of a line to close on, but what does it all mean? There are only two episodes left in Castle Rock season 1, which means answers better start presenting themself, and soon. Mystery will only take you so far. You need resolution, too.

castle rock past perfect

I Understood That Stephen King Reference! 

  • We’ve said it once before but it bears repeating: the Kid mentions waiting for 27 years, which is the same amount of time that passes before Pennywise returns in It. On top of all this, having Bill Skarsgard – who plays Pennywise in 2017’s It – say “I waited 27 years!” takes this reference to the next level.
  • The scene where Gordon brutally assaults one of his fellow teachers could be a reference to The Shining. In Stephen King’s novel, we learn that main character Jack Torrance lost his job as a teacher after he assaulted a student whom he caught slashing his tires.
  • Speaking of The Shining, Jackie Torrance killing someone with an axe is a call-back to her uncle’s actions in The Shining film adaptation. (Jack Torrence doesn’t use an axe in King’s novel; he uses a roque (or croquet) mallet.
  • After leaving Castle Rock, Wendell decides to go back. He departs the bus in Jerusalem’s Lot (the name of the town can be briefly glimpsed off to the left-hand side of the frame, etched on a bus stop covering) and starts walking back to Castle Rock. Jerusalem’s Lot is the town at the center of King’s vampire novel ‘Salem’s Lot
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