Melanie Lynskey Castle Rock

Local Color

Of the first three Castle Rock episodes, “Local Color” is the best. Primarily because it lets Melanie Lynskey take the wheel. Lynskey is an actress who brings an almost disarming humanity to any part she plays, and her Molly Strand is a funny, tragic, relatable character. In fact, she might be the most interesting character on the show.

And boy oh boy does she have a dark secret. As “Local Color” begins, we see a young Molly stalk out of her house, trudging barefoot through the snow. Henry Deaver is still missing, but his father the pastor has been found – at the bottom of a cliff, badly injured. The man now lays in a bed hooked up to a ventilator, his head wrapped in bandages.

Finding a key hidden under a rock, Molly enters the Deaver house, tip-toes upstairs, and proceeds to kill the injured pastor by unhooking his breathing tube. There’s no malice in her actions. She’s not gleefully committing murder like an evil little kid in a standard horror movie. Instead, there’s a curious detachment as she watches the man die.

This gives way to the first genuinely creepy moment on Castle Rock. A dream sequence in which Molly wanders through a decrepit, snow-filled church. She wanders into what appears to be a funeral, and finds the pews to be filled with people with their heads wrapped in bandages – just like Henry’s father was. And Henry’s father is there as well, standing at the pulpit, condemning Molly for murdering him.

Why did Molly kill Henry’s father? We can’t know for sure yet, but it’s clear through flashbacks that Henry’s relationship with Pastor Deaver was not idyllic. At one point, young Molly catches young Henry setting fire to a VHS tape. “Fuck you, dad,” Henry mutters as the tape burns. What was on the tape? I’m speculating wildly here, but if I had to guess, I’d say there was some sort of abuse going on between the pastor and Henry. And Molly, with her crush on Henry, took it upon herself to help Henry by killing the pastor off. We also see that Molly has a kind of psychic bond with Henry – at one point, he cuts his finger, and Molly, across the street, feels the same stab of pain in her own finger. If the pastor was abusing Henry, and Molly indeed has this bond with Henry, that means she was psychically experiencing the abuse as well. And perhaps that would go a long way to explaining why she decided to bump the pastor off.

If young Molly was hoping to find some sort of peace by killing off Henry’s father, she was mistaken. Adult Molly is a mess. Her Shining-like abilities are on full display here – we hear the barrage of other people’s thoughts barreling through her mind like a runaway train. And yet despite all this, she’s trying to go about a normal, stable in life. In fact, she’s in the midst of a project to revitalize Castle Rock. A realtor by trade, Molly has devised a plan to open a mall in Castle Rock with the hopes of stimulating the economy. She’s all set to go on the cable access show Local Color, and then Henry Deaver walks in on her. Henry’s appearance sends Molly into a tailspin, and she rushes out to get some pills from her teenage dealer. But the dealer is all out, and instead sends her to the spookiest motor park in the world to find drugs. There, she encounters a bizarre mock trail proceeded over by children wearing homemade masks. During this, the children accuse her of murder – an accusation that clearly unnerves her. These kids are just playing a game…or are they? Do they somehow know what Molly has done? Or is this all in her head?

It’s moot, because soon the police arrive, and Molly ends up in jail for trying to score drugs. As luck, or fate, would have it, Henry just happens to learn of Molly’s incarceration and uses his lawyer-skills to get her out. He also rushes her off to her appearance on Local Color…which goes about as well as you can expect. After sputtering and stammering, Molly puts on some sunglasses like a drunk with a hangover from hell, and proceeds to tell the residents of Castle Rock to “wake the fuck up.” She also reveals that within the walls of Shawshank, a young man – the Kid – is being held against his will. Henry is stunned – he’s told her none of this, and yet she somehow knows. And now it’s out in the open, beamed out on the airwaves to the TV viewers of Castle Rock.

Watching Lynskey work in this episode is an absolute delight. She goes from amusing to heartbreaking in the blink of an eye, and none of it ever rings false. Her flustered attitude around Henry is both charming and sad. She asks Henry if he’s ever had a song stuck in his head, and then says, “When we were younger…you were that song. And I’m not saying you’re a bad song. You’re obviously a very handsome song, and you dress better than the other songs in this town…” This is marginally clever dialogue, but Lynskey sells it perfectly, the modulations and nervous quiver in her voice as she trails of at the end doing most of the heavy lifting. (Lynskey’s funniest moment comes when she’s rehearsing what to say on Local Color, and mock-cheerfully describes herself as a “Fifth generation Maine-iac.”)

With the Kid’s existence out in the open, Shawshank’s warden has no choice but to finally let Henry see the mysterious inmate. First, she attempts to offer a settlement for a large chunk of change, provided the Kid sign a NDA and not threaten to sue Shawshank for wrongful imprisonment. Henry is quick to point out that this isn’t wrongful imprisonment – it’s kidnapping.

Henry finally comes face to face with the Kid, and learns just how creepy he is. The Kid doesn’t say much, but what he does say is cryptic and eerie.”Has it begun?” he asks Henry. “Do you hear it now?” It’s not clear just what he’s talking about, and normally this deliberate obtuseness would drive me up a wall. But Skarsgård’s mannered, monotone delivery goes a long way.

“Local Color” closes with one last shock. Molly enters her childhood home to find it wrecked. And upstairs, she encounters what appears to be the ghost of Henry’s father, his face swathed in bandages, spots of blood marking his eyes and mouth. Molly flees, only to turn and see the apparition has vanished. If it was even there to begin with. Cue the spooky music.

castle rock local color

I Understood That Stephen King Reference! 

  • Young Molly has a Ramones poster on her wall. King is a big Ramones fan, and references several of their lyrics in his novel Pet Sematary. When Pet Sematary was turned into a film in 1989, the Ramones recorded a theme song for it. You can listen to it here (it rocks).
  • It may not be a direct reference, but Molly’s dream of the church full of damned, accusing parishioners is very similar to a scene in King’s novella Cycle of the Werewolf, later adapted into the movie Silver Bullet. There, a priest (who just happens to be a werewolf) has a nightmare that all his parishioners are turning into werewolves as he delivers a sermon.
  • Molly mentions building a gazebo at the center of town as part of her revitalization project. Castle Rock actually had a gazebo in the past, but the structure exploded at the end of Needful Things.

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