Castle Rock Episode 3 Review: Local Color

Melanie Lynskey shines as the strange Molly Strand in the third episode of Castle Rock. Our review...

This Castle Rock review contains spoilers. 

Castle Rock Episode 3

This is the episode that finally clicked with me. “Local Color” moves from scene to wonderful scene as a pitch-perfect distillation of Stephen King weirdness, character-driven drama, and frights — and much of that falls on Rose Red veteran Melanie Lynskey, who delivers a staggering performance as “real estate queen” Molly Strand. Her “undiagnosed psychic condition,” mission to restore downtown Castle Rock (gazebo and all), and connection to Henry are front and center in the best episode of the series thus far. 

First, let’s address the elephant in the room: Molly has the shining, that rare psychic “gift” that first afflicted little Danny Torrance in the seminal 1977 horror novel. What the uninitiated might call “social anxiety” is actually a power that allows her to hear other people’s thoughts, as innocent or as dark as they may be, and feel what they feel. She can also see the dead, and the episode wastes no time letting us inside Molly’s head so that we can experience her terrifying visions of a dead reverend and his grotesque congregation. 

While Molly’s power seems innocent at first — the scene in which young Molly describes what it’s like to feel Henry masturbating in his room across the street plays more like the genuine curiosity of a precocious kid than anything remotely sexual — it later manifests itself as a form of punishment for her greatest sin: the murder of Reverend Matthew Deaver (Adam Rothenberg). What a wonderful homage to slasher movies as Molly (played in this scene by the impressive Cassady McClincy) sneaks into the Deaver house, slips on Henry’s hoodie, climbs the stairs, and unplugs the reverend’s breathing tube.

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It’s a very creepy scene that points less to Molly’s sinister motives and more to the reverend’s unspoken crimes. Why did the reverend take his son to the woods in the middle of the night and why did the boy run from him? The mystery goes deeper than a simple death and the show expertly teases it out in bits and pieces. 

That’s not to say that I wasn’t surprised that Castle Rock gave up the reverend’s murderer three episodes in, but it’s a clever narrative trick, too. The show unleashes its most important bit of information thus far so that we can watch in trepidation as an older Molly nervously interacts with Henry, who has no idea that he’s inviting his father’s murderer to a grand slam breakfast. The tension is so delicious.

Castle Rock is finally upping the terror, too. While the first two episodes made for a more sanitized King drama, “Local Color” provides some genuine scares. I still can’t quite deal with that surreal scene at the Timberland Motor Court. The trial being held by the menacing kids in the masks is the sort of unreality King narratives often deal in so well — that sudden slip into a scene that doesn’t exactly make sense but that you can’t turn away from. Molly is pulled in by that macabre weirdness and so am I. (Did anyone else get some serious “Children of the Corn” vibes from this scene?) That creepy faux trial where all the kids gleefully yell a bloodthirsty “Guilty!” is the best moment of the show thus far. 

We also get the first proper meeting between Henry and The Kid, who’s yet to have much to do besides sit in a cell and stare at people. The scene between these two isn’t all that remarkable except for the questions The Kid asks Henry.

“Has it begun?”

I like the way The Kid’s first question doesn’t mean anything to Henry, even though it’s obviously in reference to something the prisoner knows is coming to the town. Is it the reckoning former warden Dale Lacy feared in his suicide note to Alan Pangborn? Obviously. 

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“Do you hear it now?”

This question takes Henry by surprise because it’s the same question his father asked him that fateful night in the woods when he went missing. It was a question frightening enough to send Henry running from the reverend so many years ago. Why?

Henry’s story is still heavy on the foreshadowing without much along the lines of actual detail, but now that he’s hooked up with both Molly and The Kid, the truth should begin to come to light. As Molly says to Henry, “Things happen when we’re together.” I genuinely can’t wait to see what happens to these two next. 

John Saavedra is an associate editor at Den of Geek US. Follow him on Twitter.

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4 out of 5