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The Ending Of Castle Rock Season 1 Explained

For over four decades, Stephen King has established himself as a master of horror, weaving disconcerting tales of small town life sprinkled with nostalgia. New England is a big part of King's stories, especially the state of his own residence, Maine (via Bangor Daily News). Many know the name Derry as the land of Pennywise, but there is another town that was the birthplace of many incarnations of evil: Castle Rock. The fictional town is the setting for several of King's interconnected books.

Hulu's anthology series "Castle Rock" doesn't focus on just one of King's stories. Instead, it uses the setting as inspiration for the series. Though the show plays fast and loose with it's depiction of some of King's novel characters — including a prominent appearance of "Needful Things" character Alan Pangborn (Scott Glenn) — it does adhere to the famed author's spooky aesthetic.

Season 1 focuses on religion gone wrong, as Henry Deaver (André Holland) returns to his hometown to discover it's just as strange as when he left. After reuniting with former neighbor Molly (Melanie Lynskey), he is confronted with the secrets of his past and the truth behind the Kid (Bill Skarsgård) in a disturbing finale. 

Who is The Kid?

Season 1 of "Castle Rock" centers around one important question: Who is the Kid? But his name isn't the character's only mystery. From his first moments on screen, the Kid inspires fear and occasional hatred from others. Viewers first see him locked deep in the bowels of Stephen King's famous fictional prison, Shawshank State Penitentiary. Imprisoned by Warden Lacy (Terry O'Quinn), it isn't immediately clear what he has done to deserve this. Lacy is convinced that the Kid is evil incarnate, and for the rest of the season, the show goes on a wild ride debating his innocence.

It is only in the penultimate episode when the Kid reveals he is Henry Deaver from another Castle Rock — in another dimension. The twin Castle Rocks are connected by a portal in the woods. The Kid encounters it after discovering a young boy locked in a basement by his religious father (Adam Rothenberg), who believed the boy was the devil. It turns out the boy is actually the Henry from our dimension at a young age. After our Henry escapes, the Kid follows him, accidentally getting trapped in Henry's home dimension. The two Henrys are mirrors of each other, each sharing strikingly similar experiences. Both have been prisoners and both are accused of being harbingers of evil. The question remains if that is truly the case or not.

Wages of sin is death

There are many aspects of "Castle Rock" Season 1 that are left ambiguous, but the characterization of Henry Deaver's father, Matthew Deaver, is not. The clear villain of the season, Matthew puts the entire story in motion by acting on his religious fanaticism. He becomes convinced that his son is chosen and can hear the voice of God. His fixation becomes an obsession, and he takes his son to the woods to follow the voice. This ringing sound turns out not to be God, but a portal to alternate dimensions.

Henry gets caught in another dimension where that version of Matthew is arguably even more unhinged than his own father. Henry learns that this alternate dimension Matthew is intent on killing his wife, Ruth (Sissy Spacek), because he knows that she's having an affair, and he believes sins are punishable by death. This is just the first indication of Matthew's issues, and soon he locks Henry in his basement. This starts the cycle of the Henrys being confined and chasing each other through dimensions.

Matthew's actions stem from his religious zealotry, a topic about which Stephen King has strong feelings. "My view is that organized religion is a very dangerous tool that's been misused by a lot of people," the "Cujo" author told Rolling Stone in 2014. Although he didn't write the series, King did serve as executive producer, and this general viewpoint about religions seems to be reflected in Season 1 of "Castle Rock." 

At least someone makes it out of Castle Rock

Castle Rock is the source of much suffering, though no one can figure out why. Tragedy continues to strike, including in the heartbreaking episode "The Queen," in which Ruth kills Alan while in the grips of Alzheimer's disease. Though that may seem like just a horrible accident, there is another theory: the Kid is the source of all this pain and suffering. That is the reason that Lacy kept him locked up under a prison for years. Characters continue to meet terrible ends and the death toll reaches mind-boggling numbers. Though Henry seems to be stuck in Castle Rock, there is hope for at least one other character.

Molly, the person who is perhaps the most deserving of a happy ending, is able to escape. Molly is sensitive. She self-medicates because of what her abilities make her see. When she meets the Kid, he tells her that his version of Molly was happier, but she died because of the happenings in Castle Rock. While most characters die, or merely endure Castle Rock, Molly gets away. After taking Henry's son Wendell (Chosen Jacobs) to warmer climates, she ends up staying there herself. She becomes a successful real estate agent and appears to be pleased with her situation. Though she and Henry are apart, it is worth it to see someone happy at the end of it all.

We've been here before, we'll be here again

Cycles are a common theme in "Castle Rock." That is certainly what Ruth seems to think, whether it's due to confusion from her Alzheimer's disease, or something more mystical. The different versions of Henry have always been destined to be out of sync or constantly punished. That is what makes the Kid so desperate to find the portal and finally go home.

But the closer he and Henry get to the portal, the more ill at ease Henry becomes. In one terrifying moment, Henry sees the Kid's face morph into a demonic visage. The Kid was a victim, caught in a riptide and unable to escape. So is he evil? That is up for the viewers to decide. Though he was once a decent person — or at the very least normal — perhaps his years of torment and imprisonment turned him into something else. Perhaps even going through the portal and landing somewhere he didn't belong made him wrong in some way.

This is not confirmed one way or the other. Henry is certain that the Kid is evil and locks him up where he started: in the basement of Shawshank. Though the Kid is trapped again, Henry is exactly where Warden Lacey was at the beginning of the series — right before his ultimate demise. With cycles being so important in the season, Henry may be continuing on the same tragic path as the Warden was.

Even more Stephen King easter eggs appear

"Castle Rock" uses Stephen King material to its benefit. Instead of being beholden to faithful adaptations, the creators have fun with their references. Shawshank State Penitentiary, Castle Rock, and Claiborne Creamery are all locations that King fans will recognize. But one of the most obvious references is to King's book "The Shining." Danny and Jack Torrance do not make an appearance, but one of their family members does.

Jane Levy portrays "Diane Torrance," Jack's niece, who is enthralled with not only her family's macabre history, but also that of the town of Castle Rock. As a nod to her uncle, who committed terrible acts at the Overlook Hotel, Diane changes her name to Jackie. In the mid-credit sequence of the finale, Jackie is writing a manuscript, and intends to go pay a visit to the Overlook herself. Diehard fans will notice the sticker on Jackie's laptop is Stephen King's own rock n' roll station. This little easter egg, among the many others, gets to the heart of what "Castle Rock" is about. Though it only takes inspiration from King, it is, at the end of the day, a love letter to the horror writer's expansive catalog.