CASTLE ROCK Season 1 Finale: Dustin Thomason on That Mysterious Smile, Timelines, and Season 2 - Give Me My Remote : Give Me My Remote

CASTLE ROCK Season 1 Finale: Dustin Thomason on That Mysterious Smile, Timelines, and Season 2

September 14, 2018 by  

CASTLE ROCK Season 1 Finale — “Romans” – Episode 110 – Some birds can be caged. Bill Skarsgard and Henry Deaver (Andre Holland), shown. (Photo by: Dana Starbard/Hulu)

[This post contains spoilers for the first season of CASTLE ROCK.]

CASTLE ROCK’s first season ended with a number of questions…and a whole lot of possibilities for where the series could go next.

Details of the already-ordered second season are being kept under lock and key, but a potential tease was dropped in a mid-credits sequence: Jackie Torrance (Jane Levy), niece of “The Shining’s” driven-mad Jack, mentioned she was westward bound to the Overlook Hotel, the location of  the 1977 novel.

But certainly if the writers don’t go down that road, there were enough lingering threads they could return to in the next installment of the anthology series. The penultimate episode of the season opened up the possibility of multiple universes (and timelines)…and the final shot of The Kid (Bill Skarsgård) smirking was just vague enough to go practically anywhere.

So how did the pieces of the puzzle fall into place? And what comes next? CASTLE ROCK co-showrunner Dustin Thomason shared a few teases about what went down and what’s to come…

How much of the reaction to the finale were you seeking out in the aftermath of the episode being released?
I think that the reaction to the show has been fascinating all along. You make something you hope you like and care about, and then put it out there and see what people think about it. I’ve been, at times, surprised by many of the directions of the reactions. I’ve learned to hear it but not hear it too [loud]. I had no doubt there would be different points of view on episode 9, on episode 10, of course. It’s been interesting. I’ve certainly been thrilled with some of the positive responses, but I’m already into thinking about season 2, so I also have one foot out.

What discussions did you have in the writers’ room about having the Jackie scene be mid-credits versus it popping up in the “one year later” epilogue?
We felt like the final act, prior to the Jackie scene, we’d come so far in terms of focus on Bill and André [Holland, who plays Henry], what their relationship was, and what their long arc of history was together, that we wanted to focus on that question and on André’s journey. [Focus] on where they had started, as the guy who is trying to get everyone out of prison to ultimately becoming the jailer himself. Depending on how you view the events of episode 9, it’s either a heroic, tragic decision or purely tragic. The focus we always wanted to be there.

Of course, we love Jackie as a character and Jane Levy and what she brought to it, and so in a story that was at some level about narrative and about which version of the story you believe, the idea of ending on Jackie in a little piece where she is encapsulating and hopefully expanding on her own story in a Kingian fashion felt like the right ending, the right little tag. It was really a matter of focus on story.

I know details about the second season are top secret, but, hypothetically speaking, how might that end scene play into the next installment?
Hypothetically speaking, the beauty of CASTLE ROCK as a conceit and the great fortune we’ve had to have Steve [King] give us permission to use his kingdom, pun intended, is there is really an opportunity to expand beyond the walls of [the town of] Castle Rock…beyond the exit signs and the church and the downtown, which obviously was an enormously important player in our first season. And will continue to be, of course. But I do think that Stephen King is a big tent, and Castle Rock is just one of the [locations] he has parked some of his great characters. There is a feeling that there are other worlds than these, even when it came to the small town of Castle Rock.

“The Shining” is a particularly tricky King property, because the book is very different than the film (and many of the film’s most memorable moments aren’t in the original story), and he allegedly isn’t fond of the adaptation. What is the balance the writers’ room faces when incorporating a story like this or other novels of his that have been tweaked in adaptation?
Look, I think this is true beyond the question of “The Shining.” There are the books, which stand on their own, and the adaptations—some of which are amazing and some of which are not amazing. Part of our challenge in the writers room from the beginning was to think about how to think about the canon of King, and how to think about the canon of CASTLE ROCK. Some of that, inevitably, becomes, do you have fidelity to all of the specific books? Do the movies and TV shows exist in the world of CASTLE ROCK? Those are inevitably questions we reckoned with from the beginning.

Part of it, for us, is what it truly comes down to is the things we loved. The only way we could write about and engage in these characters and these Easter eggs honestly was to engage with them as fans, first and foremost. And that means we’re certainly fans of some of the movies as well. It was—and it will be—a constant balancing act of thinking about the parts of the books we love, the parts of the movies we love, and finding a common ground. Certainly we don’t speak for all King fans, but these are the [elements] we love and rules for how we interpret.

CASTLE ROCK Season 1 Finale — “Romans” – Episode 110 – Some birds can be caged. Bill Skarsgard, shown. (Photo by: Dana Starbard/Hulu)

There was a lot of debate on what that final smile from The Kid actually meant, as he’s locked back up in his cage, trapped by Henry. What was the direction/script note in that scene?
I think a lot of what Bill chose to do throughout the season that we loved so much was to walk the line of a guy whose motives were never really fully in grasp of. While I’m not going to quote the stage directions to you right now, we always loved what Bill brought in that way. [Laughs] This slippery notion of not understanding [what’s going on], being fully able to grasp [this could be] a guy who has been driven insane by the events of his life.

There’s the moment in the tank in the beginning when Lacy pulls out the gun and he leans into the cage, almost like he wants to be shot. That, too, is an unknowable moment. Not to be coy about it, but I think, Bill, in a way, is constantly making it hard for the audience to know is he good or is he bad? Is he a victim or perpetrator of some kind? That spirit, that uncomfortable not knowing which of the two things he is, is something he was really committed to throughout the season.

Even if the story of episode 9 were true, the notion of what that person has become throughout the process of what has happened to them was very much in Bill’s mind as well. That was something we loved and we felt was a fitting end to that character in that moment.

What does the town of Castle Rock think happened to The Kid?
One of the things we really liked about the way that Stephen King handled the supernatural events of some of his stories was something we were really interested in. There was a moment at the end of “The Dark Half” where Pangborn essentially makes the choice to cover up the idea there was an evil doppelgänger/ghost writer come to life in favor of a more naturalistic explanation of what happened.

I think we were committed from the beginning to the idea that this town—and I think we showed this throughout the season—the people [who live in it] have different interpretations of what has happened in the past. There is not one unified idea about a lot of events, “Needful Things,” the events of “The Dead Zone,” and the things that came before it. If you polled the town, there would be a wide range of responses—many of which would not be supernatural explanations. And so I think that is true of the events of season 1.

Obviously, at some level, Bill being held in this secret prison tank clearly [means he] didn’t go through the rigors of a natural trial. The question on many people’s minds must be where is he? At the same time, I think this is the place that is used to tragedy and having to move on. I think some of the idea of seeing it a year later—and seeing Castle Rock repaired—is that a place like that, they move on quickly. I think that’s a very true thing about places that are used to tragedy. For us, as we thought about the final moments and moving past whatever insanity happened out there in the police station and what happened in the woods, it felt like the right way a town like this would have approached that.

Assuming we take episode 9 at face value, it seemed like The Kid was in modern times—certainly with the iPhone ringing. We know the Henrys don’t age when they’re in the wrong universe, but are the different locations working on entirely separate timelines? For instance, is it simultaneously 1975, 2018, and 2245 in the different worlds?
I’m sure you won’t be surprised to hear me say that I’m going to hold back on answering that question. At the heart of it—and believe me, I understand as a viewer wanting to have clarity on that—is we’re also just getting started. This season is one window into some of those things you’re talking about. Part of the pleasure of the series will be gathering an idea of how these larger cosmological forces work and approaching them in our version of the Stephen King stories, [and] the same is true of the characters.

Are we going to bump into other King characters? Of course the answer is yes. I think part of the pleasure is going to be finding out who and how and where we’re finding them. And even beyond what you were saying in terms of timelines, we always thought from the beginning, certainly we are not restricted to a CASTLE ROCK season that takes place in modern day. Even leaving aside the idea of multiple timelines, the idea for us of doing a CASTLE ROCK season set in, say, 1945, right around the time they were building the atomic bomb could be a really exciting show. One of the things we love most about King is the unpredictability about where the stories go next. Within reason, I think there’s something exciting about the DNA of this show that gives you that flexibility. Hopefully each time people see where we’re going with the season, or at least where we seem to be going from the beginning, that will be a pleasure for people.

What lessons did you learn from making the first season of the show?
Besides, obviously, cast Sissy Spacek [who played Ruth]? Always cast Sissy Spacek, when in doubt, if she’ll have you.

One thing we came to it with, and we really learned over the course of writing it, was the marriage of every day horrors that exist in the world we live in [combined] with the thrills of genre storytelling. Whether that is the question of the prison industry mashed up with a guy who loses his mind and ultimately takes out a bunch of his coworkers and the grinding dramatic elements on that character that lead to that strange choice or all the way to the ravages of dementia and the very real questions people face with that illness…[it’s] thinking how to reinvent experiences for someone like that through the lens of genre. That’s something we feel is a really sticky part of the show and the part we loved most: finding those strange marriages of genre and natural, every day horrors.

Was there anything else notable about the first season for you?
One of the things that has been fun for us along the way has been watching everyone’s theories and connections and collections of Easter eggs and deeper resonances with King. I think that’s what makes us proudest in a way. We hope the King fans feel like we’ve honored the source material. [It was fun] seeing the ways people assembled theories of not only who you’re supposed to sympathize with or fear, but also the way this fits into the larger King universe.

CASTLE ROCK’s entire first season is streaming on Hulu.

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