(Note: This post contains spoilers from the Aug. 15 episode of “Castle Rock.”)
Hulu’s “Castle Rock” might have just given an explanation to why the fictional Maine town is the focus of so much supernatural spookiness in the universe of Stephen King novels.
The show, which is partially its own King-esque story and partially an adaptation of some of his spooky ideas and recurring themes, started down the path of explaining what the heck is going on — at least partially — in its Aug. 15 episode, “Filter.” The episode finds Henry (André Holland) heading into the woods after uncovering some old videos of trips he and his dad used to take out there, wondering if there might be answers from his past to find.
It seems there are, although “Castle Rock” is a little fuzzy on the details. Henry meets two men waiting in the dark woods: Odin Branch (C.J. Jones) and his sign language interpreter, Willie (Rory Culkin). Odin tells Henry that he’d met Henry’s father, and explains what they were doing out there in the woods: the Reverend Deaver (Adam Rothenberg) thought he heard the voice of God in those woods, and he became obsessed with it.
Odin explains that, as a scientist, he’s been studying the phenomenon Reverend Deaver was experiencing — what the ancients called the “Music of the Spheres,” the sound of the universe. Not everyone can hear it, he says, and for some, it’s just a ringing in the ears (explaining that weird tinnitus Henry experiences). Reverend Deaver and Odin worked to try to hear it more clearly. What the Reverend described as the voice of God, Odin has a more scientific name for: the “Schisma.”
There’s another bit of dialogue that gives a clue as to what this Schisma actually is. Odin says it’s “quantum interrelated totalities operating in parallel — other heres, other nows,” he says. “All possible pasts, all possible presents. The Schisma is the sound of the universe trying to reconcile that.”
Basically, according to Odin, various parallel universes are overlapping in Castle Rock, and some people can detect that overlap.
The detail isn’t explored much during the episode, since Henry soon finds himself stuck in the “Filter,” a room his father conceived and Odin built, to better hear the Schisma. But if Odin is right about the nature of the Schisma and the other universes, it would mean that “Castle Rock” just took a big step toward potentially explaining the nature of the town, and why so many Stephen King stories have been set there.
The fictional town of Castle Rock, Maine, has seen its share of weird, scary and often deadly things happen in it courtesy of King. It’s the setting for “Cujo,” the story of a rabid dog who goes on a murder spree; “Needful Things,” the tale of a spooky shopkeeper who sells people objects that give them their hearts’ desires, then turn evil on them; and “The Dark Half,” in which a writer’s dark and shadowy alter-ego, a pseudonym he writes under, actually comes to life. There are other stories set in Castle Rock, too — it’s a place that’s not just rife with tragedy, but seemingly, supernatural goings-on.
With the Schisma it seems “Castle Rock” is giving an explanation of how these spooky events could all take place in the same location without everyone immediately moving away, the government quarantining the area, and the entire world changing as it comes to realize that ghosts, monsters and haunted houses are all real. If Castle Rock is at the intersection of universes, than the many stories taking place in the town could be happening in those various universes.
The existence of the Schisma could also be what’s creating the supernatural spookiness in the first place, as people, events and elements from one universe bleed into another, where they don’t belong.
“Castle Rock” isn’t the first Castle Rock story to suggest there might be portals to other worlds within the town or nearby. In the 1984 short story “Mrs. Todd’s Shortcut,” King tells a story of a woman who discovers that she can drive from Castle Rock to Bangor, Maine, with her car odometer measuring less distance than how far apart the two towns actually are. It seems that the shortcut is actually a portal into another world, full of frightening things like living trees and strange animals — and that passing through it reverses aging.
Hulu has renewed “Castle Rock” for a second season and confirmed that it’s an anthology series, with each season telling a new, self-contained story. Introducing the Schisma makes a lot of sense in that context, because it frees up the show to keep telling scary stories in the town without them necessarily all having to take place in the same physical location, or with the same set of people experiencing them. Not only has “Castle Rock” come up with an explanation for all the King novels set in the town, it has also freed itself up to fully explore the frightening place for as long as people keep watching.