Author’s note: this article contains SPOILERS for this episode, “Harvest.”
After what is a devastating end to Dennis and a number of the guards at Shawshank, “Harvest” picks up with Henry Deaver (André Holland) getting checked for neurological issues with the ringing in his ears. It’s a condition he had since his youth, he says, and the shotgun blast and flashbang combination that cut down Dennis appears to have brought it back.
For Castle Rock, the chaos is almost bubbling over. Forest fires rage on the edge of town, the aftermath of the prison shooting is on everyone’s mind, and the Kid is now officially free from the prison, the possibilities of his evil or innocence now in the open. “Harvest” centers mostly on Alan (Scott Glenn) and the Kid (Bill Skarsgård) and on their lost time. Both suffer from time having stolen life from them, certainly in different ways, and it comes to a head in their shared final scene.
Holland’s Henry suffers from the severe ringing in his ears throughout the episode, as the chilling score, more present in this episode, plays underneath. The ringing we perceive—along with what Molly (Melanie Lynskey) and the Kid hear—is like a cacophony of emotion, eating at these characters and threatening to undo them. It’s as though the snapping point in Shawshank has unleashed something, an unease creeping up in the town whose financial hardships are known, but is now becoming something else entirely. Ruth (Sissy Spacek) even notes it with a suspiciously referential dog barking in her direction during Alan’s ceremony, choosing to jump from the bridge. She speaks to Henry after about feeling as though time has slipped by, and someone is rearranging it on her. It is a heartbreaking sentiment, and Alan’s pure devotion at her bedside was a touching moment. Molly, after hearing the pain in the Kid by way of her gift, tries to convince Henry something is wrong, but his way of hearing and agreeing over downright believing places doubt in their friendship/relationship.
But it’s in the Kid’s visit to a home near Molly’s workplace where the most haunting moment of the season happens. Drawn by music, he sees a cheerful, happy family celebrating a child’s birthday in the window of a home. He breaks in and sits down, watching through the hallway as candles are blown out and cake is cut. But at the appearance of the knife, his eyes transfix on it, and soon the family erupts, the father turning violent and, as the Kid sits on their roof, the sounds of the father butchering his family play out in our ears. It’s something that could easily play out in a King novel and is the part that filled me with dread the most out of the series to this point.
The episode gave Glenn’s Alan a lot more time, which I ended up liking the most. He is a character who appeared in multiple King novels, and here he has misgivings and a self-loathing of his past guilt. He does not see himself the hero, having allowed a child (the Kid) to be kidnapped years before, given up the love of his life, and now, when she’s within his grasp, her mind is being taken from him. His remembrance of giving Ruth a viking chess set is a pained one, Glenn’s expression as he looks down on it full of solemn defeat. It appears again as he confronts the Kid in the woods at the end of the episode. It’s a more angry version now, as we find out the Kid hasn’t aged a day in the past 27 years, but it shows that Alan is someone full of conviction even as he considers age a detriment.
“Harvest” is an episode about pain, the kind you can’t see. It afflicts the Castle Rock characters in its various ways, but it’s there and it has its hold on them. The internal pain is personified by the fires ravaging the forests nearby, almost as if it is the physical pain the characters do not show. “Harvest” may not have set the world on fire in terms of absolute excellence in television, but it was a fascinatingly gripping episode and has played on my mind even hours after watching. It was the most overt King style episode, and it did so not by constantly referencing*—which, while nice, isn’t the best course of action–—but rather with the atmosphere and the characters, as though something is there, just under the surface, and is finally ready for its primetime.
* While the second episode had a decent number of King references in its opening monologue, this episode is chock full of them. We get the magician reference for Alan, The Shining, Cujo, a small audio cue for “The Body” (or Stand by Me, for movie fans), and a reference to IT.