Warning: This article contains SPOILERS for Castle Rock
Though Bill Skarsgård plays a vital role in the Hulu Original Castle Rock, his character is a mystery. Having spent thirty years locked away in a cage beneath the infamous Shawshank State Prison, the gaunt and mostly-mute prisoner isn't just a potential legal and media nightmare, but an omen for wicked things to come in Stephen King's fictional doomed hamlet (whether inadvertently or not).
Set within Stephen King's interconnected universe, Castle Rock (a town featured in several King novels and short stories, including The Dead Zone, Cujo, and Needful Things) is a new Hulu Original series that borrows popular landmarks and characters from King's stories and weaves them into a mysteriously layered narrative revolving around murder, misery, and the supernatural. When death row attorney Henry Deaver (played by Andre Holland) is summoned back to his hometown, his past comes back to haunt him as he crosses paths with his adoptive mother Ruth (played by Sissy Spacek, a King veteran who starred in the author's first adaptation of his first novel Carrie in 1976), Castle's Rock's former sheriff Alan Pangborn (played by Scott Glenn), and a mysterious inmate of Shawshank State Prison (played by Skarsgård) who personally requests Deaver to represent him. Given that the latter character won't reveal his name - let alone the fact that he hardly even speaks - his identity is one giant guessing game.
When character details were revealed for Castle Rock, Skarsgård's was the only character whose name was withheld. In fact, he's only credited as "The Kid," as the show's creators explained that revealing his name would spoil the fun. So, with little more to go on than the character's apparent ability to kill people with cancer and transmit false realities into people's heads, as well as a handful of easter eggs scattered throughout the episodes, figuring out his identity is just one of many mysteries threaded throughout this show. And whether he turns out to be a classic Stephen King villain, someone new entirely, or the Devil himself, playing detective and piecing together the puzzle is part of the fun.
And with that said, let the King-sized speculation begin.
- This Page: He Who Walks Behind the Rows and The Crimson King
- Page 2: Randall Flagg and Leland Gaunt
Last Updated: August 6
He Who Walks Behind the Rows
Stephen King is no stranger to creating larger-than-life villains. Between shape-shifting creatures like Pennywise the Dancing Clown from It and the Leatherheads in Under the Dome, some of King's villains are literal monsters packed with supernatural abilities that aid in their pursuit of death and destruction. And though Bill Skarsgård's character doesn't appear to be physically threatening, he could be directly affiliated with one of these creatures, if not one of them himself.
One character that Skarsgård may be playing is from King's short story Children of the Corn - a demonic force known only as He Who Walks Behind the Rows. And though Children of the Corn is set halfway across the country in the fictional town of Gatlin, Nebraska, that's not to say that the demon can't hold some weight in Maine as well.
Firstly, while its identity is never completely explained, He Who Walks Behind the Rows corrupts and controls all the children in Gatlin, convincing them to murder/sacrifice every adult in their small, remote town. This concept can easily tie into Castle Rock, where Henry Deaver has been accused by the town for trying to kill his father when he was a boy. In fact, some of the kids in Castle Rock are depicted in a similar light to the cult of children from Children of the Corn (with their own ragtag hierarchy). And this then ties into yet another connection: religion.
He Who Walks Behind the Rows is worshipped like a god, with the children even appointing a high priest among them. In Castle Rock, religion is heavily saturated throughout. From Henry Deaver's late father being a priest to several characters being affiliated with a prayer partnership program to the physical church itself looming menacingly over the town, religion is already a major influencer in Castle Rock, making it that much easier to blur the lines between blind worship of good and blind worship of evil. And with plenty of mention of Skarsgård representing an evil force that holds some kind of wicked influence over the town, the parallels between his characteristics and that of He Who Walks Behind the Rows grow more and more evident (with the biggest physical difference being the exchange of cornfields for forests.
As for the easter eggs that tie to Children of the Corn, He Who Walks Behind the Rows gets a possible shout-out in Skarsgård's prison cell, with text on the wall that reads: "Reaper Rows" (which could either refer to reaping corn or the more thematically apt Grim Reaper).
The Crimson King
One of the ultimate behind-the-scenes baddies in Stephen King's Dark Tower series (and, by extension, most of King's entire literary universe) is the Crimson King. He's an immortal being who pulls the strings behind characters like Randall Flagg and Dandelo (who some readers believe is related to It's Pennywise), and he essentially functions as King's take on Satan, on account of his godlike abilities and red (or crimson) ensemble.
Now, considering that Skarsgård was presumedly placed into the cage in Shawshank when he was just a boy, and that his "powers" aren't exactly on the same plateau as someone like the Crimson King, it's still entirely possible that Castle Rock may be using the character as a source of inspiration (assuming he's using him at all). After all, even though the show is staying true to King's source material, it's not shying away from taking some subtle creative liberties to better suit the story. In fact, assuming Skarsgård isn't supposed to be portraying some reincarnated, Antichrist-esque version of the Crimson King (though the Crimson King does have shapeshifting abilities and has taken the form of a young man with blond hair, not unlike Skarsgård), he could be one of his direct pawns. The Crimson King is no stranger to manipulating other characters to carry out his evil deeds, and that may well be the case in Castle Rock.
Along with all the other religious overtones spread on thick over Castle Rock, Skarsgård’s character adds his own religious fervor into the mix once he starts getting chatty. After Reeves (played by Josh Cooke) tries to intimidate him, Skarsgård’s character responds by repeating bibles verses - specifically from Revelation 19:12, which refers to “a robe dressed in blood,” as well as having a name “which no one knows except himself.” This passage refers to the son of God, which also adds to the theory that Skarsgård’s character might be some kind of direct descendant, as opposed to a God (or in this case, the Crimson King), himself.