Castle Rock, Hulu’s new Stephen King-inspired anthology, arrived Wednesday and wasted no time before going full supernatural with a tinge of terror. In one particularly shocking opening sequence in Episode 1, grimly titled “Severance,” viewers are treated to the unceremonious decapitation of one of the show’s central characters by way of a self-constructed guillotine.

Spoilers for Episode 1 of Castle Rock are below.

One of the first characters to be introduced in the series’ Castle Rock universe is Dale Lacy (Terry O’Quinn), who we later come to learn holds the position of warden at the Shawshank State Prison. But within minutes of his introduction — over an innocuous exchange about new shorts and knobby knees with his wife, who is blind — we find him parked at a lake’s butte in his Lincoln, engine idling as classical music hums through the car’s speakers. In the next panning shot, a rope slinks out of the car’s back window and is shown tied to a tree.

As he switches off the radio, he hesitates only momentarily before slipping a noose at the rope’s other end around his neck. In a jarring, albeit particularly King-esque scene, Lacy then hits the gas and peels forward off the lip of the butte, effectively guillotining himself in the process. As his car lowers into the water, viewers see a prominently displayed Shawshank Department of Corrections bumper sticker.

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Dale Lacy's inexplicable death sets off a series of sinister events in Castle Rock.

Why Did Dale Lacy Commit Suicide on Castle Rock?

No doubt one of the series’ most central questions is why, just days from a secure and pensioned retirement after serving decades as Shawshank’s warden, Lacy would commit suicide. It’s a question that equally perplexes characters in Lacy’s orbit, with corrections officer Dennis Zalewski (Noel Fisher) later commenting:

He had a severance package from Northeast Correctional that was six figures. That’s on top of his pension […] So, why’d he off himself?

Another curious detail about Lacy’s death comes courtesy Reeves (Josh Cooke), a seedy government figure involved with the suicide PR cleanup, who jokes (in extremely poor taste):

“You know, they never found the head. I heard they got a deal on the funeral — 10 percent off.”

One could safely guess, however, that Lacy’s suicide has something — if not everything — to do with nameless young man (Bill Skarsgård) who prison officials later find in the long-abandoned cell block F.

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Bill Skarsgård as the kid found in a cage on Castle Rock.

The “Kid in the Cage” on Castle Rock, Explained

Zalewski’s discovery of a wide-eyed, malnourished, and unlogged prisoner (“the kid”) complicates Lacy’s suicide further. With seemingly very little ability to communicate, prison officials are left baffled by how he wound up in an abandoned cell block, inside a tank of some kind, itself containing the cage in which the kid was found.

As Lacy’s replacement comes to find, a bucket of Marlboro cigarette butts appears to match those in an ashtray in his office. This is confirmed in the episode’s final scene, during which Lacy is shown speaking to the young man in cell block F prior to his suicide. Lacy instructs him to ask for lawyer Henry Deaver (André Holland), the show’s most central character, when is discovered:

“When they find you, ask for Henry Deaver. Henry Matthew Deaver.”

While the show’s first episode leaves far more questions than it answers, one thing seems clear: Lacy has set something sinister in motion in the town of Castle Rock.


Castle Rock streams Wednesdays on Hulu. The first three episodes are available now.