Not many people outside of my inner circle know this about me, but I am an enormous reader. I read anything from biographies (I am especially looking forward to Steven Adams’ biography) to fantasy and horror. I have a particular affinity for Stephen King literature. I have read over 25 King novels, and I love every single one of them. Even the ones that are not so beloved, I enjoy. He has a great way of telling stories and forces you to develop a relationship with characters that most other authors struggle to do. I also Stan for any show or movie based on King’s work (except for The Dark Tower, which brought me nearly to tears from how it crushed my vision of the book series and it’s eventual cinematic series). IT was an incredible feat of cinema, 11/22/63 I enjoyed thoroughly, despite missing several important parts from the book that I liked (though I get it when you can only work with a miniseries), and now there’s Castle Rock on Hulu. The show takes elements of several of King’s novels and concepts and sets them in the fictional town of Castle Rock (an oft-mentioned town in many of his novels). Last week, Hulu released the first three episodes, and I’m here to review them for you, with twice the bravado and none of the pompous large-vocabulary of many TV and film critics (because I’m not one).
*Limited Spoilers Ahead*
The concept of the show is a bit convoluted. A man (played by Bill Skarsgard) is discovered in a cage in the bowels of Shawshank Prison (yes THAT Shawshank) after the current warden of the prison commits suicide. When asked who he is, he replies with the name Henry Deaver.
While that does not appear to be his actual name (thanks to his lack of dialogue, it remains shrouded in mystery), the real Henry Deaver (played by Andre Holland) is a death row attorney in Texas, originally from Castle Rock. Side note, I have a hunch that “The Kid” will be some reference to Stephen King’s ultimate villain, best known as Randall Flagg. It’s believed that he killed his adopted father, who was the police chief in the town, but it was never proven. After his body was discovered, Deaver appeared 11 days later with no memory of what happened. Deaver, after receiving an anonymous phone call from Shawshank, reappears in town to defend the mysterious prisoner.
Henry runs into several people from his past, most notably is Molly Strand (Melanie Lynskey). Strand buys pills (I believe anti-anxiety medication or pain medication) from a local teenager to dull the “voices in her head”, which her sister calls an “undiagnosed mental disorder”. Strand hears events and thoughts that other people experience when she comes close to them, but they are especially strong with Deaver, who was her neighbor when they were children, around and during the time in which Deaver is believed to have killed his adopted father.
However, while the characters themselves have dark and mysterious lives, the main character of the show is the town of Castle Rock. The town seems to have a dark aura to it, and bad things seem an inevitability rather than happenstance. The setting is as important here as the characters, because it seems as if the town being this way is the cause of the darkness. However, the now-deceased warden believes that the mysterious prisoner is the cause of everything, and holding him captive will prevent the darkness from totally encapsulating the town. Throughout the first three episodes, you can sense the dark overtones known to be prevalent in King novels, with tons of references to his previous work (Shawshank prison, a newspaper article referencing Cujo, and more). While sometimes these constant references can be a bit eye-roll worthy, it rarely gets overwhelming, and you’re able to focus on the story unfolding as opposed to just looking for references to Mr. King’s popular work.
The first couple of episodes are slow, setting up the story and the setting of the town, but the third episode starts to pick up the pieces and really pushes the story forward. The more you learn about the past in this show, the more you understand the present. Overall, this show is not a must-watch, but it’s a very solid story and absolutely worth the 45 minute episodes. It’s dark and creepy and thoroughly enjoyable, especially if you enjoy creepy shows. I mean, look at this. This is so goddamn creepy (especially when you see the context of it within the show).
Episode 4 of Castle Rock drops Wednesday, August 1st at midnight. From now on, I will do individual episode reviews, as the release of the first 3 episodes forced me to do a full series recap/bid to ask you to watch it.