Review by J.T. Johnson
During the first episode of “Castle Rock”, a show set in the fictional world of Stephen King and found on Hulu, we find ourselves revisiting Shawshank State Penitentiary after their current warden has killed himself. A guard at the prison even makes mention of another famous warden that killed himself while in office. This connection immediately hooked me, both as a fan of “The Shawshank Redemption” and as a fan of Stephen King.
The show is an original creation set in the small town used in a lot of Stephen King novels. The impression from the first three episodes is that it is a show that follows a set of original characters, but it is also set in the world of King’s novels and short stories, with several references made to his stories such as “Cujo” and “The Body. It also seems to be set in the film world as one episode even has Warden Norton’s picture on the wall.
The show opens with Warden Dale Lacy’s (Terry O’Quinn) suicide and the discovery of a creepy and mysterious “Kid” (Bill Skarsgård) that had apparently been held in a cage in the basement of Shawshank. The Kid asks for Henry Deaver (André Holland), a lawyer that used to live in Castle Rock and also has a mysterious past after he is suspected of his adoptive father’s death. We are introduced to several mysteries and characters with supernatural abilities reminiscent of elements found in King’s stories.
While it is too early into the mystery to tell, it feels like the show is going to try and explain why Castle Rock has been the center of so many creepy things in the past. Lacy explains that he always wondered whether or not the devil was real. Before he died, he left a note to his friend Alan Pangborn (Scott Glenn) stating that he had captured the devil and locked him away, referring to the Kid.
After watching the first three episodes that premiered together, the mystery the show is following still feels far from finished. Some people may be annoyed by the pacing of the show as a result because it is definitely a slow burn, but I’m one of those people that loves a show that takes the long road to get to its conclusion. I was left wanting episode four rather than being annoyed that I hadn’t really gotten any answers yet.
I think what helps the show is that the cast of characters is pretty solid as well. Holland is a good lead who is just trying to help his client while having to deal with locals that remember him all too well from his past history. There is also Melanie Lynskey as Molly Strand, a character that lived across the street from Henry when they were kids and she can also sort of read minds and strongly feels what others are feeling.
The true standout, though, is Skarsgård as the Kid. Here is an actor who already has a connection to King thanks to playing the also creepy Pennywise the Clown in the recent adaptation of “It”. Here, Skarsgård plays a character that also seems to have supernatural powers, but we have yet to see the full extent of his abilities. Something tells me that he’ll be the main big bad of the show and I wonder if they’ll try to connect his character to Pennywise at some point in the future given that they like making connections to other works.
“Castle Rock” proves to be an intriguing mystery that doesn’t seem to care that it’s taking its time. If you like a show that seems to want to play the long game, then this one is for you. The show is an added bonus if you also happen to be a fan of King’s world as well.