Castle Rock is an assemblage of different Stephen King characters, locations and themes stirred together into its own unique and original story. Set in King’s fictional Maine town, this 10 part series is a New England chowder of a show – rich, creamy and filled with elements you don’t quite fully understand.
André Holland is Henry Deaver, a lawyer pulled back to his home town of Castle Rock when an unknown man (Bill Skarsgård) is found caged in the bowels of Shawshank Prison. Deaver’s mother (Sissy Spacek) is suffering from dementia and now living with Scott Glenn (the retired sheriff) following the mysterious death of her Reverend husband years before. Strange things have been happening in Castle Rock and they’re about to get even stranger.
Castle Rock works best as a character study – a long-form piece of filmmaking which unfolds like one of King’s novels. For the most part it delivers quirky drama and intriguing elements, but the show begins to unravel (like many of King’s tales) around the two-third mark, where it becomes lost in its own curiosity. The acting however is top tier and André Holland anchors the show with a quiet gravitas as the lawyer with a dark past who has spent his life trying to escape from the magnetic pull of Castle Rock. Holland broke-out with Barry Jenkins’ Moonlight in 2016 and has also impressed with Steven Soderbergh’s sports drama, High Flying Bird. Sissy Spacek and Scott Glenn add some serious validity to the supporting roles in this J.J Abrams produced series and Melanie Lynskey also does solid work as the neighbour/realtor who has a touch of ‘The Shining‘.
There’s a multitude of King connections littered throughout Castle Rock, from characters through to casting, and the whole thing riffs of the vast library of the authors work. Fans can watch and tick-off everything from the obvious (Jane Levy’s Jackie Torrance) to the subtle (a blink and you’ll miss it picture at Bob Gunton’s Warden from The Shawshank Redemption). This might be missed by the the average viewer but it’s not going to diminish the overall experience.
Very good without ever being great, Castle Rock’s individual elements work well, but the show loses its way as it nears its climax. A second season is on the way, one that will focus on an all-new central story and a different selection of Stephen King characters. It’ll be interesting to see how that plays-out and how it fits together with this first season.