As a kid Henry Deaver (André Holland as an adult and Caleel Harris as a kid) goes missing for 11 days, only to resurface shaken but alive in the company of local sheriff Alan Pangborn (Scott Glenn). In present day Henry is summoned to return to Castle Rock by a mysterious prisoner who is discovered in the bowels of Shawshank Prison. The Kid (Bill Skarsgard) seems to cause mayhem and murder in his presence to everyone but Henry, Pangborn and Henry’s dementia-addled Mother, Ruth (Sissy Spacek). Ruth and Pangborn have become an item in the years since Henry’s father’s death during the search for Henry, and it’s been widely speculated in town that Henry was the cause of his father’s downfall. Throughout the season the layers of mystery ebb and flow, ultimately to answer: Just who is the Kid and what is his relationship to Henry?
The Production: 4.5/5
For fans of both Stephen King and JJ Abrams, who executive produced, Castle Rock is like a greatest hits album with a few new twists thrown in. While King did not write the series, he consulted and the writers did a bang up job of reverse-engineering the King story flow and character beats. Every episode is chock full of hidden, and many not-so veiled, references to classic King characters, locales, theories and arcana. Wrap that all in a tightly wound Abrams signature Mystery Box, and what you end up with is 10 hours worth of tightly scripted TV that has just enough glimpses into a wider shared universe that will keep dragging you in.
I’m personally not on board for Hulu, so I jumped at the chance to review this set and found much to love, both as a fan of King and Abrams and from pure production value. The show runners did an amazing job of capturing both the look and FEEL of Castle Rock so often referenced in the King novels that you really can believe in it. And as a series the story really has a chance to take its time, give everyone plenty to do, allow for some major twists and turns, and bring you back to a spot where you can wonder just how the heck they will continue AND expand it for season 2.
One particular beauty of Castle Rock is that as a fan we know the people here without really knowing the story. There is no adapted source material but the characters have every bit of King influence you’d expect, and no references to King content is just thrown in for the sake of tingling that bone. I’ve seen some reference the show as fan-fiction and I don’t agree with that at all. Plenty of books take shared universes quite seriously and the show respects everything that the King universe considers sacred while adding something wholly new.
3D Rating: NA
Stellar. I’m uncertain what tech underlies the series capture but this disk set looked sharp, serious and detailed. Muted colors made up most of the new england fall and winter scenes, but when bursts of color are called for it brought them to life as well, in subtle but effective HDR. I saw very limited examples of edge ringing, mostly on dark silhouettes on snowy banks, and never saw a hint of noise. Few TV shows have ever looked better on my PJ.
I’m taking a half point off because there is no Atmos level detail from height speakers, but the DTS-HDMA 5.1 tracks are active throughout the full circle of the room. Spooky elements crawl all around, with particularly well done bird flocks and dread inducing synth hits. Dialogue is crisp and well rendered. The music tracks are somber for the most part, with a number that raise goosebumps when called for. There are limited calls for bass action, but when they happen they are punchy and jump inducing. Deus ex machina for real on a couple of those big thuds! Solid all around.
Special Features: 3.5/5
Each episode is accompanied by a 3 minute recap from the two show runners that really helps explain the facets they felt important to highlight, and particular King and Abrams references and tones they want to call out. Worth watching them all!
There are two 20 minute featurettes, first being Castle Rock, blood on the page. This segment interviews the showrunners and writers about the influences and what it means to work in the King/Abrams wider universe.
Clockwork of horror focuses on the pacing of the series, and how the characters evolve throughout.
Thumbs up for both, especially for us King fans.
I burned through this series quickly, devouring each episode and wanting simultaneously to unwrap the layers of mystery but also dreading revealing too much. I shouldn’t have worried, with Abrams touch just enough about the back story gets brought to light but more opportunities to see where the characters go from here, and what King influences and back stories will be intertwined next. Bring on Season 2!