Tripwire’s contributing writer Tim Cundle takes a look at season one of Hulu’s Castle Rock on from 14 December on Starzplay in the UK…
Castle Rock (Hulu/ Starz)
Creators: Sam Shaw, Dustin Thomason
Stars: André Holland, Melanie Lynskey, Bill Skarsgård, Jane Levy, Sissy Spacek, Paul Bellefeuille
Stephen King, more so than any other writer living or dead, understands small town life. He knows that it subsists on a diet of half-whispered, salacious gossip, dark, hidden secrets, fantastic urban myth and strange folklore. Small towns thrive on the stygian undercurrents that flow underneath and through their inhabitants, homes and streets giving each and every single of them its own identity. No two are exactly alike, having been shaped by a combination of the aforementioned that’s unique to that town and its populace. There are some, thanks in no small part to their history and the events that become part of it spilling beyond their borders, that achieve a modicum of mainstream fame, none are as infamous as Castle Rock, the fictional Maine town created by King. And, its name, now part of the mainstream consciousness, has lent itself to a series that borrows heavily from, and is inspired by, the novels of the world’s best-selling author of horror fiction.
Castle Rock is the story of Henry Deaver, a semi-successful capital crime lawyer who is drawn home following the suicide of Shawshank Penitentiary’s governor and the discovery of the tenebrous secret he kept locked in the deepest reaches of an abandoned wing of the facility he was in charge of. The governor wasn’t the only resident of Castle Rock with a secret though, and as Henry attempts to deal with the hand that he’s been dealt, it soon becomes clear that all of the furtive desires, troubles and truths that those closest to him harbour, are all connected and that everything is tied, and bound, to the mystery that dwelt, unknown, under Shawshank. And the deeper Henry digs, the more light he sheds on the riddle that brought him home, the more desperate things become for him and the residents of Castle Rock as he slowly begins to realise that sometimes that truth really is stranger than fiction and that some secrets are best left buried.
Unlike so many of the films and series based on his work, Castle Rock manages to capture the essence of everything that makes King’s work unique. The characterisation, slow, creeping dread and fear of the unknown and strange permeate its wonderfully constructed, multi-layered plot. Interweaving the complexity of human nature and that puzzling relationships that maintain it while teetering on the edge of sanity, multiverse theory and a hideously involving and thoroughly absorbing personal drama, Castle Rock explores a multitude of ideas in its intriguing ten episode arc. And while the devilishly involving plot and the miasma of King references and Easter Eggs will keep you glued to the show from the beginning of the first chapter until the credits roll on the closing moments of its last episode, it’s the cast and their startling performances and character interaction that ensure that Castle Rock towers above its peers. From Scott Glenn’s world weary, King mainstay Alan Pangborn to Sissy Spacek’s show-stealing turn as Ruth Deaver and Bill Skarsgard’s chilling and slightly unnerving portrayal of the Kid to Andre Holland’s reluctant hero of the hour, Henry Deaver, Castle Rock’s cast are exemplary and provide an incredibly personal, and eminently relatable human touch to this disturbing and darkly fascinating series. Welcome to Castle Rock…. Tim Cundle