Like a lot of other television programs before it, Castle Rock begins with a death. Dale Lacy (played by Lost alum Terry O’Quinn) is going through the motions on his final day of work before retirement, and wishes his wife goodbye.He does not head into work at the Shawshank Prison, as expected. Instead, he finds himself at a lake, where he drives his car off a cliff and decapitates himself with a rope.
In addition to the suicide, the town is plagued by the shocking discovery of a boy (played by It’s Bill Skarsgard) kept in a cage in the sewage system. The boy refuses to speak, and quickly turns into a challenge for Shawshanks new Warden (Ann Cusack). He only utters a name, Henry Deaver.
Deaver (André Holland) is a death row attorney living in Texas, who returns to his home town after a call from Shawshank guard Zalewski (Noel Fisher). As a young boy, Henry went missing during a cold Maine winter. He was saved by sheriff Alan Pangborn (Scott Glenn), and was adopted by the Deaver family. His adopted father, a pastor, died young. When Henry returns home he finds his adoptive mother Ruth (Sissy Spacek) suffering from dementia.
Back in Castle Rock, Henry is confronted with a town that shunned him, his family’s complicated history, a former flame (Melanie Lysnkey), and, of course, the mystery boy.
Set in the fictional Maine town created by Stephen King and referenced in classic novels such as The Dead Zone or Needful Things, Castle Rock offers King fans plenty of Easter Eggs. It also leaves those that are unfamiliar with his work clueless.
The pilot presents a series of interesting characters, but sadly moves incredibly slowly. Not much ground is covered, plot-wise. A man commits suicide, a mute teenager is found, a lawyer returns home. Sadly, it does not provide a lot of insight into those characters that we desperately want to learn more about (namely Skarsgard’s mute kid). Let’s just assume that’s the intention – keep the mystery alive to keep you watching.
Still, if you’re looking for a thrill and a series to keep you on your toes, Castle Rock is for you. It delivers on a psychological level, and builds suspense to the point where you might be covering your eyes in anticipation of the horror you’re about to witness. It plays with shocks and scares, and deals with cruelty and gore at its core.
While Castle Rock makes you want to learn more about the characters it introduces, it simultaneously makes you wonder: “Will this be an enjoyable ride for someone who has not been immersed in Stephen King books?” The pilot heavily plays on its audience’s knowledge of the subject matter. It is beautifully shot and invites us to learn more about an intriguing and terrible town that we may not be able to understand. But boy, do we want to.
— Mel (@swedechildomine) July 20, 2018
After an exclusive screening of the pilot, Castle Rock’s creative team and cast took to the stage during San Diego Comic-Con. With regards to the story the series is trying to tell, creator Dustin Thomason said they were definitely going for an original one. “We’re writing this song in the key of Stephen King”, he said during the panel.
Thomason still acknowledged how heavily it was built on the universe King created, and confirmed that “there are a lot of Easter Eggs and cross references at every level in this first season.”
Actress Melanie Lynskey promises that the spotting and understanding the references “didn’t feel necessary to my understanding of the story.”
Castle Rock premieres Wednesday, July 25th on Hulu.