Hulu’s newest series, Castle Rock, is not based on a single Stephen King novel; it’s actually an homage to all his works – that means it’s jam-packed with references and easter eggs for loyal fans. I recognized none (since I haven’t read any of his books), but I still enjoyed the heck out of this three-hour premiere. Yes, you heard that right: Hulu released three episodes on opening night. Talk about a treat!
A World of Creepy
This psychological thriller weaves together a number of creepy subplots that revolve around criminal attorney, Henry Deaver, who returns to the small town where he was raised to defend a mysterious inmate. I won’t reveal anything further (read the bits section below for spoilers), but the show has a sprawling cast and diverse array of characters. Lost legend Terry O’Quinn is the most recognizable face, and he immediately elevates the show to another level right from the beginning. Another standout is Melanie Lynskey who plays Molly Strand, a young woman with telepath/empath abilities, a drug addiction, and a lifelong crush on our hero Henry. Speaking of our protagonist, André Holland is too good in the role. As the attorney basically uncovers the secrets of his hometown, we’re on that journey alongside him, making him the perfect protagonist.
Slow but Beautiful
If I had any qualms, it would be that Castle Rock is a bit too slow moving and lacking in adrenaline. On the bright side, that pace means means the show is supremely atmospheric with a real sense of place; you feel completely transported into the show’s eerie little town. The cinematography in particular is incredible; the openings shots in the vast ice landscape are jaw-droppingly beautifully, while Shawshank prison is brought to life in an impeccably terrifying manner.
Bits & Bars
Episode 1 – Severance
– Did the ruffling sounds in the trees remind anybody else of Lost‘s smoke monster?
– Yes that’s Frances Conroy and she plays Terry O’Quinn’s blind wife. I actually love this piece of casting! Remember how much ass Conroy kicked on American Horror Story?
– Dale’s suicide with the rope and the car off the cliff is absolutely horrifying.
– Did anybody else jump out of their seat when Zalewski’s flashlight stopped on The Kid’s eyes in the basement?
– How adorable is Leanne? Her final meal consists of Lobster, a burger, and Cheerios (she mentions that she used to live next to an old cereal factory). I felt really bad for her when lethal injection failed the first time. Ouch.
– The little kid holding up the chicken to the approaching alligator creeped the hell out of me.
– Sissy Spaceck plays Henry’s alzheimer’s-ridden mother and she’s heartbreaking. I hope nothing happens to her!
– A strange guy screams out “Hey killer” to Henry, which conveys how the entire town thinks Henry killed his adoptive dad when he disappeared. Henry only remembers that Alan, the ex-cop played by Scott Glenn (and his mother’s current boyfriend) saved him.
– I have so many questions: what is the significance of the figure that little Henry is holding? Did The Kid compel the mouse to walk into the trap? Why did Molly turn the hourglass while looking through the Henry evidence? What did Zalewski find in his coffee before he imagined “The Kid” murdering everyone and escaping? Answers PLEASE!
– Henry’s father worked at the prison too. Hmm.
– The prison’s new warden, Porter, compares the cigarette butts in Lane’s office with the ones found next to the cage – confirming that Dale was holding our inmate prisoner.
– Notice that Zalewski is reading a book of baby names as his wife is pregnant. It’s a clever little detail.
– Dale killed himself right in the same spot where Alan found Henry as a kid. Coincidence?-
– Why did it suddenly start to snow when Henry was at Dale’s burial site? And how is a younger version of himself standing behind him?
– The premiere’s cliffhanger confirms that Dale was holding The Kid prisoner in the cage. But why did Dale tell the prisoner to ask for Henry?
Episode 2 – Habeas Corpus
– Honestly I expected more creativity from the show’s opening credits.
– Dale’s younger brother (who was a mascot for the football team) jumped off a roof during a game and killed himself. Why?
– The VO by Dale is a great touch. It is revealed to be a letter to Alan basically proclaiming him as Castle Rock’s “Defender”. Hmm.
– Henry finds a bunch of cards with the same bible verse in the Dale’s drawer. I didn’t fully understand what they meant but I did catch the word Jailer which probably refers to Dale claiming God asked him to jail The Kid.
– Martha has a big lock in her house to the basement; that can’t be good.
– I always adored Jane Levy in Suburgatory so it’s a real treat to see her in a series-regular role again. Also, she wants to see Henry’s feet.
– Alan meets the new Warden at the bar and confirms that Dale caught the devil
– All the talk about The Kid being evil, but Porter and her lackeys are the most sinister of all. They try to eliminate “The Kid” by putting him in a room with a Nazi prisoner who later develops cancer and dies. Talk about self defense!
– Cutest thing of all time: little Molly writing down Henry’s name a hundred times on her notebook. Molly forgings her sister’s signature however… not cool!
– The visual of the dead dog really irked me out. Did we have to see it several times?
– Henry joins the churchgoers to gain access to the prison. #Clever
– The same dog that Dale spotted before killing himself digs through the sand and finds his head.
Episode 3 – Local Color
– Most shocking moment in all three episodes: Molly killing Henry’s adoptive dad. What did she know? Surely she was protecting her crush in doing so. I do hope there’s no pedophilia involved in this storyline.
– I was seriously freaked out during Molly’s vision in the church with Henry’s dad and the bandaged masses. Nightmares I tell you!
– Did anyone else find it strangely romantic when Molly told Henry that she “feels like fireworks” when he masturbates? Also, so awkward.
– The devil’s diet: no fruits, no chips. Just bread.
– Zalewski wants to be a lawyer now. Good luck Henry!
– The strangest thing ever: Molly stumbling on to the kids carrying out their own court with their creepy masks. I smell spinoff!
– Cringeworthy: Molly’s Local Color TV appearance. Although I did love her swearing on live TV and throwing Shawshank prison under the bus (all while wearing her badass shades).
– The warden wants to settle. What a surprise.
– The Kid/Devil asks Henry two strange questions. The first (“Has it begun?”) is pretty ominous, while the second (“Do you hear it now?”) is the same question his dad asked him in the woods. Uh oh. Also, his body language is seriously scary. Bill Skarsgard is top-notch!
– Not too impressed with the cliffhanger (Molly seeing Henry’s dad at home), but I was admittedly on edge as she walked around the house for what seemed like forever.
Leanne: What I keep wondering, all the smells we smell and the songs and pictures – do you lose them all? I mean, wherever you go next, does the tape get erased? And if it does, you’re not really you anymore are ya?
Ruth: Never seen a cake disappear and reappear that fast.
Dale: Give a man the keys to the dungeon tell him to lock up the monster.
Or pin a star on his chest. Call him “Sheriff.” Maybe he succeeds a while a year, a decade or two if he’s lucky but evil outlasts us all.
Jackie: What is that?
Molly: It is a gazebo. Every revitalized downtown needs a gazebo.
Jackie: What’s it for?
Molly: I don’t know. Peaceful contemplation.
Jackie: The only thing people contemplate in this town is suicide.
Jackie: Cool murder basement.
Molly: I have a medical condition.
Molly: I feel things.
Henry: People do that.
Molly: No. I feel things that other people are feeling. And some people are louder than others. Okay, you know when you get a song stuck in your head, and you can’t think about anything else – what you were doing five minutes ago, what you wanted for dinner… all you can think about is the fucking Bee Gees, or whatever. When we were kids, you were that song for me. And I’m not saying you’re a bad song. You’re obviously a very handsome song, and charming and smart and you dress better than the rest of the songs in this town, – but –
Henry: Yesterday you barely – remembered my name.
Molly: That was a lie. I was lying. Things happen when we’re together. When we’re… and it can be overwhelming.
Henry: Throwing the old warden under the bus.
Porter: Where you throw dead perverts.
Castle Rock is off to a slow but ambitious start thanks to compelling characters and a multitude of engrossing mysteries. I’m on board!