CASTLE ROCK is a new mystery series on Hulu. Set in the titular town, a small place in Maine that is literally not on the map (after unincorporating), there are is much dark and unexplained that happens here. The latest (first for the series) begins with the suicide of Warden Dale Lacy of Shawshank Prison, an event few believed likely to happen, and it only gets more twisted when it’s discovered that Lancy has kept a malnourished man prisoner in the burnt out section of the facility.
You probably recognize the name Shawshank. After all, there was a very popular film called The Shawshank Redemption set there, and that’s no coincidence. CASTLE ROCK is a Stephen King program that is not based on a specific King novel or short story. Instead, the oft-mentioned locale becomes the setting of this new television series that is very much in the spirit of King’s other works. And while there are numerous references to his writing, no prior knowledge is needed to follow this tale, as much as it can be followed at this time. (That being said, there are Easter eggs galore for hardcore fans.)
A lot about CASTLE ROCK is unknown at the start and likely to be for a while. It’s chilling tonally, similar to the best of King’s adaptations. The colors and lighting are dreary, and every character is hiding at least one big secret. It’s highly serialized, of course, and much better than recent King series like Under the Dome. Instead, I would liken it more to an elongated version of the best of King TV movies or similar genre works like American Horror Story. Though, the show does feel distinctly King-like.
At first, the cast seems sprawling, odd for a show with so few series leads. However, it soon becomes clear that there are a small number of important people that will drive the storu forward, while most play a supporting role, helping the plot along as needed. It seems likely that some of the recurring players will be in most or all of the season.
There are a lot of familiar faces. Terry O’Quinn (Lost) plays Warden Lacy, with Frances Conroy (American Horror Story) along as his wife. Bill Skarsgård (It) is “The Kid,” a.k.a. the man found in the cell that Lacy kept hidden. Noel Fisher (Shameless) is the prison guard who finds The Kid, while Ann Cusack (Mr. Mercedes) is the new warden who has to deal with the discovery and potential fallout. Sissy Spacek (Carrie) is Ruth Deaver, mother to the show’s real lead, Henry (Andre Holland, The Knick). Scott Glenn (The Defenders) is the former sheriff who found Henry when he was lost as a child and is currently shacking up with his mother. Melanie Lynskey (Togetherness) is the creepy girl next door, while Allison Tolman (Fargo) plays her sister. And Jane Levy (Suburbia) is… well, I’m just not sure who she is, but her name is Jackie Torrance, indicating she may be a descendent of Jack Torrance, famously played by Jack Nicholson in The Shining. This isn’t a complete cast list, which should tell you a lot of talented people were all too happy to sign on.
I’m inclined to agree with them all that CASTLE ROCK is worth your time. It’s complex, well-made, visually interesting, and an overall quality production. It’s creepy to the point where I couldn’t watch it right before going to sleep, a distinction I haven’t given a show in awhile. It’s also filled with promise of payoff, as the creators, Sam Shaw (Manhattan) and Dustin Thomason (The Evidence), clearly know their King and having a blast playing in his world.
The first three episodes of CASTLE ROCK are available now on Hulu, with new installments every Wednesday.