One of my favourite types of TV shows are the ones that don’t tell you everything straight away, ones that don’t over-explain and endeavour to enable the audience to work out what’s going on. This doesn’t mean I overlook bad writing, or acting, but Castle Rock had my curiosity from the beginning, when you’re putting together J.J ‘mystery box’ Abrams and the iconic work of Stephen King, you feel like both these elements can spark a fire of creativity. Thankfully, the show – overall – does keep these hopes alive and although it does occasionally dip into the obvious, as a complete package this show feels like a new whole world trying to find its grounding and there’s a lot to admire.
Castle Rock is boasted by a top-class cast, when you’re putting the likes of André Holland, Bill Skarsgard, Scott Glenn, Sissy Spacey, Melanie Lynskey, Terry O’Quinn and Jane Levy together, there’s undoubtedly a special balance and it heightens everything. So, for newcomers, what is Castle Rock? It’s a 10-part psychological-horror series set in and around the multiverse that King has created through his books, this means it takes the essence of those creepy towns and amazing characters and puts it all into one place: Castle Rock, Maine in the United States. This isn’t just a copy and paste job though, co-creators Sam Shaw and Dustin Thomason have developed an original story that expands on the mythological tales of King, trying to keep the essence of the details that we know and love, but also offer new and exciting possibilities.
Season One follows Henry Deaver (André Holland), an attorney who heads back to his home town of Castle Rock, after he receives a phone call from the infamous Shawshank State Penitentiary because he’s literally been asked for by a man (played by Bill Skarsgård), who was discovered locked in a cage, deep underground, in a secret old area of the prison. In a story that links in Terry O’Quinn as mysterious Shawshank Warden Dale Lacey, a series of events has taken place for the boy to end up there, but you’ll have to watch to find out why. Over time, you’ll learn ‘why’ he was locked up so extremely but, by then, things have already started to change in the town and an underlying narrative has been set into motion.
Henry is also returning to a past he’s long left behind, including his adoptive mother Ruth, exceptionally played by Sissy Spacek. She lives with retired Sheriff Alan, portrayed by the legendary Scott Glenn (who people may recognise from Daredevil) and they’re both dealing with Ruth’s early onset of dementia. With Henry returning to many things he thought he’d left, there’s a plethora of personal and professional battles at play. It’s a balanced mix of reasons and, for once, it makes sense as to why everyone has gathered in this one spot, at this specific time. Also starring are the excellent Melanie Lynskey as Henry’s childhood friend Molly Strand, who has a big part of proceedings and it always captivating, plus Jane Levy as Jackie Torrance, who I hadn’t seen since Suburgatory, but here she’s dark, loves a good murder and enables an interesting connection to her wider family name.
Castle Rock relies on its mystery to evolve the story and whilst some episodes seem straight-forward, they’re also progressive. The show also has wonderful moments that really gives us the impression the ‘world’ is open to expansion beyond what we know now. As well as André Holland‘s Henry as the fulcrum for all that occurs, each character involved has a moment and a part to play, there’s no weak performances here and it’s far away from being a typical kitchen-sink-type drama. As well as a building story-line that stretches its vines out across the ageing town, Sissy Spacek is remarkable from start to finish with one episode ‘The Queen‘ being particularly outstanding. It’s worth the series alone for her, and that episode does not disappoint.
With Season 2 of Castle Rock also confirmed, and set to star the likes of Lizzy Caplan as Annie Wilkes, plus Barkhad Abdi and Tim Robbins and airs this October, I cannot wait to see what comes next and would highly recommend getting Season One into your mind before the new stories begin.