Castle Rock: Season 1 – Review

Castle Rock premieres July 25th on Hulu.

By Ariba Bhuvad

In true Stephen King fashion, Castle Rock possesses the creepy and enigmatic vibe that many of his adaptations are known for. However, I am not invested in the series even after four episodes. Something is missing, something just not quite there. A top-notch cast can’t save a flat plot. This Hulu Original lacks the signature King ingenuity we all admire.

The horror series is set in Castle Rock, Maine — a town burdened with sins and tragedy. Most of the drama surrounds the mystery of Henry Deaver’s (Andre Holland) disappearance as a child, and the tragic death of his foster father. Years later, as a lawyer, he returns to his hometown for a case, and things get weird quickly.

Admittedly, it is thrilling to see different stories and characters from King’s novels crossover in Castle Rock. There are so many Easter eggs and shout-outs! The most apparent one is the setting; Cujo, The Dead Zone, and The Dark Half have all taken place in Castle Rock. In a wink to the fans, Sissy Spacek (aka Carrie White) and Bill Skarsgard (aka Pennywise) have starring roles. Skarsgard’s character is locked up in Shawshank Prison (sound familiar?). Scott Glenn portrays Alan Pangborn, whom you might remember as the sheriff from Needful Things. Keep your eyes peeled for a reference to Cujo, the rabid killer dog.

Unfortunately, a show can’t survive on pure fan service. A strong premiere leads the way to a significant lull in the second chapter. Granted, the back half of the 10-episode season can turn things around, but with Spacek and Skarsgard as leads, I expected a lot more. I can see the series trying to push through to a place where it is “must-see TV,” but it just isn’t up to par in the first stretch.

Additionally, the mystery of the town and its odd inhabitants, namely Molly Strand (Melanie Lynskey), is a bit lost on me. The writers are teasing a strange connection she shares with Henry, and it seems unclear and uninteresting. However, I will cling to hope that things are going to get scarier, freakier, and more Stephen King-sier. There is potential with the slow burn Castle Rock is attempting. Here’s to hoping.

I give Castle Rock a C+.