In my own, humble opinion, I think Stephen King’s works have proved much better when made into films then when made into TV series. Look at IT, Stand By Me, Carrie and The Shawshank Redemption to name but a few.
This latter one, and a lot of other King works, have served as the inspiration for this latest series, Castle Rock. Brough to the screen by Sam Shaw (“Manhattan (TV)”, “Masters Of Sex (TV)”) and Dustin Thomason (“Manhattan (TV)”, “Lie To Me (TV)”), both of whom write and produce, alongside King and J. J. Abrams.
What the duo have done, along with a further nine writers and eight directors, is draw inspiration from various King works, and throw them all together in his much-used, fictional town, Castle Rock, centred very much around Shawshank.
The prison is a big recruiter in the area and, as such, has some weight behind it. So, when current warden Terry O’Quinn (“Lost (TV)”, “Rocketeer”), is about to lose his seat, he loses his head.
O’Quinn is replaced by Ann Cusack (“Grosse Point Blank”, “Stigmata”) and immediately she’s faced with a crisis as Dennis the prison guard, Noel Fisher (“Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles”, “Shamless (TV)”), finds ‘The Kid’, Bill Skarsgard (“IT“, “Deadpool 2“), trapped in a tiny cage in the depths of the prison.
Nobody knows anything about The Kid, where he’s from, who he is, zip. He won’t speak, other than asking for Henry Deaver.
Deaver, Andre Holland (“Moonlight”, “American Horror Story”), is a death row lawyer working out of Texas whose last client was put to death. Deaver has history in this old town after he and his father went missing for 11 days in sub-zero temperatures. His father made it back but didn’t last long, Deaver made it back without so much as a scratch, but claimed not to remember anything.
For a new warden to a prison, Cusack can’t decide what to do with The Kid, even talk of sticking him in a cell with a violent prisoner and seeing what happens. Dennis however, anonymously calls Deaver and tells him he needs to take this kid as a client.
Deaver does so whilst also digging around in his own past to find out what happened to him all those years ago. He does this whilst saying with his mother, the wonderful Sissy Spacek (“Carrie”, “The Old Man And The Gun”), who has since moved the former sheriff Alan, Scott Glenn (“The Bourne Legacy”, “Sucker Punch”), into the house, a man who seems to know more about The Kid then he’s letting on.
Oh, and there’s also a girl who used to live across the road from Deaver when he was a kid, Melanie Lynskey (“Up In The Air”, “Togetherness”), who pops pills for fun and appears to be able to hear what he hears, feel what he feels, even see, in snippets, what he sees.
We were given the first four episodes of Castle Rock to watch before it is released in the UK on December 14th on Amazon Prime Channel, Starzplay.
Castle Rock is very reminiscent of Lost, another J. J. Abrams produced series, in that there’s plenty of flashbacks, lots of characters with mysterious ways and a hint of the supernatural throughout.
Whilst not the most exciting or thrilling watch, it can grip you, whether it’s enough to get you through a whole two series (yes there’s a second on its way already), I’m not completely convinced.
All of the cast are great, Spacek, Glenn, Fisher and Holland in particular play their roles with aplomb. The directing is also nice, showing how Castle Rock has fallen on hard times as a town, the boarded-up shops, the planned regeneration.
The story however is slow, and it feels like more strands could, or will, be added by the writers/producers which will only aid to muddy the already murky waters even more.
Castle Rock isn’t vintage Stephen King, it is one of the better TV series based on his work, but compared to the films, it stills falls short.