2017 was a huge year for Stephen King fans as the big-screen version of IT arrived in theatres to critical and commercial success. But it was the lesser known The Dark Tower that King’s constant readers were more interested in, and not just for the visual feast of Roland and the Man in Black finally going at it on screen. What The Dark Tower offered was cinematic proof that all of King’s stories are connected, sharing a singular universe. To that end, the excitement of a TV show that does the same is potentially even more exhilarating. Welcome to Castle Rock.
For the uninitiated, Castle Rock is a fictional town in Maine that has featured in stories (and in most cases films) such as The Body (Stand by Me), The Dead Zone, Needful Things, The Mist and perhaps most notably The Dark Half. It’s also a stone’s throw from Shawshank Prison. Starting to see where this is going? But far from being a greatest hits compilation of King’s work, Castle Rock shows restraint, tickling the fancy of those in the know, while spinning a multi-level mystery that will appeal to everyone.
Our introduction to Castle Rock is a gruesome one as Shawshank governor Dale Lacy (Lost’s Terry O’Quinn) commits suicide in horrific fashion. As a new governor is introduced and a lone man (King alumni, Bill Skarsgård) is unearthed in an oil tank in an unused part of the prison, a mystery starts to reveal itself slowly. The plot thickens as Henry Deaver (a Death Row attorney who went missing in Castle Rock as a child) is called back to his hometown to represent the mysterious man while strange things start to happen.
Weaving in and out of the core stories are some familiar names and even more familiar faces. Characters such as ex-sheriff Alan Pangborn (played here by Scott Glenn and previously by the likes of Ed Harris and Michael Rooker) and Jackie Torrance (the niece of The Shining’s Jack Torrance) remind you of the world that you’re watching. Meanwhile, series regulars Sissy Spacek (Carrie) and Skarsgård (IT) tip their hat to King’s cinematic legacy.
This is far from the first TV series to emerge from the mind of arguably the greatest living American author. A plethora of movies and series have come before this, but where others have failed (and most of them have), Castle Rock succeeds in droves. Not tethered to a specific creature or supernatural phenomenon, this series is free to do what King does best; explore interesting and fully rounded characters, wrapped up in an absorbing mystery. The surroundings may be familiar but the story is entirely new and that is what’s most intriguing about this.
King’s involvement in this may be limited to Executive Producer, but his presence saturates the landscape of Castle Rock. As a result, this has all the makings of one of the best and most absorbing genre TV series of recent years (a fact that its been renewed already is testament). Four episodes in and we're hooked, and we're sure everyone else will be too.
CASTLE ROCK / DIRECTOR & SCREENPLAY: VARIOUS / STARRING: BILL SKARSGARD, SISSY SPACEK, MELANIE LYNSKEY, ANDRE HOLLAND