Cas­tle roCk Sea­son One

The Maine event

SFX - - Reviews -

UK TBC US Hulu, fin­ished Cre­ators Sam Shaw, Dustin Thoma­son Cast An­dré Hol­land, Me­lanie Lynskey, Bill Skars­gård, Sissy Spacek

As well as be­ing the King of Hor­ror, Stephen King is also the King of Easter eggs. Long be­fore the term be­came pop­u­lar, King was in­sert­ing lots of low-key crossovers into his books, ef­fec­tively cre­at­ing a shared uni­verse. And since a lot of his books are set in or around the fic­tional town of Cas­tle Rock, Maine, it was only a mat­ter of time be­fore a TV se­ries was based there.

Any wor­ries that the show might be one long egg hunt, how­ever, are quickly dis­pelled. While Cas­tle Rock has an added level of spot-the-ref­er­ence fun for Kin­gophiles (look, a woman named Torrance who knows an aw­ful lot about axes! Look, yet an­other ac­tor fa­mous from a King adap­ta­tion!) the se­ries suc­cess­fully stands on its own two feet. It can be stodgy and melo­dra­matic, with an arc plot that’s sim­pler than its self-con­sciously com­plex meth­ods make you be­lieve it is, but it can also be sur­pris­ingly in­no­va­tive and thought-pro­vok­ing.

It also mu­tates rapidly, with episodes that shift its premise in a way rarely seen since Fringe. The se­ries be­gins with suc­cess-averse death row at­tor­ney Henry Deaver (An­dré Hol­land) re­turn­ing to his home town of Cas­tle Rock when a young man (Bill Skars­gård, re­cently seen as Pen­ny­wise in IT) is found in a cell hid­den be­neath Shaw­shank prison. He was se­cretly in­car­cer­ated there by former Shaw­shank war­den Dale Lacy (Terry O’Quinn), who re­cently killed him­self. The hol­low-eyed young man will say noth­ing ex­cept Deaver’s name.

De aver also finds his de­men­tia af­flicted mother Ruth( Sissy Spacek, Car­rie in the 1976 King adap­ta­tion) is be­ing “looked af­ter” by former sher­iff Alan Pang­born (a char­ac­ter from Need­ful Things, played with gnarly cyn­i­cism by Scott Glenn) and is con­vinced he’s a gold-dig­ger. But Pang­born knows more about the death of Deaver’s fa­ther than he’s let­ting on...

It starts as a in­trigu­ing mys­tery: un­set­tling and creepy rather than body-hor­ror gross. Packed with colour­ful char­ac­ters, it also un­furls in a wor­ry­ing leisurely fash­ion, al­most Lost-es­que, with flash­backs that con­fuse rather than re­veal, char­ac­ters who rarely ask the ques­tions you want them to, and pre­ten­tious voiceovers about the hid­den hor­rors of Cas­tle Rock. Then in an au­da­cious episode shown from the point of view of Ruth – a woman with de­men­tia, re­mem­ber – the show re­veals its true cen­tral themes. Packed with un­mo­ti­vated leaps in time, this is not easy to watch but is oddly hyp­notic, creep­ingly hor­ri­fy­ing, and sets the show on a new path.

An­noy­ingly, the fi­nale feels like pure Lost, with lit­tle sense of con­clu­sion, char­ac­ters mak­ing odd de­ci­sions and more ques­tions for sea­son two. But, cru­cially, you’re left want­ing to know what’s go­ing to hap­pen next. Dave Golder

Henry’s “dis­ap­pear­ance” hap­pened 27 years be­fore the present-day scenes; Pen­ny­wise reap­pears ev­ery 27 years in IT...

This is not easy to watch, but is oddly hyp­notic

“Please stop talk­ing about pigs’ blood.”

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