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Stephen King Fans Will Want to Watch 'Castle Rock'
July 25, 2018  | By David Hinckley

Some shows offer what are trendily called Easter eggs. Castle Rock serves up a whole Stephen King omelet.

Castle Rock, which debuts Wednesday on the streaming service Hulu after a run-up campaign that included an ad during February’s Super Bowl, mashes together characters, storylines, unsettling moments, and good old-fashioned terror from dozens of King stories.

The result is surprisingly coherent though it unfolds slowly. It should please King fans who will find allusions as plentiful as pine cones in the Maine woods.

Castle Rock loosely revolves around Henry Deaver (Andre Holland, top), who left town some years earlier and became a prominent attorney in Texas, representing prisoners on Death Row. Now he’s back, and while his new client is not about to fry, there’s enough death to make him feel at home.   

As tends to happen in King stories, or not happen, much of the tension and horror-fueled by ominous music – derives from what we can’t see.

Clearly, something menacing lurks in the dark shadows and dense woodlands around Castle Rock. We just don’t know what it is or when it might surface.

Henry’s return also reunites him with his mother Ruth (Sissy Spacek, above), who suffers from creeping dementia and is sort of living with Alan Pangborn (Scott Glenn, below), the town’s retired former sheriff.

Ruth is free to engage Alan’s company because her husband, Henry’s father, died some years earlier, naturally in a mysterious mini-drama.

Henry had gone missing in the middle of winter, which is never good news in Maine, given the snow and the temperature and all.

In connection with that disappearance, Henry’s father suffered an accident that proved fatal.

After 11 days, the search for Henry was called off, except Alan Pangborn refused to give up and one cold afternoon he saw Henry suddenly materialize on the ice in the middle of a lake.

Henry remembered nothing of the previous 11 days, like how he lived through them.

He does, however, have that Pangborn connection – and so will viewers who remember Pangborn from past King productions.

Viewers may also remember Castle Rock’s only apparent industry, the local Shawshank prison.

Run as a private enterprise without much of a reputation for humanity, Shawshank has lost several wardens in the last few years. As this new tale begins, the latest warden Dale Lacy (Terry O’Quinn) has been overcome by intangible demons, apparently stemming from something that happened at the prison.

So we have a new warden, who soon discovers an unexpected hand-me-down from Dale: a young prisoner locked in a sub-basement chamber that has otherwise been abandoned for decades.

This prisoner (Bill Skarsgård, left), nicknamed Nick or "The Kid," has an eerie look and only says two words: Henry Deaver.

That’s the specific impetus for Henry’s return, a move that doesn’t thrill the town because most of it still thinks he was responsible for his father’s death.

So let’s say he was happy when he got out of town. Let’s also say that if he could run, he can’t hide, and he’s now face-to-face again with all those Castle Rock demons. Mild spoiler: He’s every bit as clueless as the viewers about what might really be going on.

Henry gets his only sympathy from Molly Strand (Melanie Lynskey), a local real estate agent with psychic powers. She remembers Henry from the olden days and may know secrets that could be helpful. At first, at least, she’s not telling.

Castle Rock uses flashbacks to explain things that happened years earlier. The flashbacks rarely explain why those things happened, which adds to the well-spun suspense of the show.

Putting King themes, places, and characters into the blender turns out to be a surprisingly viable idea. At the same time, not every viewer will want to invest here, for a couple of reasons.

First, the characters may not be intriguing enough so viewers will feel compelled to know what happens next.

Second, and perhaps because it’s a series whose first season runs ten episodes, it often feels stretched out. It may take at least medium-core fans to want that much Stephen King.

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