Saturday, August 11, 2018

Pilot Review: Castle Rock

Castle Rock (Hulu)
Premiered July 25

I wasn’t too thrilled about watching this pilot because it was billed as horror, something that I make sure to avoid since I’m just not cut out for the genre. Fortunately, the opening hour had only one jump scene in which a face suddenly appeared out of nowhere, and while it was certainly creepy, to me it felt more like a thriller. There was a very clear attempt to link this show in its early scenes to the classic, beloved film “The Shawshank Redemption,” also adapted from a Stephen King story, by referencing a previous warden and his unfortunate fate. This show definitely feels different from that one, with something clearly not right at play, starting with the mysterious young man found down the cellar who was apparently told by the late warden to ask for the lawyer with his own controversial ties to the town. I recognized a lot of faces in this episode, including Noel Fisher from “Shameless” as the prison guard who felt compelled to advocate for a client, Andre Holland from “Moonlight” as Henry Deaver, Oscar winner Sissy Spacek as his mother, Scott Glenn from “The Silence of the Lambs” and much more as his would-be stepfather, Jeffrey Pierce from another enhanced prison thriller, “Alcatraz,” as his younger self, Melanie Lynskey from “Two and a Half Men” in a role that much more resembles her recent turn in “I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore,” Ann Cusack as the new warden, Josh Cooke from “Better With You” and “Longmire” as her right-hand man, and, of course Emmy winner Terry O’Quinn of “Lost” fame as the late warden, with Frances Conroy from “Six Feet Under” as his wife. There’s a lot of talent here, and while this opening hour managed to be dark and decently enthralling, it didn’t captivate me in the way I needed it to in order to keep watching.

How will it work as a series? There was evidently more to the warden’s violent suicide than just his fear of retirement, and seeing him tell the young prisoner to ask specifically for Henry Deaver demonstrates that there’s something much deeper and more elaborate at play here. Nothing all too supernatural aside from the young Henry’s survival has been referenced just that, but I’d expect a turn towards the spooky, with some potential ghost reappearances of characters we presume to be dead, down the road.
How long will it last? Three episodes premiered all together on July 25th and an additional two have already been released since then. Reviews seem to be pretty good and Stephen King has a lot of fans out there, so I’d expect that this show will keep going for a while, even if it there aren’t any stories left on which to base new episodes and seasons.

Pilot grade: B

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