Castle Rock: The First 4 Episodes (TV Review)

Castle Rock: The First 4 Episodes (TV Review)
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PLOT: As a child, Henry (Andre Holland) was involved in an accident that left his father dead and him the sole suspect, but he has no memory of it and eventually fled when townspeople turned against him. Now a death-row attorney with few connections — his clients, see, usually die — Henry only returned home because a mysterious inmate at Shawshank State Penitentiary (Bill Skarsgård), who was discovered in a cage deep beneath the facility, asked for him. Only him. Yet, Henry has never heard of the inmate — and the inmate, nicknamed “The Kid,” has been in solitary confinement so long that he may be insane.

REVIEW: Let me start this off by asking you a question. Let say that last month, you were offered the chance to check out the first four episodes of Hulu and J.J. Abrams' upcoming Stephen King series CASTLE ROCK starring Melanie Lynskey, Scott Glenn, André Holland, Jane Levy, Terry O'Quinn, Bill Skarsgård, and Sissy Spacek. Would you take the opportunity? Of course, you would. But after binge-watching those four episodes like they were on fire, then the horror would sink in for you that you must now wait a whopping 2-3 months before you can experience the rest of the series with the rest of the world. Was the tease even worth it?! That's where I'm at today. I've just finished binging the first four episodes of Hulu's CASTLE ROCK and now I'm here to tell you about the mysterious series. How do I even begin? I guess this has to start somewhere. So turn off the lights and we'll get to it.

As mentioned above - and as all of you reading this review know all too well by this point - the Hulu original series from creators, co-writers, and showrunners Sam Shaw and Dustin Thomason has been shrouded in secrecy. And not just any secrecy, but Bad Robot level secrecy. So again, what can I say about the series without men in Shawshank State Prison garb kicking down my door and hauling me off to a deep and dark cage located in the bowels of the notorious prison? Let's not worry about that too much and just get into it, shall we? 

Let's begin with a quick rundown on the plot(s) of the first four episodes. Sheriff Alan Pangborn, who we all know from such classic King tales as THE DEAD ZONE and THE DARK HALF, is searching the woods back in the 80's for a young boy who went missing. Let's just say he finds the boy under super-spooky and (go figure) mysterious circumstances, our modern-day adventure is off to the races. In present-day Castle Rock, the local Shawshank Prison's warden (played by... let's just move on) is retiring. But I guess he has more than his fair share of dark secrets buried around the town as he kills the absolute shit out of himself in gloriously gory fashion right off the bat. And this is all in the first ten minutes of the show. From there we learn that there is a mysterious inmate locked up in a cage deep under the infamous prison. And he only wants to speak to his lawyer. Enter Andre Holland, the grown-up version of the missing kid from the show's opening moments. Things are about to get crazy. Welcome to CASTLE ROCK

The first thing that struck me about the series as I slapped in on my screen last month was obviously the f*cking amazing cast this series has gathered. From Melanie Lynskey's real estate agent, to Scott Glenn's retired sheriff Alan Pangborn, to Jane Levy's mysterious comic relief character, to the shrouded in secrecy roles played by the likes of Terry O'Quinn, Bill Skarsgård, and Sissy Spacek, CASTLE ROCK boasts one of the most knock-out casts I've ever seen assembled for a TV series... except maybe Showtimes semi-recent revival of David Lynch's TWIN PEAKS

And that's fitting because CASTLE ROCK has a lot in common with Lynch's TV masterpiece. Make no mistake, this Stephen King series is MUCH easier to follow than that infamously strange series, but the heart of a small (seemingly idyllic) town up in the mountains holding sinister supernatural secrets is an apt comparison. And this brings up one of the stronger points that needs to be made about this new series: it's much slower than you might expect. Not that this is a bad thing. But the first four episodes are pretty light on action and horror, instead deciding the time is better spent setting up the characters (slightly) outlined above, and letting them bounce off each other as a storm of epic proportions is building on the horizon.

This is all good as it lends the first four episodes of this new series a sinister air of creeping dread that I'm happy to see on the screen again. Not every horror series out there needs to be AMERICAN HORROR STORY - meaning not every horror TV series out there needs to be blood, boobs, and balls to the wall horror from the word go. This is a show that is obviously taking its time to lay all the brickwork needed for an all-new truly epic road into Stephen King's idyllic version of Hell. But that's not to say there isn't ANY horror to be found in these opening episodes. The show boasts its fair share of disturbing violent horror, and when it hits, it hits harder than an Orinco trunk blaring down the highway. 

Personally, I cannot wait to see where this series, and its characters, go from here. The first four episodes were more than enough to get me hooked on the series and I'm willing to bet you'll be snagged into its web just as quickly. Now please, let's blast through these first four episodes as quickly as possible, Hulu, so I can finally lay my eyes upon the (sure to be) horror-filled final six episodes. I don't know about you, but CASTLE ROCK is a place I'd like to visit time and time again. Hell, I'm already ready for season 2!

Extra Tidbit: The show premieres its first three episodes on Hulu July 25th.
Source: AITH



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