In Castle Rock, the Hulu original series based on the world that author Stephen King horrifically mastered, a long-forgotten inmate in Shawshank State Penitentiary is discovered when the warden commits suicide and untouched areas of the prison are examined. When an estranged son of Castle Rock is called in as the inmate’s lawyer, a series of events are set off that will ignite a fire that has been left as embers, erupting in chaos and tragedy for the inhabitants of this quaint Maine town.
Andre Holland plays Henry Deaver, the lawyer with a drafty history reaching back to his childhood, mysterious and tortured. Deaver arrives in Castle Rock after a long absence, insisting on the rights of “The Kid” (Bill Skarsgard of It), and teaming with the empathetic, vision-seeing real estate agent Molly Strand (Melanie Lynskey). They work to unpack the relationships the Kid has with the former warden (Terry O’Quinn), and the weirdness surrounding Deaver’s mother (Sissy Spacek) and retired sheriff-turned-stepfather (Scott Glenn). But violence seems to follow The Kid and Deaver struggles with all of the pieces that don’t seem to fit well enough to make a difference.
Like most King-themed stories, this one has elements of the supernatural (and the weird) mixed in with red herrings that keep the show grinding through past hurts and strange present tensions. While the overarching story leads us toward what really happened to Henry’s birth father, and why The Kid came out of solitary muttering Henry’s name, we’re also shown a bit of the backstories for each of the other characters, shown what their motivations are and how it impacts the others.
But in the world where good and evil do battle – even if we can’t tell which one is which – there is ample religious material to be uncovered, thanks to people like the warden and Henry’s father, a pastor. Sure, The Kid can play hymns on the piano, but what does the story say about hearing from God and determining who is good and evil? When Scripture gets quoted but it’s used to hold people down (or even captive), then what kind of Scripture is, and what good can it do, anyway? What happens when we merely call something evil because we don’t understand it?
Castle Rock is intense, challenging, and strange, but it also asks us to consider what we know and what we think we know about people and religion (from a former Methodist who has left religion but still believes in God). We might not all come to the same conclusions, but we can understand that there’s a problem when we use something meant for good and turn it into evil, or when we choose to make the voice of God simply say the things we want to hear. Sometimes, the darkest evil we can fight is the evil within ourselves.
Special features include two featurettes, “Blood on the Page” and “A Clockwork of Horror: Merging the styles of Stephen King & J.J. Abrams,” which looks at the two creatives behind the idea, while also providing “Inside the Episode” moments for each of the ten episodes.