Hulu premiered the first episode of their newest drama series “Castle Rock”, at the San Diego Comic Con, five days ahead of its release.
In a panel with co-creators Sam Shaw and Dustin Thomason, and stars Sissy Spacek, Bill Skarsgård, Melanie Lynskey, and Jane Levy, fans were able to watch the inaugural episode of the series and hear the team behind it discuss it. There are few leaks to the plot of this release, and it seems that the episode itself relies on keeping the mystery going as long as possible. This shouldn’t spoil anything, since this setup is fairly typical. The show opens in 1991 when the sheriff rescues a boy from a frozen lake after being missing for 11 days following the suspicious death of his father. This story line is interrupted by modern day warden of Shawshank committing suicide over a secret he is trying to hide. When a new warden assumes command, a mysterious man is found in a forgotten prison block. The unknown prisoner only mutters the name of the rescued boy from decades earlier. This boy, is now a grown adult, and a lawyer who returns to his hometown finding that the remains of his father are missing and the former sheriff is now residing with his widowed mother.
If you are a King junkie (like me) but couldn’t go to SDCC (like me), you can get slightly more insight of Castle Rock prior to its release by watching this short 23-minute documentary about the real places that inspired the titular town.
“The Search for Castle Rock” moves at a clip, not spending a lot of time on one place of interest. Instead, it acts as a cliffs notes to the various settings of the King-verse with a clear purpose to hype up the show. The last time King wrote about Castle Rock himself, was in the 90’s but that hasn’t stopped modern enthusiast from piecing together the potential in real life inspirations. The documentary mis-attributes the quote “write what you know” to King (it was actually Mark Twain) in order to set up the parallel between settings in his biography to his fiction, which appears to not be without merit.
King grew up in Durham, Maine which allegedly provided fodder for The Body, Salem’s Lot, and Carrie. In college he moved to Bangor which has been his main residence since. Here is where he conceived of Derry, Pet Semetary, Randall Flagg (The Stand), Juniper Hill (It, Needful Things, etc…), curses. South of his homestead was the Maine State Prison, which provided clear inspiration for this titular Shawshank Prison. I hope the Maine Tourism Board kicked in for some of the production expense of this doc, since it lays out where to go if you want to see some of the famous haunts.
Despite the doc’s showcase of these real places, Castle Rock’s actual filming took place a state south, in Orange, MA. Co-Creators Dustin Thomason and Sam Shaw chose the location to convey a “Castle Rock after the storm” a place that has “scars to show for disasters in past novels.” They claim to come to the subject as fans, and promise Easter eggs for fellow enthusiasts in the form of an “advent calendar for horrors where if you open any door or window, there is a story behind it.”
They don’t make us wait very long to be proven right. While the credits roll the viewer is treated to vignettes of what we can only assume are plot points for the show supplemented with years at points of reference (these clips were also posted to the show’s Facebook page this week): 1984 – a homecoming queen setting fire to car with her date inside, 2018 a close up of a clock radio at 2:37 that pulls back to reveal a person sleeping in a bed while a ghostly figure watches, 1981 – a missing dog sign that tracks backwards to reveal a broken car window, a dog collar and pool of blood. All of these moments end with the text overlay “Bad things happen here.”
With so much to pull from, there is no telling what the story will actually entail. It seems that the team behind Castle Rock are working to appeal to both novices and experts of King’s work alike, attempting not to alienate either, even though one man interviewed lays down a contentious universal statement “[King’s] books bring out the dark in people.”
I maintain, that you can be interested in the dark, macabre, and horrific and not let it affect you. What do you think? Agree with me or not, I’ll be following the show and reporting back here, pointing out the Easter eggs I find.
If you do venture into Hulu, to watch “The Search for Castle Rock” for yourself, you can add the first two episodes to the series to your watch list; “Habeas Corpus” and “Severance”, both will be available for viewing July 25th at 12am.
Feature image via Hulu Shawshank @ SDCC (from Facebook page)