Thoughts on Castle Rock

I don’t really watch much on Hulu, truth be told. My girlfriend subscribes to the service though, and will periodically let me know about an original program that she thinks I will enjoy. Knowing that I’m a fan of Stephen King, she mentioned that this show was upcoming and finding out J.J. Abrams was also involved piqued my interest. I also thought that Bill Skarsgård was terrific as Pennywise in the recent IT film adaptation, so I knew I had to watch this. I went in pretty much blind, not reading any plot details or spoilers beforehand. The following are my thoughts on Season 1 of Castle Rock. Be warned, if you haven’t finished the show, this post will contain spoilers.

The show starts off pretty slow. On July 25th when the show premiered, Hulu released the first three episodes, so I had a mini-binge. Those first three episodes were intriguing, but nothing much is happening. We’re introduced to the main character, an African-American man named Henry Deaver, who is a lawyer called back to Castle Rock (which is the title of the show and also the name of the town) to represent a client. Henry had a troubled youth, being adopted by a white family — a stay at home mother and a preacher — and having some issues as a child. He remembers hearing a loud ringing noise that others couldn’t. It is revealed that his father believes this is the voice of God, and they make trips in the dead of night to a particular spot in the woods where they believe they will hear it again. This seems to have an effect on the mother to the point where in the present day she is disturbed, yet everyone believes it is just dementia.

The client Henry is here to represent is a character called “The Kid” (played by Skarsgård) who has been locked in a portion of the town’s prison that has been unused for decades. The old warden has kept him locked up down there for as long, but after committing suicide, a new warden comes to town, and orders some of her guards to clean up the unused wing so they can bring in more inmmates. The Kid is discovered, but doesn’t talk. As soon as he is let out, bad things start to happen around the town. People die. Henry gets the kid out of jail and helps him to get his life in gear, which includes staying at various people’s houses (including his own). Bad things continue to happen but there is no real explanation of the how’s or the why’s.

The show continues like this for weeks. I was actually beginning to lose interest about halfway through the season but by episode 9 things start to make a bit more sense. One episode we are shown The Kid in the same town, surrounded by the same characters, but he is Henry Deaver, which throws things on its head a bit. The possibility of multiple dimensions (something King was able to really explore in his Dark Tower series) starts to creep into the plot, as the The Kid/Henry goes about his life, then ends up in the same woods during the time frame when old Henry and his dad had their final altercation that ultimately lead to his father’s demise. The Kid/Henry is picked up by the warden, who hears the “voice of God” that tells him that The Kid/Henry is “the Devil” and should be locked away. He kept him there while old Henry grew up and we’ve now come full circle.

I’m leaving out some small details but in the end, The Kid wants Henry to go out in the woods with him so that this dimensional rift can be opened again and he can go back to his own world. Their altercation ends up in Henry’s favor, and near the end of the season we are shown The Kid back in his cell under the prison (which appears to be shut down completely, allowing him to sneak in and out easily) and Henry is now taking the place of the Warden, as the guardian of this “Devil.” Generally speaking, there are many ways that you can read into what happened during the season, and then there’s probably a way it was meant to be understood as written by the producers. In my opinion, there are two ways of understanding this story. On one hand, you have this inter-dimensional rift that was somehow opened and sucked two different people into two different alternate realities. The simple act of being in that different world was seemingly understood by it, and as a result bad things happen where ever those two people go. On the other hand, you can believe that The Kid really is a Devil and he belongs in a cage. Some clues that point towards this different reading are the fact that The Kid’s face changes briefly during the final altercation, and he appears either very old or very zombie-like. Also there seems to be ways that he was able to influence people and things, and in some cases it really did seem like he pushed people to kill themselves or do terrible things.

I’m on the fence. I like the inter-dimensional plot twist over the religious connotation but that’s due to my own personal beliefs. Either way it was enjoyable in a cerebral way, and that’s how I typically enjoy my plot twists. What did you think of the show?

Thoughts on The Dark Tower

Recently a couple of my fellow bloggers had written posts about The Dark Tower, and now that I have finally seen said movie, I feel like I should jot down some of my thoughts on the experience. First, a little background:

I discovered the Dark Tower series somewhere between when the fourth and fifth books were written, which would have been in the early 2000s. I had a job where I was able to read in my downtime, so I grabbed The Gunslinger (book 1) on a whim, and burned through it rather quickly. I had already read a few of Stephen King’s novels at that point, along with seeing several movie adaptations of his work. The Gunslinger stood out to me as something different than his usual faire, and after completing it I hungrily devoured books two (The Drawing of the Three) and three (The Wastelands) before hitting a bit of a wall with book four (Wizard & Glass).

The filling in of Roland’s past in the fourth book was sort of boring to me. It’s important exposition nonetheless, but I just felt it was kind of a slog to get through. It was around this time though, that in real life Mr. King was involved in an accident and there was rumor that he might retire from writing altogether. Fans clamored for the conclusion the the Dark Tower series though, and eventually he did finish, writing the last three books in rapid succession. Once the last three books were released I picked them all up and read through each and the conclusion was worth the wait. Wolves of the Calla, Song of Susanna and the culmination of The Dark Tower finished things off and I felt that it was one of the greatest series of all time. I’d put it up there with Lord of the Rings.

So clearly, I am a fan and have read all of the source material. My colleagues who already wrote about the film (along with critics, etc.) noted that they went into the movie with little to no knowledge of the books or if they did read them it had been a long time. This didn’t color their opinion of the film, and honestly I went in with low expectations because I had already heard it was a poor adaptation. With this in mind it was impossible for me not to feel that this was a shitty attempt at making something visual out of these novels.

Within the last couple of years I remember hearing about a potential TV series for the books, and that would have made more sense. There is so much source material that you aren’t going to cram all of that into a single movie. At the very least, they should have just made this first movie follow the events of book one and go about making 6 more movies, and even then it probably wouldn’t have done the story justice, but it would have been better than whatever you’d call this.

The director/writers clearly knew about the source material. They clearly dropped little tidbits that would cause you to remember bits of the books. This could have been a little side tale that wasn’t in the books though, because despite referencing the material they didn’t really make much clear. You’re just thrown into a story that doesn’t make a bunch of sense (though with knowledge of the books you can sort of infer and interpret things that you probably couldn’t without having that knowledge), it moves quickly and it ends so abruptly that you’re left with a sense that the producers ran out of funds and just called the thing done. Even a 3 hour long version wouldn’t have done The Dark Tower justice, and I’m disappointed with the effort.

Sure you can sprinkle in The Crimson King references, the skin-people were I assume the “wolves” from the Calla, very little was made of Ka or Ka-tet, though the whole gunslinger’s motto was a nice touch. The portals were interesting, the Man in Black didn’t feel like the Walter I knew… there was absolutely no mention of Eddie or Susanna who were integral to the story; it just stinks. And though they left things wide open to continue with another movie, I just don’t see how they could undo what they’ve already done. All in all, it’s just not a good movie, despite the performances being well done, the special effects working and whatnot. I’m sure people who never read the books will find it to be interesting enough, but if you read the books you’ll probably want to avoid this stinker.

Here’s hoping that TV series gets the green light so we can get some real detail. I love this series and hope it gets the screenplay it deserves.