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 Expanse

It’s been a long while since I’ve talked about some of the TV shows I watch, and that’s mainly because I have been without cable for almost a year now. Prior to that, I had a full DVR most of the time, and was consuming both recorded cable television along with original programming on some of the major streaming services (Netflix, Hulu, Prime Video). Because of the lack of television in this house (this is by choice, by the way) I’ve been limited to things that I can stream on the aforementioned services, and in that case it means the only “new” programming that I’m watching are those original series. Shows like Stranger Things and The Grand Tour have been excellent and I’m glad to have the ability to watch them, but I’ve fallen behind on some of my favorite shows like The Walking Dead and Better Call Saul. Netflix gets these shows, but they are only put on the service just prior to the new seasons releasing on cable, so you’ll still be behind by a year. I was gifted a modded Firestick for my birthday last year, but with our spotty WiFi in this particular living situation, it wasn’t reliable enough to use so I will continue to be behind for the time being. With that said, I want to talk about a show that is a few years old but one that I hadn’t watched until recently: The Expanse.

I think it was my father that told me that this was a good show, but our viewing preferences don’t always align so I must have forgotten or pushed it aside for other shows. That was a mistake. This show is the single most intriguing and entertaining Sci-Fi TV shows that I’ve watched in years — decades even. I haven’t looked forward to watching a show as much as this one outside of The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones, but those are obviously very different animals. I haven’t enjoyed a Sci-Fi show this much since Star Trek: The Next Generation (though I have enjoyed the episodes of Star Trek: Discovery that I’ve seen). The Expanse really hit all of the right notes for me, and it’s become my one of my favorite shows.

Starting in 2015, The Expanse ran for three seasons on the SyFy channel, the latter of which finished up this year, at which time it was cancelled. What brought it back into the forefront of my mind was the recent outcry from fans for someone to pickup the series and produce a fourth season. Amazon Video has decided to do just that, and a fourth season has been greenlit. Coincidentally, this is the exact service I’ve been using to watch the show, but have been limited to two seasons at this point. This is one of the limitations of Amazon Video, the fact that in many instances you’ll have seasons of a show included with your subscription, but then newer seasons will be locked behind a pay wall. I get it, I only subscribe to Amazon Prime for the free two day shipping, because I don’t like to wait for things that I order and I don’t like to pay for shipping. Amazon Video, Music and other services are included for your $13/month, so I understand why they need extra money for certain things. I just don’t like the fact that I’m currently finished with the first two seasons of this show which I absolutely love, but then have to pay $20 to watch the third season. Considering that the 4th season will likely be included with subscription because all Prime Originals are, it seems silly for them to charge me for the current season that just finished. I’m still considering doing so though, because I haven’t had my fill of the show despite binging the first two seasons in only a couple of weeks.

As far as the story goes, it’s less episodic like Star Trek and other shows like it, where the same crew gets involved in differing adventures week in and week out. Instead, it lays the ground work by painting believable scenarios in our own solar system. Earth colonized the Moon (now called “Luna”) and then moved on to Mars. With dwindling resources on Earth, people were sent out to the asteroid belt to mine ice and other minerals for the inner planets. Eventually these become our factions: Earthers, Martians and Belters all vying for control of the solar system. From there, we are introduced to main characters of each faction, and the underlying plot by their governments to do devious things. One part Sci-Fi adventure, one part murder mystery and one part conspiracy theory, this show has it all.

The special effects are pretty damn good for a cable television show, and the acting isn’t terrible. It doesn’t feel like a B-movie on the small screen, instead it feels like a big budget block buster stretched out over many hours. I don’t want to spoil anything at all, but you need to do yourself a favor and watch this show if you haven’t already, and consider yourself any sort of Sci-Fi fan. I’m going to be checking out the third season soon, and will look forward to the Prime Original version of season four with much anticipation!