It is always such a treat when your favorite writer publishes a new book.
Me, I pace around, almost like an expectant father in the delivery room, anxiously waiting.
And via the magic of technology, the book appears on my Tablet the next day, ready for me to savor, whenever I am ready.
Now, of course, my favorite writer is Stephen King…Captain Obvious strikes again, right?
And we are still fortunate to be receiving the gifts of The Master’s books on a fairly regular basis.
All in all, not bad.
So we are, for all intents and purposes, getting a new Stephen King book, set in the same universe, with some familiar characters, as well as plenty of new characters. This may not have King’s name on the by-line, but it is set in his expansive universe and has the feel of his books, but is not a book, but an anthology TV series instead…
Well, how can we go wrong with that?
And not only is it set in the King universe, but is titled Castle Rock, King’s other notorious town, the one that probably advertises that its main attraction is the fact that it is not inhabited by a trans-dimensional demon doing a poor impersonation of a clown.
Again, how is this a bad thing?
I have watched one episode of Castle Rock so far, and I can tell you that this is not a bad thing. Far from it, in fact.
So, come with me to Castle Rock, where we break down and analyze the first episode, titled Severance.
And, as always:
The episode begins in the winter of 1991, in Castle Rock Maine. We see woods and a lake that is frozen over. A man is walking along the path, and he appears to be looking for someone or something.
The man quickly finds who he is looking for, as he spots a young boy wandering in the woods. The man calls out to the boy, and runs to him. We learn that the man’s name is Alan Pangborn, and that he is a law enforcement officer. We also learn that the boy’s name is Henry Deaver, and that he has been missing for eleven days. The boy’s father is dead, succumbing to a broken back and exposure to the elements. However, the boy appears unharmed.
Alan brings Henry back to his worried mother. Henry claims to have no memory of what happened to them, although Alan and the rest of the town suspect his involvement in his father’s death.
The episode then flashes to 2018. Warden Lacey, who is employed by Shawshank State Prison and on his way to retirement, makes breakfast for his wife, and heads off to work. However, Lacey takes a detour and finds himself at Castle Lake, the same lake where Henry Deaver was found in 1991. The warden then proceeds to commit suicide in a gruesome manner, by tying one end of a rope to a tree and the other end to his neck, and driving in car while tied down, crashing into the lake.
Warden Lacey is quickly replaced with a new warden by the name of Warden Porter. A few of the prison guards remark that the death of wardens seems to be a pattern at Shawshank. The guards also discover that an entire wing of the prison, known as Block F, appears to be empty.
One of the guards decides to investigate Block F. He ventures down a metal hatch, and finds a chair and a coffee can filled with cigarette butts. He also discovers a single occupant: a mysterious young man who does not speak and appears timid.
The man is taken to Warden Porter. He is dirty and disheveled and does not appear to know what a shower is. Finally, the young man speaks, and utters three words: Henry Matthew Deaver.
The episode then takes us to Texas, where Henry Deaver now resides. Henry works as an attorney for prisoners accused of capital murders. His success rate in winning appeals is low, as evidenced by his latest case, where the state botches the execution of the woman he is representing. The woman dies a painful death.
Henry receives a call from Shawshank Prison. He speaks to one of the guards, who tells him of the mysterious stranger who uttered his name. Henry decides to make a trip to Castle Rock, Maine, the town that effectively drove him away with the accusations of involvement in his father’s death.
As Henry steps off a bus in Castle Rock, a woman named Molly is purchasing narcotics from a teenager. Molly does not want to be seen. She catches a glance at Henry and drives away, even though she clearly recognizes him.
Upon his arrival in town, Henry is upset to learn that his father’s grave has been moved, and that many of the businesses are now boarded up. He visits his mother Ruth in her home. Ruth appears to be suffering from dementia and does not recognize Henry at first.
Henry also learns that Alan Pangborn has moved in with his mother. Alan tells Henry that the graveyard containing his father’s body was moved, and that he authorized the relocation of his father’s grave. It is clear that there is mistrust between Henry and Alan.
When Henry arrives at the prison and asks to speak to what he believes is his new client, the guards pretend to not know what he is talking about. Henry is suspicious and notes that the guards were aware of his occupation as a death row lawyer.
That night, Henry reads about the suicide of Warden Lacey. Alan informs Henry that the suicide took place at Castle Lake, the same place where his father’s body was found.
The mysterious prisoner is moved to a cell with a prisoner known to be violent. One of the guards is reading a book and keeping an eye on the cameras. He notices that the mystery prisoner has somehow escaped his cell, and is surrounded by dead bodies of prisoners and guards. Panicked, the guard sounds the alarm.
Henry takes a drive to Castle Lake. He flashes back to 1991, and has a vision of the day he was found by Sheriff Pangborn.
Molly makes her way to a basement and sets time using an hourglass. She opens a box that contains a missing poster with Henry Deaver’s face on it and a red flannel jacket. Molly appears to be studying these items intently until the time is up.
We also flash to Warden Lacey visiting with the mysterious prisoner. Lacey tells the prisoner to ask for Henry Deaver if anyone finds him.
So, about five minutes into the episode…
I see an aerial shot of the town of Castle Rock.
To top it off, some guy kills himself in a creative, extremely painful manner.
(I knew what was about to happen. I was mumbling to myself, “Oooh, that is gonna hurt, man!” Ah, the thoughts of someone who has been reading Stephen King and watching horror movies far too long.)
But, back to my point.
If you did not realize within the first five minutes that you were watching something done by JJ (the aerial part) that takes place in the Stephen King universe (see the part about some guy committing suicide in the most creative, painful way), then…well…
I got nothing, actually.
Except maybe to suggest you lay off that devil grass for a bit…
Well, anyway, back to business!
After I watched 11.22.63, I figured JJ Abrams could do the Stephen King universe no wrong. After all, he was able to adapt one of my favorite King novels to screen, and do an excellent job of it.
So when I heard that JJ Abrams and company were basically writing a new Stephen King novel that would actually be a multiple episode anthology TV series, I was set! Bring it, I said!
Make no mistake, we are essentially getting a new Stephen King novel. It has all the bells and whistles, the only thing missing is The Master’s by-line.
And I know that this is only one episode, but it looks like that Abrams and company are indeed bringing it.
First of all, the cast.
We mostly saw what Andre Holland had to offer the first episode, and Holland was generous with those offerings. Holland is one of the King Everyman characters: he is approaching middle age, trying to make a difference in the world via his career and has a large closet overflowing with skeletons. What’s not to love?
And there is Bill Skarsgard…
Actually, let me get it out of my system now…
So, someone in a horror story finds a metal hatch and makes the brilliant executive command decision to explore.
I mean, has he not watched horror movies at all?
Someone makes the decision to explore a dark, creepy place?
I mean, isn’t he afraid…
Of running into…
Like, I dunno…
Yep, I’ll be here all night, folks!
You are welcome!
But, in all seriousness, it looks like Bill Skarsgard is also shaping up to be an interesting character in this series.
If Henry is the Everyman, I think that makes Bill either the Nothingman, or a Whatthefuckisthatman.
Actually, we don’t even know if he is a man. No, we don’t…
Also, let me note that the mystery prisoner looks old enough to have been born in 1991. I don’t think this is a coincidence, as this is the year Henry went missing for 11 days with no memory of what happened.
Just putting that out there, for whatever it’s worth.
We also have Sissy Spacek, aka the Stephen King OG, as her character Carrie was the beginning of the King universe.
I think that Ruth Deavers will be an interesting character, due to the fact that she is suffering from dementia and is a white woman who adopted an African American child and raised him in an all white town. I hope we get some flashbacks to Henry’s childhood, as this could be interesting.
Oh, and before I go…
Now, Easter eggs are kind of like salt when you are cooking:
Put in the perfect amount, and your dish will be the one people want seconds and thirds of.
Too much, and that dish will end up scraped into the garbage can.
With Castle Rock, I want seconds and thirds.
In other words, the Easter eggs were not distracting, but added a little extra touch to the episode.
And I am not even talking about the cast members, which include Pennywise and the OG Stephen King character.
Shawshank State Prison and its history is another.
Abrams and company did not have include the death of Warden Norton in the episode.
But it was included anyway, and it is a loving touch.
It is as if the writers of the show are acknowledging their Constant Reader viewers (and maybe even the more casual King fans, as The Shawshank Redemption is such a well known movie) and giving us a little side wink.
That wink says to us that we are all part of a club, and we love Stephen King as much as you do, and we want you to know that, so we are going to include all of these details to make this experience just a little extra special for you Constant Readers.
Well, I think I have gone on long enough about Severance.
Join me next week as I dissect and review the second episode, titled Habeus Corpus.
Tune in next week…
Same bat time, same bat channel!