Hulu Review – Castle Rock (Seasons 1 & 2): A Show for Fans of the King

Hulu takes one of Stephen King’s most famous fictional locations and weaves a number of supernatural narratives together based on his works.

SUMMARY (Spoiler-Free)

Season 1

Henry Deaver (André Holland), a criminal defense attorney who once vanished for several days as a child with no memory of what happened, is called back to his hometown of Castle Rock.  It turns out that a young man, nicknamed “The Kid” (Bill Skarsgård), has been found in a closed-off portion of Shawshank Prison. He was apparently kept in a cage by the former warden, Dale Lacy (Terry O’Quinn), for 27 years without aging. Henry, along with psychic Molly Strand (Melanie Lynskey), tries to figure out who, or what, The Kid really is and how it ties in with Henry’s disappearance and the death of his father.

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Bill Skarsgård is not a clown in this… yet.

Season 2

Nurse Annie Wilkes (Lizzy Caplan) and her daughter, Joy (Elsie Fisher), break down in Castle Rock. They end up embroiled in a fight between mob boss “Pop” Merrill (Tim Robbins), his nephew Ace Merrill (Paul Sparks), and Pop’s adopted son Abdi Omar (Barkhad Abdi) over the territory of Castle Rock and nearby Salem’s Lot. Things become more complicated when Annie accidentally starts a chain of events which results in a Satanic Cult reviving itself and potentially ending the world. 

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There’s a surprising number of genuine emotional scenes.


I’m a huge Stephen King fan, so I was pretty excited when this show was first announced. However, I watched the first episode and it just didn’t grab me, so I kind of forgot about it. A friend of mine, who is also a fan of Stephen King, told me that I needed to give it another shot and I’m so glad she did.

It just seemed so generically gray.

It’s still true that the first season is definitely slower. It focuses more on the “multiverse” aspect of King’s writing and only has vague allusions to his work (Shawshank Prison, Jack Torrance’s niece (Jane Levy), and Sheriff Alan Pangborn (Scott Glenn)) and it tells a number of intertwined stories relating to the town itself more than the central narrative. That actually works out to its benefit because the central narrative is only moderately interesting, even though the performances are solid. It definitely feels like the kind of universe that Stephen King characters would populate, where random strangeness abounds. 

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Just abounds.

The second season, in my opinion, is a massive step-up. The main character is Annie Wilks, the psychotic nurse made famous in the book Misery, and Lizzy Caplan does a great job playing her. She’s not exactly the character played by Kathy Bates that won an Academy Award, but it genuinely feels like she’s the kind of person that will, one day, become that character. It becomes even better when she has to deal with the fact that, even though she is insane, she is actually dealing with the supernatural rather than delusions. The secondary plots involving Pop Merrill are emotionally complex, made all the better by Tim Robbins’s performance. Having him be a gangster at the end of his life, dealing with all of his regrets, gave Robbins a lot to work with and he pulled it off beautifully. The plot, while still containing numerous threads, is much more cohesive and therefore powerful, tying everything in at the end.

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He did good work at Shawshank, I’m told.

The one thing that the first season does have over the second is that it has more creative visual storytelling, particularly “The Queen” which is told from the perspective of an Alzheimer’s patient. That’s not to say that there aren’t well-crafted episodes in the second season, but nothing quite at that level. 

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Sissy Spacek really does a great job playing the same character throughout time.

Another thing I can appreciate is that, like King’s work, there’s not a particular rule about what can and can’t be real in this universe. Sometimes people are from different dimensions. Sometimes you can walk through time. Sometimes you can resurrect the dead by accident. If the next season included aliens fighting zombies, it wouldn’t be inconsistent with the universe. It helps that there’s a lot of care put in to represent all of the elements of Castle Rock that King had written into his stories. It does a great job of capturing the feel of many of King’s stories. 

Overall, I enjoyed this show. If, like me, you didn’t enjoy the first season too much, give the second season a try. 

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All TimeCollection of TV EpisodesCollection of Movie Reviews, or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.

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Halloween Reviews/Netflix Review – In the Tall Grass: A Solid Adaptation of a Complicated Idea

A mind-bending horror story by Stephen King and his son Joe Hill gets adapted by Netflix. 


Becky Demuth (Laysla De Oliveira) and her brother Cal (Avery Whitted) are driving across the country. Becky is six months pregnant and trying to find a way to get rid of the baby. They stop by a cornfield near an old church in what I think was Kansas in the book and hear a small boy named Tobin (Will Buie, Jr.) calling out for help. The two go into a field of tall grass and get separated quickly. They discover that the cornfield warps time and space, keeping them from finding each other or a way out. They discover that Tobin’s mom (Rachel Wilson) and dad (Patrick Wilson) are also in the grass field, as is Travis (Harrison Gilbertson), the father of Becky’s child. As madness and confusion start to set in, the group has to find a way out of the field. 

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Also, there is naturally weird stuff IN the grass.


So, the story this is based on is ironically much more simple and straightforward than the movie, the opposite of what usually happens with adaptations. This ends up making the movie more in line with the themes of the story involving confusion and uncertainty, with Becky’s uncertainty about her pregnancy mirrored with the uncertainty of the people in the grass. The book attempts to throw off the reader by having characters take actions they know to be logical only to get impossible results. The film has the advantage of being able to show an objective viewpoint of the unimaginable physics of the grass, with some of the shots being extremely unnerving. While the fact that we aren’t as close to the feelings of the characters as we are in the book, the acting and the cinematography still get the point across. 

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The church goes from hopeful to horrifying in mostly the same shots.

Most of the film isn’t traditionally scary. You’re not dealing with monsters or zombies or whatever. Instead, it’s the fact that the world that our characters are in does not follow any laws that we base our reality on. Events don’t happen in order. Time doesn’t flow at constant rates. Directions mean nothing. Standing still doesn’t mean you aren’t moving. Everything is broken and there’s nothing you can do about it. It’s extremely off-putting and eerie, leaving you feel uncomfortable the entire time. The one thing that is certain in the film is death, revealing that the only thing that is beyond the reach of the grass are dead things. 

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*Insert Ominous Music*

The acting in the movie is solid, though I admit that it’s the atmosphere that makes it scary. Patrick Wilson remains a treasure and his ability to play batsh*t crazy makes for a lot of entertainment. The thing that he ends up finding inside of the grass isn’t exactly explained, but that’s part of the horror. The movie ends significantly differently from the book, although it does contain one of the most disturbing elements in the book’s ending. If you read the story, this is still worth seeing.

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Seriously, kudos to his crazy.

If you like psychological horror or, to a lesser extent, cosmic horror, give this one a watch.

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All TimeCollection of TV EpisodesCollection of Movie Reviews, or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.

If you enjoy these, please, like, share, tell your friends, like the Facebook page (, follow on Twitter @JokerOnTheSofa, and just generally give me a little bump. I’m not getting paid, but I like to get feedback.