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Summering in Castle Rock Episode 1-01: Severance

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What can we reasonably anticipate from a Stephen King adaptation?  Deeper than just the inevitable macabre elements, we can safely assume there will be precocious, pre-teen scamps involved.  There’s a good chance someone has a hidden past.  And if it’s not taking place in Maine, we’ve got a real body snatchers situation at play here.

Ten minutes into Castle Rock and we are emphatically in Maine.  A man just hanged himself by tying a rope around a tree, putting the noose around his neck, then driving into a lake (not the most intuitive suicide, I think we can all agree), so I think we have hidden past covered.  Owing to this inciting death-by-long drive, a new warden is taking over Shawshank prison, and has discovered that an entire wing of the prison has been left unoccupied for years.

Alright, we’re up to the first commercial break.  A cop was dispatched to the unused wing to count beds and discovered some sort of a deep duct (apparently this cop missed the day in Stephen King school where they taught that anything even remotely resembling a well is bad news and should be avoided at all costs) and after dropping a wallet or something the like down it, has descended to the bottom, where it becomes immediately apparent that someone has been down there.  Bill Skarsgard?  I think it’s a real possibility.

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It was Bill Skarsgard! Apparently some sort of strange, feral child who has been living – by choice or against his will, we are uncertain – in an emptied water tank.  He says the name, “Henry Deaver,” and that quickly, we have childhood trauma.  Because we take a trip to Texas and discover that Henry Deaver is an attorney who has just lost a final appeal for a woman’s life.  He witnesses her execution only after establishing that he vanished as a kid for a period, during which time his father was found with a broken back and frost bite.  His first memory is of being found after his own disappearance.  The woman is executed, but it doesn’t take. The curtain is drawn before we can see the results of the attempted do-over.  The guard who found Bill calls Henry to let him know that Bill’s asking for him.  Henry is about to change location, I suspect, this show is pretty weird, and I’m into it.

Melanie Lynsky shows up as a middle aged woman buying drugs from a high school student.  I have no damn idea what her capacity is in this show.  Henry – who is clearly and wisely our hero – makes it to Maine and stops in to see his mother, Sissy Spacek.  She is distinctly not entirely with it – her memory is going and she’s dismissed her live-in nurse.  Now this massive creepo, Alan, is living with her, or at the very least, porking her on the reg.  My instinct is to hate him, and it seems like Henry’s is, too.  And right now, whoever Henry hates, I’m going to hate as well.  It just makes sense.  When Henry hits up Shawshank, the new warden is eager to hide the fact that they’ve had a stowaway living there.  She lies to Henry about John Doe Skarsgard, but Henry is smart enough not to believe her.  He has a moment of seeming recognition with the guard who calls him, but it is fleeting.

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Lynsky’s back!  She has an old “missing” poster of Henry, and I have a theory.  More on that later.  The guard who called Henry finds some sort of hair in his coffee, then sees on the monitors that Skarsgard has opened his cell and possibly killed someone.  We see Lacy – the warden who killed himself in the beginning – in the tank with Skargard – presumably before he was discovered, though more on THAT as well, in a moment – telling him to ask for Henry Deaver once he is found.  And that’s episode one.

Man, what an opening salvo.  My future reviews/recaps will not be written at every commercial break, as this one was, but I wanted to provide the experience of how it unfolds, and the sense of disorient that accompanies it.  We’ve got a real mystery on our hands.

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Castle Rock feels very much a Stephen King property, but in a lot of ways, better.  I have mixed feelings about King – his relationship to female characters is often dismissive at best, leaning towards antediluvian at worst.  Additionally, he often has interesting ideas that are not fully cooked or realized.  He revisits much of the same ground ad nauseum, and sometimes it is fertile, and sometimes it is just redundant and lesser.  In a lot of ways, I don’t know how Castle Rock will play out in those aspects; but it feels fresh.  Even with the caveat that I can’t help but think that Lynksy, Mystery Guard, and Henry are going to form the backbone of some type of Loser’s Club.  These guys have to have known each other as kids, right?  I am also interested to see how the various King connections play out.  If they are just little Easter Eggs for fans, or if they will connect to a larger significance within the Kingaverse.  For example:  we are busy at Shawshank – will we hear anything about Andy Dufresne?  Is there any chance that my greatest dream will come true, and Sissy Spacek’s character will turn out to be an adult Carrie White?  Probably not, but I haven’t given up hope.

My final impression, and one that could be based in precious little, with absolutely zero accuracy, is that there may be some element of overlapping timelines at play here.  While it’s entirely possible – probable even – that the structure is just utilized to disseminate relevant information at vital intervals, I am, at least, open to the chance that there are possible worlds at play.  Let’s see how weird they dare get.

Anyway, I’m in.  Let’s see where this goes!  And if you catch any Easter Eggs that I miss (I will try to include what I find in each review) please leave them in the comments.  I’ve got to learns somehow! See you next time, where hopefully Lynsky and Mystery Guard get names.

About Author

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Kelly Mintzer hates dolls but loves movies about evil ventriloquist dummies. She is working her way through the “Sandman” series slowly but surely, and has been compared more than once to that iteration of Death. Holding down South Philly with a creative writing degree and the full series of “Hannibal”, she hasn’t seen her natural hair color in years.