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Series / Castle Rock

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"Has it begun?"

"Everyone's got a theory how it started. About Castle Rock's original sin… Whenever it began, whoever's sin we're paying for; we're trapped in a cycle that's been going back centuries. There's blood in every backyard. Inside every house. People say it wasn't them, it was this place. And the thing is... They're right."

A Hulu original Anthology series produced in collaboration between J. J. Abrams and Stephen King and taking place in the eponymous Maine town, Castle Rock is the culmination of King's 40-plus years as one of the most popular authors ever read. Not a direct adaptation of any particular King novel or story, Castle Rock instead features characters, locations, and themes from his numerous works. It all takes place within the small Maine town as the show mines original stories from the raw King material.

In Season 1, we meet Henry Deaver (Andre Holland) a death row attorney who returns to his home town after receiving a mysterious phone call. After the warden of Shawshank State Penitentiary commits suicide, a mysterious young man called only "The Kid" (Bill Skarsgård) is discovered locked away in an abandoned wing of the prison. As Henry investigates, he meets old acquaintances such as former-Sherieff Alan Pangborn, his dementia-riddled mother Ruth, and his childhood neighbor Molly Strand. But the more Henry looks, the more he learns about Castle Rock's dark and bloody history, and how it relates to his own disappearance as a child.

Season 2 sees the arrival of a woman by the name of Annie Wilkes (Lizzy Caplan) and her daughter Joy, who are detoured following a car accident. But a violent chance encounter threatens to unravel the secrets and lies Annie has kept from her daughter all her life. Meanwhile, as the head of the town's notorious Merrill family (Tim Robbins) lays dying, and his nephew "Ace" Merrill stands to take his place, their feud with the Somali immigrant community intensifies, threatening to engulf the nearby town of Jerusalem's Lot.

Look here for the Season 1 teaser and trailer, and here for Season 2. Two weeks before the Season 2 premiere a 14-minute video titled Now Leaving Castle Rock was released as a promotion which can be found here.

Has a character sheet.

Cancelled in 2020 after its second season.

General tropes include:

  • Actor Allusion: Essentially, if it doesn't involve a Casting Gag, the casting will involve some element of this.
  • Casting Gag: Many.
    • Bill Skarsgård plays a mysterious Shawshank prisoner who has been held underground for 27 years, like Pennywise (also played by Skarsgard) and its gestation periods in It (2017).
    • Also, Spacek starred in the first King adaptation, and Skarsgard starred in the most recent at the time of Season 1's broadcast. And, if you believe the Kid's story, they might be mother and son.
    • Melanie Lynskey also played another traumatized woman facing off against ghosts in Stephen King's Rose Red.
    • Tim Robbins plays Pop Merrill, who makes a visit to Shawshank Prison, where he was sent in Stephen King's The Shawshank Redemption.
    • Sarah Gadon played a victim of domestic abuse trying to escape her husband in the 1960s in the Hulu adaptation of 11/22/63; in Season 2, she played a woman who chased her biological daughter and the violent half-sister who had "adopted" her cross country.
  • Corrupt Church:
    • Season 1: Played with. The evil and abusive Matthew Deaver is a pastor, Lacy is a Churchgoing Villain of sorts.
    • Much more of a focus in Season 2, which seems to confirm early that they are at least somewhat connected:
      • If Amity hadn't been subjected to the religious repression of being exiled from New Jerusalem, she wouldn't have met the Angel and come back and killed everyone.
      • The 'Salem's Lot people also worship a Religion of Evil revolving around Amity herself and aiming to bring her and Pere Augustin back.
  • Creator Thumbprint: While not made by Stephen King, the show pointedly includes a lot of hallmarks of King's work, as well as literally using some of his characters, crossing over with a sort of meta Author Appeal.
    • A God of Evil - this is teased as being the Kid in Season 1 and Season 2, like Randall Flagg in The Dark Tower (although the Kid is much more ambiguous than Flagg).
    • Most Writers Are Writers: like her uncle, Jackie Torrance is a writer who uses a typewriter. Rita in Season 2 is an alcoholic writer in Los Angeles - like much of King's work, such as specifically Misery and It.
    • An abusive love/hate relationship between a religious fanatic and their seemingly normal child - Joy and Annie Wilkes in Season 2 and Henry and Matthew Deaver in Season 1, like in Carrie.
    • A nice blue-collar guy who slips into insanity and does something horrible - Dennis Zalewski in Season 1.
    • Nearly every character has some sort of Dark and Troubled Past with Henry in particular becoming a pariah of the town as a child.
  • Dark and Troubled Past: Nearly everyone on the show which isn't surprising given the nature of the show...
    • Henry Deaver, who disappeared during a cold snap when he was eleven. His father Matthew was found nearly dead and died at home, while Henry was found eleven days later, perfectly fine. The town ended up blaming Henry for his father's death. It turns out that Molly Strand killed his father. She says it was as if Henry was "guiding her hand" and we later learn that Matthew was planning to kill Henry's mother Ruth, thus providing a motive for Henry wanting him dead.
    • It is hinted that Pop's involvement with the Somalis stems from his experience as a soldier during the 1993 U.S. intervention in Somalia. He feels guilt over the fact that he inadvertently killed Abdi and Nadia's mother during Operation Gothic Serpent.
    • Both the towns of Castle Rock and Jerusalem's Lot have this in spades; they have long histories (especially in the 80s supposedly) of serial killers, massacres, and other tragedies.
  • Early-Bird Cameo:
    • In Season 1, Wendell briefly gets off the bus in 'Salem's Lot. This is the setting for Season 2.
    • In Season 1, we see Amity Lambert several times without giving her name, even glimpsing her in the schism which may be an early hint as to her involvement with "The Angel".
  • Foolish Sibling, Responsible Sibling:
    • In Season 1, Molly Strand's sister views them as this (with Molly as foolish and her sister as responsible).
    • In Season 2, Nadia is the responsible to Abdi's relatively foolish, while Chris is the responsible to his brother Ace's foolish.
  • Formula-Breaking Episode:
    • "Henry Deaver" in Season 1 is a Day in the Limelight for The Kid, and takes us into the parallel universe he claims to be from.
    • "The Word" goes back to colonial-era Salem's Lot and tells the story of Amity, who appeared briefly in flashbacks throughout Season 1.
  • Setting Update: The show is set in the modern day. Although not an adaptation of King's work, many of the characters featured (notably Annie Wilkes and the Merrills) are all from stories set during the 70's/80's (when they were written). Interestingly, given the age that Annie is presented here, if the story of Misery ever occurs in-universe, it'll likely be in our future.
    • Season 2's ending has Annie attending Paul Sheldon's book signing, meaning the events of the book will be happening soon more or less confirms this.
  • Spiritual Adaptation: In a sense. The show doesn't directly adapt any of King's works, simply using the setting, characters and themes to tell its own story. That being said, there are references to some of King's canon work having actually occurred in-universe (The Shining being the most notable). With the ending of Season 2, its been confirmed that while some events from King's books have occurred others have yet and will happened.

Season 1 tropes include:

  • Alternate Universe: Where The Kid is from...supposedly.
    • In Episode 9, Henry Deaver, he claims that he is from a version of Earth where he is Henry Deaver, the biological son of Ruth and Mathew. When his father, who left the church and become a recluse, dies; "Henry" is found in the basement and a cage with the adopted Henry in it. The Kid became trapped on our Earth helping the young Henry before being captured by Lacy.
  • As the Good Book Says...: While praying to God for guidance, Warden Lacy seems to have become obsessed with the Bible verse Acts 16:33, which describes a virtuous jailer who washes Paul and Silas in prison and thus baptizes himself and his entire family; it's implied to be one of the reasons he constructed the cage in the water tank, and Henry finds over a dozen verse-a-day calendars that Lacy stopped using when he reached the quote.
  • Blessed with Suck: A common theme. Molly has extreme Psychic Powers, which leaves her an unstable drug addict; Matthew believed Henry could hear the schism (which he probably could), and so forced him to try to open it and led to him being kidnapped by Matthew's alternate universe counterpart for twenty years, Lacy hears the 'voice of God' telling him to imprison the Kid, a decision he comes to regret. It's also left ambiguous how much the Kid wants to hurt the people he infects with the Hate Plague.
  • Bullying a Dragon: The Kid has extremely dangerous, volatile powers. in addition to being locked up by Warden Lacy, he's teased, threatened, and mistreated by just about everyone in Shawshank bar Zaleski.
  • Celebrity Paradox: Young Molly is a fan of The Ramones, presumably including their theme song to Pet Sematary (1989).
  • Children Forced to Kill: Young Henry, who pushes his father, Matthew, off a cliff after Matthew reveals he's going to kill Henry's mother, Ruth. Young Molly too, who disconnects Matthew's life support and kills him, apparently under Henry's influence.
  • Cloud Cuckoo Lander: Molly and Ruth play this trope straight, but for totally different reasons: Molly experiences Sanity Slippage through her extreme empathy, while Ruth is unavoidably trapped in it because of what might be her Alzheimer's, or her ability to walk between worlds and time periods. The Kid is a very dark example, as a result of being locked underground for twenty years (and possibly because of being from another world). Jackie also seems extremely disaffected by any of the bad stuff that happens around her, and wishes for more of it.
  • Conditioned to Accept Horror: A common theme in Castle Rock, as in the King books that feature it. Mentioned numerous times, lampshaded by Pangborn and Lacey, and present in every character to some degree:
    • Notably subverted by Dennis Zalewski, the kind prison guard who tries to help the Kid and is unable to cope with the horrific conditions at Shawshank, and by the empathic Molly, for obvious reasons.
    • Played straightest by The Kid, who despite being abducted and imprisoned by Lacey, seems to experience severe Emotion Suppression, because in addition to barely speaking, he never shows strong fear or anger even in the worst situations, and hardly responds to the horrors caused around him.
  • Cutting the Knot: Out of universe. Molly is the person (after Zalewski dies ) who is most concerned with the Kid's welfare. So, when Henry declines to take the Kid back to what he claimed was his Castle Rock, what happens to Molly? She moves to Florida, apparently without another question about the Kid.
  • Dead Star Walking: Terry O'Quinn's character dies in the opening minutes of the first episode.
  • Did You Just Punch Out Cthulhu?: The Kid is extremely powerful and resists any attempt to do this to him once he's been freed, as shown by the death of the Nazi. However, the totally normal Warden Lacy was somehow able to kidnap him in the past.
  • Doomed Fellow Prisoner: Justified. The Kid appears to have somehow spread cancer around a Nazi's body, after the new warden locked them up together.
  • Driven to Madness: Molly's empathic powers seem to make her do this; a possible interpretation of the Ki ands silence; also starts to happen to the guard, Dennis, who found the Kid.
  • Driven to Suicide: Warden Lacy. In fact, his suicide is the inciting incident of the show.
  • Ear Ache: Henry's right ear has had issues since his disappearance, and then he has the bad luck of a shotgun being fired right next to it.
  • The Empath: Molly Strand. In fact, with Henry Deaver, she feels his feelings so much that she becomes overwhelmed with them.
  • For Your Own Good: Another recurring theme. Lacy thinks he imprisoned The Kid for this reason and ultimately Henry agrees. Alan disguised the truth about Matthew's death for Henry and Ruth (mainly Henry).
  • Happily Adopted: Henry Deaver was a black kid adopted by two white people (one of whom was a pastor). Although it seems at first as if they were happy, Henry apparently had issues with his father (and vice versa). However, Henry sincerely loves his mother and she him.
  • Hate Plague: The Kid's powers grow until his simply being nearby will cause people to give in to their darkest impulses.
  • Hellhole Prison: Shawshank seems to be this. The employees are miserable, most of the townsmen are in prison for something, and that's not even mentioning the starved prisoner held hostage, maybe for years, in the water tank.
  • Here We Go Again!: The clear implication of the ending. Henry refused to be taken in by the Kid's story, just as Warden Lacy was, so locked him back up and acted as his jailer, like Warden Lacy did. He's probably not getting out unless (or when) Henry dies.
  • He Who Fights Monsters: Henry spends most of the season just trying to figure what's going on and not hurt anybody. By the end of the series, he willingly, if reluctantly, takes up the mantle left by Alan and Lacy, and chooses to imprison the Kid rather than take the risk that he'll hurt someone else.
  • The Jailer: Warden Lacy chose to be one to the Kid. Henry takes over this role at the end of the season.
  • Locked in the Dungeon: Warden Lacy locked the Kid in a disused wing of the prison.
  • Missing Child: In the flashback to 1991, Henry Deaver has been missing for eleven days, so Sheriff Pangborn isn't looking for a living boy, but rather a body in the snow.
  • Mythology Gag: Has its own page.
  • The Nameless: The Kid, who refuses to give his name to anyone. Ironically, when Henry Deaver first talks to the Kid, he tells him not to tell anyone his name, since if they don't know his name, they don't know if he's guilty of anything. It is later revealed that he is Henry Deaver from an alternate timeline. When the warden asked him who he was, he would only repeat Henry's name as Warden Lacy's last words to the Kid were to ask for Henry as his lawyer. Considering the state of the Kid's mind, it's unclear if anyone in the room, including him, knew he was also answering her question truthfully.
  • Nightmare Fetishist: Jackie Torrance openly wishes she could go back to the '80s when so much scary stuff was happening in the town, and took the name of her ax murderer uncle to spite her parents not wanting to talk about him.
  • Only Sane Man: A possible interpretation of the guard Dennis Zaleski. He's the only member of the prison staff who appears genuinely concerned for The Kid, calls Henry, and refuse to abuse his position. Fast getting subverted though, as Dennis appears to be losing his mind
    • Also deconstructed by Henry. He fulfils most of the role of Supernatural-Proof Father throughout the season, suspicious of Molly's powers and, believing it to be only a symptom of her Alzheimer's, is keen to get Ruth out of Castle Rock. However, he is finally won over by Castle Rock's insanity and decides that he has to stay behind and continue Lacy's legacy for everyone's own good.
  • Power Incontinence: Far from the evil he first appeared to be, The Kid is revealed halfway through the season to want nothing to do with his powers, and is so horrified when his mere presence brings out a family's biggest demons that he tries to kill himself.
    • Also Molly, who struggles to control her very powerful empathy and so it leaves her broken.
  • Precision F-Strike: Molly tells people to "wake the fuck up" while appearing live on a local talk show.
  • Psychic Powers: Molly Strand, who has an extreme version of empathy.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: After years of witnessing the abuses of power at Shawshank, Zaleski snaps when Henry decides to abandon The Kid's case (and possibly under the control of The Kid after a fist bump) and slaughters most of the guards before being gunned down.
  • Scatterbrained Senior: Henry's mother, who has some form of Alzheimer's. She is looked after by the former sheriff, Allan Pangborn.
  • Sealed Evil in a Can: Or, well, locked the Kid in the disused wing of the prison in Lacy's and Henry's case.
  • Secret-Keeper: A common role passed around Castle Rock. Alan plays this role to both Lacy (he let Lacy kidnap the Kid because he trusted Lacy), and Henry (he found out from Matthew that Henry probably killed him and buried this information). Molly also has reason to believe Henry killed his father, but keeps it a secret.
  • Sex Slave: The guards speculate that the Kid was this to Warden Lacy. Probably not true.
  • Thrown Down a Well: Warden Lacy locked a boy at the bottom of a water shaft in a disused portion of the prison that nobody ever visited. He was the only person who knew the boy was even there, until the prison was sold to a private company and Warden Lacy killed himself.
  • Town with a Dark Secret: Guess.
  • Trash of the Titans: Joseph Desjardins' house is in a real state, with decades-old garbage and a piano that seems to have fallen through a rotten floor.
  • Wardens Are Evil: Played with: Warden Lacy definitely believed himself to be a good man and only locked up the Kid because "God" told him to, with the assumption that the Kid was responsible for all the bad things that happened in Castle Rock. Meanwhile, Lacy's successor keeps the Kid locked up for monetary reasons — she knows things will be bad for her company if anyone found out Lacy had kidnapped a boy and kept him locked up for years, so wants to keep it all a secret.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: What Warden Lacy thought he was. Whether he is or not remains to be determined, as he kidnapped and imprisoned a boy for years, but is also known to have done good work. Also Alan Pangborn appears to have inherited this role, as shown when Lacy tells him that he is Castle Rock's only protection now.
  • Wham Episode:
    • 1x04: Zalewski's massacre at the prison.
    • 1x07: Ruth's killing of Alan Pangborn.
    • 1×09: The Kid is revealed as Henry Deaver from an alternate universe. Our Henry Deaver was held prisoner by the Kid's equally insane father for years, and the Kid only became stranded in our universe while trying to help our Henry escape and return home.
    • 1x10: Henry (perhaps in denial about the existence of the alternate timeline and his own imprisonment) refuses to help the other Henry return home and puts him back in his cell underneath Shawshank.
  • Wham Line:
    That's where you died. Said by The Kid/Henry to Molly.
  • Wham Shot: In a quite clever piece of direction, Zaleski goes on a shooting rampage throughout the prison, all seen with no sound through the security monitors.
  • Why Don't You Just Shoot Him?: Lacy is unable to kill the Kid because he has doubts about his evil. Even after Henry sees the Kid's monstrous face, he still can't kill him despite all the evidence suggesting that the Kid is an evil entity with his eye on Castle Rock.

Season 2 tropes include:

  • Adaptational Attractiveness: Annie Wilkes in Season 2. Lizzy Caplan is much younger and thinner than Big Beautiful Woman Kathy Bates, and definitely more attractive than how Annie is described in the book.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Joy is saved from possession, the cultists are defeated for good, and although Pop dies, he does so heroically, instead of being slowly killed by his cancer. But after the Time Skip, Annie's paranoia convinces her Joy's possessed after all, and she murders "Amity"; when she realizes she was wrong, she has a total mental break and starts stalking Paul Sheldon. And Henry's gone missing.
  • Chekhov's Gun: It's mentioned that medication used for treating mental illness affects the possession process, preventing the cultist from fully taking over the host body. This is later demonstrated when Nadia injects the possessed Chris with Haldol, which allows his original personality to temporarily emerge.
  • Composite Character:
    • Annie Wilkes also has a sizeable bit of Margaret White in her, becoming a wildly overprotective mother with a serious case of Black-and-White Morality.
    • Ironically, Annie Wilkes's family also takes on a heavy chunk of Paul Sheldon's arc in Misery. Annie gets chained to a bed with damaged legs in Season 2; Annie's father is a successful writer who treated his eldest daughter as his muse.
    • Ace Merrill rather ironically takes on the role of Ray Brower ...and then Gage Creed.
  • Cruel Twist Ending: The ending to Season 2. Joy is saved from possession. But wait. Annie begins to suspect that the possession actually worked, so she does drown Joy. But it turns out that all those "signs" were actually just perfectly explainable, so Annie killed Joy for no reason, and then she starts stalking Paul Sheldon.
  • Family Relationship Switcheroo: Annie Wilkes's daughter Joy is, in fact, her half-sister whom she kidnapped after accidentally killing her father and then attempting to murder Joy's real mother.
  • Foreshadowing: The creepy "witch" decorations set up by the town accidentally cause Annie to crash her car. The real deal later target Annie and then Joy for possession by their leader.
  • Gender Flip: The Stand by Me gang is now three girls and just one boy.
  • Impaled with Extreme Prejudice: Played with in "The Laughing Place." Teenaged Annie, in a moment of fury, shoves her father down a flight of stairs, and he's impaled on a splintered banister. But he doesn't die instantly, as some characters have in other works of fiction, which is where the "extreme" part of this trope comes in.
  • Improvised Imprisonment: Warden Lacey and, at the end of Season 1, Henry imprisoned the Kid in a hole in a disused ward of the actual prison as he heard the voice of God telling him to do so.
  • Insistent Terminology: Various characters remind people the cultists weren't witches, they were Satanists. (Although this is also incorrect.)
  • Jerkass Has a Point: Any King fan knows Annie Wilkes and Ace Merrill are serious bad news, but this also makes their innate suspicion of each other (plus Annie's for the rest of the town) absolutely right.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Pop Merrill is just as much of a profane loudmouth as in the original canon, but also took in Somali refugees and is still looking after their well-being as adults.
  • Like Parent, Like Spouse: Annie's obsession with male writers, as shown off in Misery, seems to have originated with her father, a successful writer.
  • Mugging the Monster: Even for one of the most physically imposing characters King created, threatening Annie Wilkes, and especially her daughter, is a very bad idea.
  • Tragic Villain:
    • Rather surprisingly, Annie is turned into one. She's well aware she has a serious mental illness and is desperate to control it, wanting more than anything to give her daughter a good life. There's just that pesky murder she's on the run for.
    • Amity. She made a deal with "The Angel" (who seems to be the Devil), and intended to kill the whole town of New Jerusalem...but she was starving to death due to the oppressive mores of her age.
  • Wham Shot: The identity of the "angel" worshipped by Amity and the other pilgrims all the way back in 1619? Seemingly none other than THE KID.