Any horror geek will tell you that Stephen King is one of the greatest horror novelists of all time. He is known for creating a world in which monsters are real and live within us. A born native to Maine, many of King’s storylines are centered around fictional towns that lie within the borders of Maine. One such town that has been used as the setting for numerous novels is Castle Rock. From the minds of Stephen King and Executive Producer J.J Abrams has stemmed what is sure to be a knockout Hulu series. Combining suspense, psychological thriller, mystery and horror genres, Castle Rock is pure captivation.
The show is a Hulu exclusive and will only span 10 episodes. If you are iffy on the show or haven’t heard of it here is the trailer for the show. (I highly recommend watching this trailer before I spoil the entire first episode for you below.)
In the Beginning
Part I – Missing, Presumed Dead
Castle Rock is a small, decrepit Maine town that may have once been a bustling beauty. That remains to be seen beneath the boarded up buildings, crumbling foundations, and overall dreary atmosphere. From the moment the first episode begins, questions begin to arise. “Why is he loading a weapon?” “Is he going to go out in those temperatures?” “What or whom is he looking for?” A quick screen frame of his chest shows the nametape Pangborn, an officer of the law. Officer Pangborn begins his search through the frozen wilderness and, upon stopping for a steaming cup to warm his frozen limbs, he stumbles upon a boy standing in the center of a frozen lake. Henry.
Henry Matthew Deaver was the adopted son of Reverend Matthew Deaver and his wife. Apparently, both Deaver men went missing. Reverend Deaver was found half-frozen and died days later. Henry was missing for a total of eleven days and was found perfectly intact despite the temperatures.
Part II – The Sever
Framed in present day Castle Rock, an older man goes about his routine casually. This is anything but a casual morning though. The man drives to a cliff overlooking a lake and sits contemplating. We do not know exactly what he is contemplating, but whatever it is cannot be good. The man has tied a rope to a tree, fixed a noose about his neck and starts his engine. He decapitates himself and his car plummets to the water below. As the car sinks beneath the surface, the camera follows a sticker for the Department of Corrections for Shawshank. Another homage to King’s literary cannon.
Part III – The Draw
We are confronted with the adult Henry Deaver, now a defense attorney for death row inmates. He looses a case and while he is wallowing in his own misery, he receives a phone call. An anonymous caller from Shawshank prison informs him of a potential client who requested him. This potential client is the center for the thrill and mystery in this episode.
For 30 years a section of the Shawshank prison, Block F, has remained untouched. A fire in 1984 destroyed much of the wing and killed many of the inmates. When the new warden arrives she learns of this cordoned off space and charges two officers with exploring. Officer Zalewski and another venture to Block F to count the beds. While the other officer decides it is nap time, Zalewski discovers footprints that disturbed the ash. Someone had been there. This seems highly unlikely considering the two officers had to saw through the chains locking the door. It also seems incredibly suspicious.
Zalewski investigates by following the footprints and is led to a large door. The door has the same lock mechanism as a commercial refrigerator. Inside, however, is another door, this one a hatch. Zalewski opens it, curious, and manages to drop his ID badge down the hole. Regrettably, Zalewski heads down. What he discovers is beyond anything he would have imagined.
Zalewski finds a young man confined to a cage in the bottom of that hatch. He is dirty, his pupils are so dilated it is hard to tell how long he has been down there in the dark. He appears a bit emaciated and jumpy and he also doesn’t speak, at all. The only thing The Kid manages to croak out is a name: Henry Matthew Deaver.
The officer that went with Zalewski to count beds in Block F knows the name Henry Deaver. That is not Henry Deaver, not in the slightest. Zalewski overhears the new warden and her sidekick discussing what to do with the man. He has no name, no record, no information. He is entirely a mystery and rather than letting the man go, determining what happened to him, or having him undergo a psych eval, they decide to keep quiet. Why? To avoid a PR scandal and to not ruin her chances of getting on the board. At this point, Zalewski determines to contact Deaver anonymously.
Deaver, with nothing left and no clients, heads back to Castle Rock. He reunites with his mother who is now living in the company of none other than Officer Pangborn. The Kid has yet to divulge any further information and is placed in a solitary cell fixed with cameras. Deaver comes to Shawshank in search of the anonymous caller or his potential client. He is confronted with an unhelpful warden and no leads. The audience, however, has a lead. With much dramatic irony the audience is given a crumb of information. The Kid was placed in the hole by our dear departed warden.
Episode 1 Big Questions:
- What happened to Henry Deaver?
- Why did the Warden off himself?
- Who is the woman buying drugs from the high schooler? Why is she buying drugs and why does she hide from Deaver?
- Is Zalewski crazy? Seeing things? Or is The Kid more than he seems?
The Big Big Question: Who is The Kid?