Neil Runge | Staff Writer
Good news for the spooky season — Castle Rock, based on the works of Stephen King, has returned. The first season premiered on Hulu last year, and this past Wednesday, the horror anthology is back with the first three episodes of its second season that bring famous stories to the screen with an all new plot.
The concept for Castle Rock is that each season will follow a central character from a piece of King’s body of work, then connect the main character with other characters and settings featured in various works through an original plot. This season follows Annie Wilkes before her time in the novel Misery. Other major players in these first few episodes are Pop Merrill from the novella The Sun Dog and his son, Ace, from the novella The Body better known for its movie adaptation Stand By Me.
The casting choices for this show were spot on. Lizzy Caplan takes on the role of Annie Wilkes and gives a phenomenal performance that fills the shoes that Kathy Bates put out after the movie adaptation. Annie is a terrifying woman, and though she keeps a helpful and cheery disposition, Caplan manages to capture that eerie happiness beautifully.
Following the tradition of bringing King adaptation alums, set by the first season with Carrie’s Sissy Spacek, Tim Robbins returns to the world of King by playing Pop Merrill. Robbins is known for his role as Andy Dufrane in The Shawshank Redemption. Robbins’ character Pop is far different from Andy. Pop is a known criminal and a father that’s determined to handle his kids in his own strict way. The skills displayed by Robbins show that he’s still perfect for a King work.
Creators Sam Shaw and Dustin Thomason continue to impress and excite viewers with their incredible talent for being able to give Castle Rock a classic King atmosphere without the show having to be a direct adaptation of his stories. Shaw and Thomason, with help from executive producer J.J. Abrams, have surpassed the expectations for the horror genre.
The show goes beyond cheap jumpscares and pure gore. Castle Rock has the ability to cause fear and let it grow until the viewers are at the edge of their seat, hiding behind their hands. From the music to the camera angles, everything is there to build the tension and drive home the idea that something just isn’t right about this town or the people who live in it.
The horror in the show is built by surrounding ordinary moments with scenes of terror. Using the same song in a road trip montage and a scene of someone disposing of a body adds an air of fear to the whole episode, because the audience now knows what that character is capable of doing. The familiarity of the characters also adds to the horror. Although the plot being told is new, the characters are ones that many fans of Castle Rock have grown up knowing.
When King fans open the first episode on Hulu, they’re anticipating Annie Wilkes to constantly be a few steps away from murder. By the time the opening finishes, the viewers have already done a majority of the work on building the feeling of tension and suspense. The rest of the build up is handled by Shaw and Thomason, who take the preconceived notions of the audience and expand upon them.
The rest of the season should be a terrifying journey to go on. As the connections between Annie and the other characters are further fleshed out each Wednesday. It’ll be exciting to see what twists and turns the writers throw into this new season.