Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (December 26, 2018)
Steven King fans know “Castle Rock” as the fictional Maine town in which a number of his stories take place – as well as the name of Rob Reiner’s production company. In 2018, Castle Rock became a Hulu series that uses King’s themes and characters.
This two-disc set provides all 10 episodes from the series’ first season. The plot synopses come from the package’s insert.
Severance: “Death row attorney Henry Deaver (André Holland) returns home to Castle Rock.”
Like virtually every other pilot episode, “Severance” works to set up the series’ characters and situations. “Severance” does so in an efficient and effective manner that leads us to want to see where the show will go from here.
Habeas Corpus: “Henry gets a new client at Shawshank Prison.”
Arguably the episode’s most interesting elements come during its introduction, as these highlight various spooky elements of the Castle Rock setting. The rest of the show moves at a more gradual pace, but it still manages to thicken various plot and character elements.
Local Color: “The past catches up with Molly Strand (Melanie Lynskey).”
Molly played a minor role in the first two episodes, but “Color” definitely increases her prominence, and it also develops her backstory with Henry. Throw in more information connected to “The Kid” (Bill Skarsgård) and this turns into another effective show.
The Box: “As Henry prepares for court, a coffin arrives in town.”
Throughout the season to date, the question of what happened to young Henry (Caleel Harris) when he went missing remains a major thread, and it gets a bit of goosing here. Other parts of the episode feel less interesting, but it’s still a pretty engaging show overall.
Harvest: “As Castle Rock honors Pangborn (Scott Glenn), a stranger pays a visit.”
A mysterious figure during the first few episodes, “The Kid” receives more exploration here – and it’s not fun stuff, as we get hints of his dark background. In addition to other developments, these areas add intrigue.
Filter: “A funeral stirs up unsettling memories. Henry’s son (Chosen Jacobs) arrives.”
After five episodes of hints and clues, “Filter” offers actual exposition – well, in its own spooky, vague way. Some of this feels contrived but I’ll take the more concrete orientation, as it helps advance the narrative in a more comprehensible manner.
The Queen: “Memories haunt Ruth Deaver (Sissy Spacek).”
Prior synopses left out characters with prominent roles in those shows, but this overview wraps up “Queen” well, as it focuses heavily on Ruth. This gives the show an unusual flavor, especially due to the way it portrays Ruth’s erratic mental state. These factors turn “Queen” into an especially impactful show.
Past Perfect: “Henry follows a clue as newcomers land in Castle Rock.”
The best parts of “Past” come from those “newcomers”, a married couple from the Pacific Northwest (Mark Harelik and Lauren Bowles). We briefly met them in an earlier show, but they become more interesting as we get to know them better. Other aspects of the episode feel less interesting, but the program still comes with more good than bad.
Henry Deaver: “There’s a world beyond these walls.”
There’s a vague plot synopsis for you, but it makes sense, as a more formal description of the episode’s events would automatically enter “spoiler” territory. “Deaver” includes major revelations and sets up the season finale well.
Romans: “Some birds can be caged.”
Another loose synopsis, all for the same reasons “Deaver” came with such a broad overview – spoilers! Suffice it to say that “Romans” manages to tie together a lot of the season’s plot threads, and it brings the year home in a positive manner.