I grew up on Stephen King novels, so Castle Rock, Maine is a familiar, beloved stomping ground for my imagination. When a 10-episode mini-series came along that promised to uncover the mythical town’s dark heart and soul, and quite possibly, the root of all its misfortune and evil – let’s just say, they had my attention.
But that’s not really what happened. Not exactly, anyway.
Maybe I got carried away with the hype-machine, leading me to conjure up (impossible) expectations. In my mind, I was primed for the “great reveal” of this corner of King’s universe, four decades in the making. I was ready for the Apocalypse itself to descend on Castle Rock and lay its secrets bare.
Instead, what we got was a quasi-cerebral stroll through a tale about multi-dimensional schisms, fractured timelines, toxic psychic vibrations, and the tapestry of events as seen through the lens of those gifted (or cursed) with the ability to perceive them.
Whether that’s true or not depends a lot on the nature of “The Kid” portrayed by Bill Skarsgård – and who or what he really was. Aside from a flash of the camera and a single creepy smile, that’s a question the show left largely unanswered.
Either way, much of the story itself was left to interpretation and imagination (which certainly isn’t a sin) and very little was laid out for the audience in black and white. Even the roles of the various characters throughout the story were left largely open to debate – especially when left to the viewer to decide if the fractured timelines were real or not.
That was a double-edged sword. On one hand, the murky, mutable nature of the story leads to a pretty interactive viewing experience – there were a lot of threads to unwind and facets to dissect. On the other hand, that also got a little tedious, often substituting lack of information and revelations for actual suspense. Mystery by way of omission and stingy storytelling isn’t so compelling.
Lack of information seemed to be the bedrock upon which Hulu’s Castle Rock was built. Most of the show’s dangling story threads were left to dangle all the way up until the final episode. Then, rather than being wrapped up, they were swatted at by a cat’s paw and left to dangle on indefinitely. In some ways, it resembled “Lost” in that fashion – tacking on one unresolved “mystery” after another until culminating in a finale left largely to the viewer’s interpretation.
I can’t help but feel that the show’s mysteries were only mysterious in concept and wouldn’t have been satisfying at all if dragged out into the spotlight and laid bare. Have no fear – they aren’t. Almost all of them are kept in a shoebox in the back of the basement from start to finish. They probably work better that way.
Overall, I enjoyed Castle Rock, but I also was in no hurry to work my way through it. I didn’t sit down and breathlessly binge-watch all 10 episodes over the course of a weekend. Pretty sure I digested it at the pace of about 1 episode a week until I was done. And that was plenty of Castle Rock for any given week.
I’ll grudgingly give it a 7.5/10 for strong performances by an impressive cast and being thought-provoking and unusual. But it’s not going to rate any higher than that because of its tendency to drag (and drag… and drag…) while crutching on preserving its sense of mystery through old-fashioned lack of information.
Hulu’s Castle Rock – Rating: 7.5/10
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