Hulu’s ‘Castle Rock’ flops on first season

Castle Rock's Henry Deaver (André Holland) is one of the most uninteresting protagonists in recent memory, and the show suffers greatly for that. Another case of a great actor with sub-par writing.

I was hopeful for Hulu’s Stephen King universe anthology series, “Castle Rock.” It was hyped up with a pretty great cast, with the likes of Sissy Spacek and Scott Glenn. It has all this mystery and darkness, but while I certainly enjoyed the atmosphere it displayed, I really didn’t like “Castle Rock” much, especially the season’s last few episodes.

The story takes place in the fictional town of Castle Rock, Maine. A spooky town that seems to be constantly plagued with bad occurrences. The connections to King’s works are shown in the setting: Shawshank prison plays a large part in the story, and there are several nods to other things, like Salem’s Lot. The mood and general feeling of the series really reminded me of the other Stephen King works I know of, and I found the show to feel a lot like Lost. The basic plot is that death row lawyer Henry Deaver (André Holland) is drawn to his childhood home in Castle Rock, where many mysterious things happened to him as a child. He returns to represent a strange, unnamed man (Bill Skarsgård). He encounters several characters that get involved in the main storyline, but the protagonist is most definitely Henry.

That is where the problem begins with the show. Henry Deaver is a very bland character. Holland isn’t really given good material, and I do not blame him. He basically functions as the “straight man” of the series, kind of like Jason Bateman in “Arrested Development.” He is written in such a dull way. He is surrounded by much more compelling characters, which doesn’t bode well for the show.

As a whole, the cast is very good. They are all very good at their parts, and I particularly loved Noel Fisher, Sissy Spacek and Jane Levy’s performances. However, the rest of the cast, which includes Melanie Lynskey, André Holland and Bill Skarsgård, also had stellar performances. The series, though, had major screen time issues. Noel Fisher’s character, Dennis Zalewski, and Jane Levy’s Jackie Torrance were my absolute favorite characters in the entire show, but they are barely given any screen time. Skarsgård has some strong moments, but, most of the time, his character is relegated to standing around and being odd. The only character I would say that got the screen time they deserved is Sissy Spacek’s character. A phenomenal actress in everything I have seen her in, an entire episode is dedicated to her character, and it is definitely one of the best episodes. Although, what’s disappointing about this series is that the characters are either dull with a lot of screen time, or they are very intriguing but not shown much.

There are also issues with the story. The mysteries within Castle Rock and its surroundings are intriguing, and I most certainly was into it a couple episodes in. But, it just ended up feeling pretentious in a way, as it feels like the show itself is up to par with “Twin Peaks” or something. The show just gives you false suspense that builds up and ultimately lets you down. I feel like it was insulting almost with the format in which it was released. Each episode ended on a cliffhanger to generate artificial tension. It woks with some episodes, but the ending it builds up to is just not an intriguing substance.

Overall, the show is a disappointment. It had so much promise, and the spacing between episodes (as this series was released weekly instead of all at once) gave it a sense of build up, but the show ultimately fails to be worth it. It has endearing characters that are underutilized and uninteresting ones that are used too often. There’s a common thread that the writers did not plan it all the way through, or that they weren’t given enough time to do it properly, and I think it shows. The show leaves too many plot threads just dangling, and the main plot itself really lost its steam by the last few episodes. My stance on the series may sound harsh, but I did find some enjoyment out of it. It had some fun moments and an awesome cast, but the story is just not well-executed. I could see someone going down a rabbit hole and really getting immersed in it, but it really failed to just be done in a consistently compelling way.