Let The River Run – | Review Score – 4/5
New Jerusalem – | Review Score – 4/5
Ties That Bind – | Review Score – 4/5
Restore Hope – | Review Score – 3/5
The Laughing Place – | Review Score – 4/5
The Mother – | Review Score – 3.5/5
The Word – | Review Score – 4/5
Dirty – | Review Score – 3.5/5
Caveat Emptor – | Review Score – 3/5
Clean – | Review Score – 5/5
I really enjoyed the first season of Castle Rock. I loved the mystery, suspense and general creepiness surrounding The Kid, with the added bonus of King’s other works making cameo appearances. However, the ambiguous ending and general lethargic pacing at times made it a pretty polarizing title for a lot of people and many were turned off by this. Back for a second season, Castle Rock shakes free of any concerns hanging over this one and delivers a surprisingly robust and well written season. Although it does stumble a few times along the way, Castle Rock manages to finish strongly, delivering a really well-worked finale that perfectly rounds out its story in a satisfying way.
Much like the first season, Castle Rock takes influences from Stephen King’s novels and blends them together to form a mash-up of ideas. This time around, Castle Rock acts as a spiritual sequel to Salem’s Lot and a prequel to Misery, starring the infamous Annie Wilkes. The story begins simply enough, with Annie and her daughter Joy driving from place to place in search of the fabled Laughing Place. When they stumble upon the quaint town of Castle Rock and find themselves stuck there indefinitely, Annie finds herself caught in the midst of a dark, supernatural story that begins deep in the heart of the town.
With a mall on the verge of being built, unfortunately the plot of land chosen happens to be the burial site at Jerusalem’s Lot, overlooking the ominous shadow of Marsten House on the horizon. As the series progresses, both Annie and Jerusalem’s Lot become entangled together, building up to a spiritually charged story that sees Annie battling to save her daughter and the various townsfolk as things plunge into nightmarish hell late on. All of this builds up to a dramatic finale that rounds things out pretty well and pays tribute to one of King’s most infamous leading ladies in the process.
By sticking to these two stories and rarely deviating from the main plot line, Castle Rock feels far more streamlined this time around, with a single flashback episode adding more colour to Annie’s troubled past. Although I commented originally that this would be one of the more polarizing episodes, it’s arguably the best of the season on reflection. The season’s not perfect, and the penultimate episode feels pretty generic by comparison to the rest of what’s offered here, for the most part Castle Rock remains steady and consistent through much of its run-time.
Those expecting a genuinely scary or tense story may be left disappointed. Instead of wrapping itself in layers of mystery like the first season, Castle Rock instead keeps one central mystery beating at the heart of this one and peppers in a litany of different ideas around that to keep things interesting. The result is a season that feels a lot more consistent this time around, while the nods to the first story, especially late on, does well to keep things tied together and rewards those who persevered through to the end of that one.
In terms of horror TV, Castle Rock may not be the best show out there but it is one that feels a lot more accessible this time around. The visuals are decent, the camera work consistent and the story remains a central focus throughout. Castle Rock isn’t perfect but it is an improvement over its predecessor, making it one of the shows I’d highly recommend watching, especially given you don’t need to have seen the previous season to understand this one. Whether this will be renewed for a third season remains to be seen but for now, there’s enough character and flair with Castle Rock to make it worth a watch.
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Verdict - 8/10