It’s the birthday of author Stephen King, the man who gave most of us nightmares with murderous clown Pennywise, evil nurse Annie de Misery, and several other memorable characters (and possibly be terrifying) from his books. For those of us who spent our childhood devouring his novels, the Castle Rock series was a welcome gift. It’s a particular choice to build a TV show around a place from the stories, without actually adapting the stories, but somehow it worked. Produced by JJ Abrams and King himself, the show takes place in the fictional town of Castle Rock, a dark and rather ghostly town shrouded in secrets. Incorporating elements from King’s books and infusing the show with its vibe, Castle Rock may not have been the author’s direct work, but with its macabre storytelling it has come close.
The first season just used locations from the Stephen King novels, including Shawshank Prison and the presence of King character Alan Pangborn (played by Scott Glenn), and built a slow-burning mystery by the second half. of the season, with an ending ambiguity that left fans making their own theories. It told the story of a prisoner whose release wreaks havoc on the lives of the townspeople.
The second season brought many familiar Stephen King characters to the table and was almost an origin story for Nurse Annie Wilkes, the main antagonist of her novel Misery. Fans probably won’t forget Annie, the murderous “number one fan” who kidnaps her favorite writer Paul Sheldon as he dies in a car accident, under the guise of caring for him. While Kathy Bates brought the character to life in the 1990 film, Lizzy Caplan gave Annie a rather emotional spin on the series. Season 2 begins with Annie and her daughter Joy making a rather unscheduled stop in Castle Rock after an accident.
While everything seems to be going well with the mother-daughter duo, the varnish of reason begins to peel off quickly. Annie is struggling with mental health issues after a particularly dark past – she’s hanging on a unraveling thread, and the only reason she hasn’t let go yet is because of her daughter Joy (Elsie Fisher). The signs of misery are there, because Annie is clearly the same character and she is a very protective mother, who will not hesitate to kill for her daughter. The parallels continue as it is revealed that Annie killed her father, and there are references to Misery’s Laughing Place.
As different elements of Stephen King’s books come together in a single mash, things turn miserably bad for Annie, as they continue to collide with people from Jerusalem’s Lot, which serves as the setting for King’s 1975 novel, Salem’s Lot. In addition to creating a macabre mix of the two novels, Castle Rock season 2 decided to incorporate more King characters such as Pop Merrill, a character from The Sun Dog, and the ghostly House Marsten of Salem’s Lot is also present. Derry is mentioned, who appears in many of King’s works and is also the sighting of the horrible clown Pennywise. Annie faces multiple missions besides battling the city’s supernatural forces – to keep herself from breaking down and to keep her daughter with her, and both missions have dire consequences.
While supernatural forces are obviously the mainstay of Stephen King’s novels, the real horrors are those of the people themselves. Destructive parents and emotionally disheveled children are a common thread in King’s works, more than monsters. In her 1974 debut novel, Carrie, King introduced Margaret White, the bossy and mentally abusive mother. The troubled parents returned as Jack Torrance in The Shining. King leaned heavily on the trend and brought out Al Marsh, the man who committed the sexual assault in the IT novel.
Castle Rock capitalized on this theme – parents convinced they were doing their best for their children, when in reality they took them to hell by the hand. Annie’s parents did not recognize her pathological behavior as a child. Annie herself doesn’t want to let Joy out of sight, and Pop Merrill has dangerous secrets he has kept from his foster children, Nadia and Abdi. This is actually the heart of Castle Rock, perhaps more than the body thieves parading the city – the emotional turmoil of parents, children and the horrors that are passed down from generation to generation. Their lives are strewn with lies and scars that bleed at the slightest touch.
Stephen King has produced a treasure trove of iconic and evil characters over the past three decades, and it looks like there is enough material to keep the filmmakers going.