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The Untold Truth Of Castle Rock

With numerous big and small screen adaptations having graced cinemas and televisions in recent years, there really has never been a better time to be a fan of iconic horror scribe Stephen King. Given the general quality of many of those adaptations (ItPet SemetaryGerald's Game, and The Outsider among them), some might even say we're living in a veritable golden age of Stephen King adaptations. With fresh takes on even more of the author's work on the horizon (see: The Stand), it's safe to assume that run of first-rate Stephen King adaptations will continue for the foreseeable future. 

One of the less talked-about adaptations arrived via Hulu a couple years ago in the guise of Castle Rock. Produced by J.J. Abrams and Stephen King himself, Castle Rock hit the streaming service in 2018 as an anthology series, set almost entirely within the fictional Maine town that gave it its name. That town will be more than a little bit familiar to King fans, as Castle Rock serves as the setting for many of his own macabre tales of terror, and is name-dropped in nearly 20 other works.

Yes, that means that some seriously creepy stuff has gone down in and round the sleepy little New England town, which obviously makes it the perfect setting for an anthology series inspired by King's works. And Hulu's Castle Rock has mined several of the scribe's more popular stories in constructing its two seasons so far. Assuming the show gets a third-season order from Hulu, there's little question that tactic will continue. While we wait to see if there's more ghoulish fun headed our way in Castle Rock, here's a look at a few things you might not know about the most Stephen King-centric confection ever produced.

Castle Rock takes inspiration from Stephen King, but is not beholden to his work

If you're at all familiar with the wondrously creepy worlds conjured by Stephen King, you know there are literary horrors too numerous to count available for Castle Rock's creative team to borrow from. And setting the series within the town of Castle Rock itself puts pretty much all of them at the fingertips of the show's writing team. If the first two seasons are any indication, Castle Rock's creatives may well try to use the entirety of those twisted tales (and the characters within) in crafting their own.

True to that concept, in its first two seasons, the series has already included elements, narratives, and characters from some of King's best-loved tales, including Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank RedemptionThe Body (aka Stand By Me), Salem's LotMiseryCujoNeedful Things, and more.

Unlike other King adaptations, Castle Rock is not a straight-up re-telling of those stories, and typically uses them as a sort of entry point into the tangled universe of King's books. So far, that tactic has found the series putting wild new spins on familiar tropes, and molding them into a timeline-smashing narrative that's positively overflowing with all manner of King-tinged mirth and menace. That was particularly true of Castle Rock's second season, which found series writers blending a narrative mashup featuring King stalwarts like the Merrill family (The Body) and Annie Wilkes (Misery) with that of the body-snatching beasts first glimpsed in Salem's Lot. 

General setting aside, those narratives had never crossed over in the pages of any of King's stories. Interwoven as they are in Castle Rock, those stories bring new depth, and some seriously sinister edginess to King's already unsettling creations, which makes Castle Rock a series at once boldly original, and singularly familiar.  

Castle Rock features some familiar faces from prior King adaptations

Stories and characters aside, Castle Rock is also stuffed to the brim with winking nods toward dozens of King's stories — a fact that's made it one of the most bountiful Easter egg hunts in the history of adaptations for the author's die-hard fans. As it happens, some of the actors that have already appeared in the series are sort of Easter eggs themselves, as they've featured prominently in other big and small screen takes on King's work.

Chief among them was Sissy Spacek, who appeared in Castle Rock's inaugural season as the dementia-suffering Ruth Deaver, who was the focal point of the series' most electrifying episode "The Queen." Fans of King's work will no doubt recall that one of Spacek's earliest (and best-known) roles came in Brian De Palma's marvelous 1976 adaptation of King's Carrie, about a troubled teen with powerful telekinetic abilities. Season 2 of Castle Rock saw another King familiar join the fray with the casting of Tim Robbins as Merrill paterfamilias "Pop." Robbins is probably best known for his own remarkable work alongside screen legend Morgan Freeman in the near-flawless 1994 film The Shawshank Redemption, based on King's novella Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption.

Spacek and Robbins are not the only actors in Castle Rock's cast with prior King ties. Frances Conroy has appeared in three episodes of the show so far, having starred in every episode of 2017's small screen adaptation of The Mist. Similarly, Terry O'Quinn turned up in 1985's Silver Bullet before making four appearances in season 1 of Castle Rock, and J.J. Abrams' bestie Greg Grunberg scored a one-off turn in the TV version of The Dead Zone before making his way to Hulu's little town.      

The Kid might secretly be an iconic Stephen King villain

There's another Castle Rock actor with ties to a pair of films inspired by one of King's most frightful tales. That tale is King's macabre epic It, which scored a two-part big screen treatment in 2017 and 2019. As his performance in those films is ranked among the most terrifying villainous turns of all time, fans will likely never be able to forget Bill Skarsgård's work as the vile clown Pennywise.

It was all but impossible, then, for It fans to not lose their heads when Skarsgård turned up as "The Kid" in season 1 of Castle Rock. Though the origins of Skarsgård's character are explored later on, The Kid's surprising re-appearance in season 2 made his presence in Castle Rock all the more intriguing, even outright terrifying. Skarsgård's enigmatic presence also left many pondering the possibility he might actually be playing Pennywise in Castle Rock, and might therefore be confirmed as the driving force behind all the evil events unfolding in and around the cursed town.  

In King-land, that force is an ancient being sometimes referred as the Higher Random, of which Pennywise is a physical manifestation. It should be noted, however, that Pennywise's "hometown" is not Castle Rock, but its neighboring town of Derry. Of course, given the close proximity, the fact that Castle Rock has already spent time in the bordering town of Jerusalem's Lot, and the show's clear penchant for indulging in the connective tissue of King's works, it's possible Skarsgård is not-so-secretly (and quite ingeniously) reprising his most famous role in service of exploring It's origins.

Frankly, it'd be a massive disappointment at this point if that isn't the case.  

Castle Rock is indulging in a Dark Tower-styled multiverse narrative

As it stands, we'll have to wait and see if Hulu gives Castle Rock a third season order to find out exactly who or what Bill Skarsgård is, as well as the hows and whys of his time in the titular town. Hows and whys will likely prove the most important part of that equation, as (via a shocking first season reveal), it's unclear in which time and place this version of Castle Rock exists.

That shocker came late in the show's debut season, when it was revealed that Skarsgård's deeply troubled (and likely supernaturally powered) Kid was not only from an alternate dimension, but was that dimension's version of Andre Holland's Henry Deaver. Yes, those twists are quite confounding. They're also quite enthralling, and may allude to the future inclusion of another of Stephen King's widely adored tales, The Dark Tower.

We should go ahead and say it's highly unlikely that Castle Rock will ever actually bring the Gunslinger into its narrative, because Amazon Studios technically still holds the rights to The Dark Tower (though they recently abandoned their series plans). Still, it's clear Castle Rock's creators are intrigued by King's multiverse possibilities. And they might've not-so-sneakily alluded to The Dark Tower's sonically heralded "Thinnies" (thinned spots in the fabric of the universe that allow passage between parallel realities) with the "Schisma" noises drawing Holland's Henry into the woods where he suffered a childhood trauma (and likely slipped into another reality). 

Given the twists of Castle Rock's second season, it's less unclear if alternate realities are the future of the series' narrative, but it remains an intriguing option nonetheless. And evil entities traveling through soft spots in reality would certainly help explain why Castle Rock itself is such a hotbed for evil.