A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Castle Rock is a psychological horror drama about a town where many of Stephen King's most famous novels and short stories have taken place. King and producer J.J. Abrams seem to be testing the waters to see if an extended Stephen King universe can support a franchise, the way that Marvel and Star Wars do, for example. There are references to other Stephen King works -- Cujo, The Shawshank Redemption, etc. -- though you don't need to be familiar with them to enjoy this show. It most closely resembles a detective show, with most scenes revolving around conversation or investigation, and a few flurries of action and intense violence. That said, for a show built around tension, it's surprisingly light on other edgy material, but there are occasional bursts of profanity: "f--k," "s--t," "damn."
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What's the story?
When the warden of Shawshank State Penitentiary dies, his successor discovers that an entire wing of the prison has been vacant for 30 years, except for one mysterious inhabitant they call "The Kid." Henry Deaver (André Holland), a death-row attorney who grew up in nearby CASTLE ROCK, returns home to represent The Kid, who seems to have been abused in Shawshank. Castle Rock has a long history of mysterious, possibly supernatural, occurrences and, sure enough, strange things start to happen in the prison and in the town after The Kid appears. Deaver also must reconcile his own mysterious past in Castle Rock, and salvage his relationships with his adopted mother (Sissy Spacek), the former sheriff (Scott Glenn), and a childhood friend (Melanie Lynskey) who may be psychic.
Is it any good?
Storywise, this series is mostly boilerplate Stephen King material: a story about a mysterious outsider who may have supernatural powers that may or may not erupt in violence and tragedy. But Hulu has clearly invested a lot into Castle Rock, beginning with a killer cast of TV character actors like Holland, Lynskey, Scott Glenn (The Leftovers), Terry O'Quinn (Lost), and the legendary Sissy Spacek, who helped jumpstart Stephen King's movie career with her performance in Carrie. And their presence is needed, because Castle Rock consists mainly of conversations and investigation, the way a detective show would, as we slowly learn more and more about the extensive, eerie history of the town. The slow, deliberate pace does create a good amount of tension, and when things erupt, King's stories deliver the unsettling and terrifying moments you'd expect.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the mysteries of Castle Rock. Who is "The Kid"? Where did he come from, and what does he want? What happened to Henry Deaver when he was a kid and how does it affect him now?
How do the citizens of Castle Rock deal with trauma? Many mysterious and tragic events have occurred in this town. How do people cope with that? Are they coping in a healthy way? How does Castle Rock's past inform its present?
There are hints that something supernatural could be causing all of the mysterious events that have taken place in Castle Rock. Do you believe that? What could it be?
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