Released weekly throughout the summer, all 10 episodes of Castle Rock are available on Hulu and can now be consumed by Stephen King fans as rapidly as they turn the pages of the author’s books. Set in the town of Castle Rock, Maine, the J.J. Abrams-produced series tells the story of Henry Deaver (André Holland), a lawyer called back to his crisis-plagued hometown to meet the “Kid” (Bill Skarsgård), an anonymous prisoner found in the bowels of Shawshank Penitentiary who cryptically utters Henry’s name.
The mystery is not a direct adaptation of King’s works but takes a number of situations, characters, and elements from his connected mythology, including a few you might have missed. Check out the portions of King’s bibliography that have made sometimes overt, sometimes fleeting appearances on the show. (Beware of minor to moderate spoilers ahead, Constant Reader.)
1. ALAN PANGBORN
As a boy, Deaver walked out into the woods with his adoptive father but walked back out by himself. The elder Deaver was found mortally wounded, with Henry unable to provide any explanation for what happened. His adoptive mother, Ruth Deaver (Sissy Spacek), is consoled in both the past and present by Sheriff Alan Pangborn (Scott Glenn), who was featured prominently in two King books: 1989’s The Dark Half, about murderous twins, and 1991’s Needful Things, which detailed the repercussions of a curio shop owner who takes more than money in exchange for his goods. Unlike some of the characters in the series, Pangborn has been privy to supernatural events, making his suspicion of the Kid’s true motives a powerful endorsement that there’s something not quite right with the guy.
Echoes of Needful Things abound in the show. Henry drops in at the Mellow Tiger, a bar that appeared in the book and in other King works. Later, he discovers a press clipping describing the fire that took the curio shop up in flames along with owner Leland Gaunt, who was played by Max von Sydow in the 1993 feature film. (Ed Harris played Pangborn.)
2. THE BODY, A.K.A. STAND BY ME
King’s coming-of-age 1982 novella about a group of adolescents in search of a rumored corpse near a set of train tracks was originally adapted into 1986’s Stand By Me and seems to be a favorite of Castle Rock showrunners Sam Shaw and Dustin Thomason. In the debut episode, Deaver is seen representing Leanne Chambers, a woman on death row who was once married to—and is now convicted of killing—Richard “Eyeball” Chambers (the same Chambers who taunted the kids in the novella). In episode two, there’s passing mention of a body once found near the tracks. In episode four, Deaver meets Joe Desjardins, brother of Vince Desjardins, another one of the bullies from The Body. Joe explains that his sibling headed south after attempting to collect on insurance money by cutting off two of his own fingers. Finally, in episode five, the Kid stands on the edge of a building, seemingly hearing a chorus of voices below. One of them clearly asks, “Wanna see a body?” The line of dialogue is spoken in both King’s book and the movie.
3. SHAWSHANK PENITENTIARY
It doesn’t take a lifetime King fan to recognize one of the central settings in Castle Rock: Shawshank Penitentiary, site of Andy Dufresne’s infamous escape in the 1982 novella Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption. (The title was shortened for the 1994 film adaptation starring Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman.) Shawshank is where the Kid is found locked in a cage and muttering Deaver’s name. But there are some more subversive references to that story: In the first episode, a character mentions that the ill-fated Warden Norton left a bullet hole in his office. In episode three, viewers get a glimpse of Norton in a portrait hung in the prison cafeteria (above left). There’s also a nod to the opera selection (Mozart’s “Duettino Sull’Aria”) that Dufresne illicitly piped into the prison’s loudspeakers. It’s the same piece that’s playing when Warden Lacy (Terry O’Quinn) decides to take a plunge into the nearest lake in the debut episode. In episode two, the series goes a bit meta: In an establishing shot of the prison, a street sign reads “Redemption Road.”
Curiously, neither King's prose nor the movie mention Shawshank as being within Castle Rock's town limits, though Dufresne mentions being a former resident there. In the movie, it's depicted as being in a barren area. Shaw and Thomason decided to move the building so it would butt up against residential streets and lend an atmosphere appropriate for a town economy that's dependent on the business of incarceration. "Part of the reason we chose the prison that we chose to shoot at was we loved the idea that there are houses literally in the shadow of the prison," Shaw told reporters.
4. THE SHINING
When Deaver enters a church after coming back into town in episode two, he overhears the minister addressing one of the parishioners by name—Jackie Torrance (Jane Levy). It’s a play on Jack Torrance, the hotel caretaker who slowly goes mad in both King’s The Shining (1977) and Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 film adaptation. In episode five, Jackie (real name: Diane Torrance) reveals that she took the name to annoy her parents, who were ashamed of her uncle Jack’s rampage at the snowbound Overlook Hotel in Colorado. Jackie later alludes to wanting to visit the Overlook for herself, a plot point that might gain traction in the show's already-announced second season.
King’s terrifying 1981 novel of a rabid dog cornering a mother and her child in Castle Rock has made “Cujo” synonymous with any slobbering, uncontrollable beast. While no such animal is seen in the show, several characters recall that disturbing event. “Remember the dog?” asks Warden Lacy in episode two. He even keeps a newspaper clipping (“Rabid Dog Tears Through Town”) in his office, which Deaver spots while combing through his belongings. In the same episode, a TV commercial for Sharp Cereal is shown. Sharp is the account ad executive Vic Trenton was working on while his family was being threatened by Cujo.
6. THE DEAD ZONE
King’s 1979 novel centers on Johnny Smith (later played by both Christopher Walken and Anthony Michael Hall in a 1983 movie and 2002-07 TV adaptation, respectively), a man who falls into a coma and emerges with psychic abilities. At one point, Johnny leads police to the house of a serial killer named Frank Dodd—likely the same house that Castle Rock resident Molly (Melanie Lynskey) is currently occupying. While she doesn’t refer to Dodd by name, she does mention she “sleeps like a baby” in the property that was once occupied by a serial strangler.
One of King’s most well-known works, It was recently adapted into a highly profitable film with Skarsgård portraying Pennywise the Clown, a malevolent force who feeds on children every 27 years. (Castle Rock viewers have noted that Skarsgård’s Kid character emerges after 27 years locked in a box.) In episode five of the series, the Kid appears headed for Juniper Hill, a mental institution mentioned in several of King’s novels, including Bag of Bones, Needful Things, and Insomnia. It was also where bully Henry Bowers was locked up in It.
8. SALEM’S LOT
King’s second published novel tells the story of Ben Mears, a man who returns to his hometown of Jerusalem’s Lot in Maine and discovers that the citizens are now predominantly vampires. In episode eight, Deaver’s son, Wendell, gets off at a bus stop in Jerusalem’s Lot. In episode 10, Molly directs Deaver to Harmony Hill Cemetery, site of a grave-digging sequence in the book. Harmony Hill is also mentioned in Silver Bullet, the 1985 werewolf movie starring Corey Haim and based on King’s Cycle of the Werewolf.
9. PET SEMATARY
After a stray dog is hit by a car, Pangborn and Deaver bury the animal. When Ruth Deaver suspects the undead dog is still somehow rooting through their trash, Pangborn digs it up in episode two to make sure it’s still dead. Such measures are par for the course in Castle Rock, site of King’s 1983 novel Pet Sematary, in which a pet graveyard is used to resurrect its inhabitants—including the dead son of a grieving father (Dale Midkiff in the 1989 film version).
10. MOLLY, A.K.A. THE THING OF EVIL
Castle Rock realtor Molly (what an unfortunate occupation) has no direct involvement or presence in earlier King works, but there does appear to be a connection with the author himself. King’s Corgi is named Molly, whom he often refers to as the Thing of Evil due to her penchant for getting into ice cream and napping.
In the closing moments of the series, Jackie Torrance is seen hard at work on a book project on her laptop. The decal on the cover is a call sign for WKIT 100.3 FM, the same radio station owned by King and wife Tabitha that broadcasts in Bangor, Maine. The station is also the one Warden Lacy tunes into to play his Mozart selection before driving to his death in episode one. Like much of King's work, everything seems to come full circle.