TV Review: Castle Rock – Episode 2: Habeas Corpus

CASTLE ROCK
Episode 2: Habeas Corpus

Starring: André Holland, Melanie Lynskey, Bill Skarsgård, Sissy Spacek, Scott Glenn, Frances Conroy, Ann Cusack, Terry O’Quinn, Jane Levy
Director: Michael Uppendahl
Writers: Sam Shaw, Dustin Thomason, Based in the works of Stephen King

Reviewed by Sidney Morgan

This review CONTAINS SPOILERS.

When it was announced that there would be an original anthology show based in the Stephen King universe, expectations were high even before anything was known. Teasers and trailers only served to excite viewers. Finally, after more than year of waiting, the show began its run. And boy were we in for a treat. It was brilliant! In that first episode (Severance), we meet Henry Deaver, whose self-exile from Castle Rock comes at an end. But his return is met with varied reactions. Only Dale seemed to want him to return, though his motives are suspect. And the reason for Henry’s return? A prisoner without a record was found and asked for him specifically. It was a great way to start the series and set the bar high. Would episode two be a worthy follow up?

In Habeas Corpus, we find out a bit more about Molly (Melanie Lynskey). Indeed, she did recognize Henry as he got off the bus, and that box of souvenirs of him is not some random collection. When she was young and living across the street from Henry’s house, she was infatuated with him (and perhaps still is). However, though it’s been two episodes, she hasn’t yet met up with him. But she’s thinking about him.

In one particular flashback to the time he went missing, a police officer comes into Molly’s bedroom to ask if she might have an idea of Henry’s whereabouts. She looks absolutely terrified. Once the man leaves, she exhales, and her breath is visible. But the officer had just finished saying Molly was lucky to be in a warm house!?! Could it be a sign? In The Exorcist, when Father Merrin and Father Karras perform the exorcism, their breaths are visible as well. Could it be that some evil entity is present and at work in Molly’s room? So many questions…

The kid (Bill Skarsgård).

Dennis Zalewski (Noel Fisher) is the Shawshank guard who tipped off Henry with the anonymous phone call in the first episode. Something about the kid (Bill Skarsgård) is gnawing at him, and he appears to genuinely be concerned about his treatment (hence the call). However, Dennis is also hesitant because the new warden clearly said she doesn’t want this to go public. The last thing Dennis wants is to lose his job. But the concern and the fear are affecting him. He’s seeing things that make no sense. He’s torn between thinking it’s the lack of sleep he’s been experiencing or something else, some other power at work. And when he asks the kid what he thinks, he’s met by an eerie blank stare.

Dale’s story is expanded through flashbacks and voice-overs. There’s something rotten in the town of Castle Rock, and it’s caused no end of tragedies. Dale is convinced that something evil is taking over the town and he knows (or thinks he knows) who can stop it – though that nugget of information isn’t shared with viewers yet. Like many of King’s stories, it’s an evil that’s been around for a long time. Its effects are seen on both people and the decaying town itself. Oh, and Dale’s a man of faith… like John Locke (Lost)! This appears to have Abrams signature all over and it’s fantastic!

Henry (André Holland) and Jackie (Jane Levy).

Jane Levy, who did a really good job in the Evil Dead remake, made her series debut in this episode. Confident, laid back and with a dry humour, she seems to know things about Castle Rock, both the ‘cover’ stories as well as the true versions. We also find out why some of the townsfolk dislike Henry, as she gives him the cover story of what happened to his father – although Henry is quick to correct her with the true version. But the most interesting about her character is her name.

Once more, we are gifted with references to various works of King. Listen carefully to the opening monologue, voiced by Dale, as there are a few callbacks to some of the stories. Later, when Henry searches through Dale’s office, he finds a folder that contains newspaper clippings. You might have to pause the stream, but it’s worth it. But most interesting, or rather intriguing, is Jane Levy’s character’s name. Jackie Torrance. It can’t be a coincidence that it’s almost the same as Jack Torrance (the caretaker of the Overlook Hotel in The Shining). What does it mean? Are they related? What are the show’s creators hinting at? In the novel, Jack was coerced into trying to kill his son and wife. Will Jackie be coerced into some ghastly deed as well? Thinking about all these small details generates suspense, and it’s brilliant.

The show continues to impress. From the visual quality, the drab colours – even in the middle of the day, the blue of the sky is pale –, and the sets, the director has clearly communicated the tone, the decay, the evil that is swallowing up this town. Along with the actors who continue to give great performance, this show is an absolute pleasure to watch.

Verdict

The first episode set the bar high for Castle Rock. It was an excellent, high-quality start. This second episode, Habeas Corpus, continues that trend. The story is gripping, the characters real and when the final credits roll, it’s as though no time has passed. You’re left wanting more. If you haven’t yet started watching, there’s only one question… what are you waiting for?

Castle Rock is now available on Hulu.

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