Warning: SPOILERS for Castle Rock up to episode three
Since Hulu's Original series Castle Rock is built on the bones of Stephen King's imagination, it's no wonder the show is filled with its fair share of King references. Though audiences won't find classic scenarios torn straight out of one of his many books - like Jack Torrance hacking his way through a bathroom door a la The Shining or the immortal Ralphie Glick floating outside a bedroom window a la 'Salem's Lot - there is a healthy balance of subtle and overt callbacks to the author's famed literary works.
Inspired by Stephen King's literary universe, Castle Rock (based on a fictional town in which a number of King's stories are set - including Needful Things, Cujo, and The Dead Zone) explores the troubled and complicated lives of its residents. After death row attorney Henry Deaver (played by André Holland) is summoned back to his hometown by a mysterious Shawshank State Prison inmate (played by Bill Skarsgård, who will reprise his role as Pennywise the Dancing Clown in Stephen King's IT Chapter Two), a deep-seated mystery in Castle Rock begins unearthing itself, pitting him, his troubled mother Ruth (played by Sissy Spacek, who starred in the adaptation of King's very first novel Carrie in 1976), retired sheriff Alan Pangborn (played by Scott Glenn), local real estate agent Molly Strand (played by Melanie Lynskey, who starred in the made-for-TV miniseries Rose Red, which was written by King), and horror enthusiast Jackie (played by Jane Levy) against the town's seedy past.
Related: Castle Rock Cast & Character Guide
Between characters and landmarks torn straight out of his books to storylines that have already been adapted into movies and TV shows of their own, Castle Rock is filled with as much of the supernatural as it is ample servings of Stephen King trademarks. In fact, even the show's opening credits include shout-outs to a number of King's stories, including text from IT, Dolores Claiborne, and Misery, among others.
- This Page: Episode One
- Page 2: Episodes Two and Three
Episode One - "Severance"
In the first episode of Castle Rock, direct references to Stephen King's universe enter right out of the gate. The very first scene introduces Sheriff Alan Pangborn circa 1991 - a character who has shown up in several King stories, beginning with The Dark Half (which is located in the fictional town of Ludlow, Maine, which neighbors Castle Rock). However, Pangborn's most notable role is in the novel Needful Things, in which the old-school sheriff faced off against the soul-snatching demon Leland Gaunt. In Castle Rock, the 2018 version of Pangborn is retired, living with Spacek's Ruth Deaver, and played by Scott Glenn. It's worth noting that the occasional time jumps between 1991 and 2018 (27 years) is the same amount of time that It's Pennywise the Dancing Clown hibernates for prior to feeding on the young residents of Derry, Maine.
The episode also showcases Shawshank State Prison, which has been featured in several King stories, including the novella Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption (as well as its film adaptation from director Frank Darabont), 11/22/63, Apt Pupil, Bag of Bones, Blaze (written under King's pseudonym Richard Bachman), Dolores Claiborne, and It. The episode also mentions that the bullet hole from former Shawshank warden Samuel Norton's suicide is still in the warden office's wall (a photo of Bob Gunton as Warden Samuel Norton from The Shawshank Redemption is seen hanging on the wall, which makes Castle Rock especially unique in that it doesn't just involve classic King characters, but some actors who played those characters in previous adaptations).
Another callback comes in the form of what appears to be a chess piece young Henry Deaver is seen holding. These pieces show up in later episodes as well, and appear to hold some significance. In Shawshank, Andy Dufresne passes time during his prison sentence by carving a whole set of soapstone chess pieces. They represent resilience and hope; persevering, despite the odds. Whether or not those same elements carry over into Castle Rock, however, remains to be seen.
The last reference may not even be a reference at all, but is worth mentioning for diehard King fans. The episode also features a scene in which a mouse gets itself caught in a mousetrap - and though it's clearly meant to signify the fact that Henry is being drawn into a potentially deadly situation by revisiting Castle Rock, it could also be a nod to one of King's earliest short stories titled Codename: Mousetrap. The story was published in his high school newspaper in 1965.