9:15am PT by Josh Wigler
'Castle Rock' Creators on What That 'Shining' Finale Twist Means for Season 2
[This story contains spoilers for the first-season finale of Hulu's Castle Rock.]
If the best place to finish a book is where it starts, then the best place to start dissecting Hulu's Castle Rock is where it finishes: a postcredits sequence that winks heavily toward the series' future direction.
Following the main action of the first-season finale, "Romans," in which Henry Deaver (Andre Holland) and the Kid (Bill Skarsgard) — who may or may not be the Henry Deaver of an alternate universe — are left locked in an existential battle of wills, viewers find themselves staring down a postcredits scene with Diane "Jackie" Torrance (Jane Levy) at the forefront. Jackie, an aspiring writer, reads an excerpt from her new horror novel, before stating that she's headed out west for further inspiration, digging deeper into her family history. Earlier in the season, Jackie revealed that her uncle is none other than Jack Torrance, the central figure from Stephen King's The Shining, played by Jack Nicholson in the Stanley Kubrick adaptation.
Does Jackie's season-ending statement mean what it seemingly means? Is she heading to the haunted Overlook Hotel, and is Castle Rock taking on The Shining in its upcoming second season? Don't expect a concrete answer from series creators Sam Shaw and Dustin Thomason.
"We would tell you," Shaw tells The Hollywood Reporter, "but then we'd have to kill you."
Indeed, both Shaw and Thomason would only speak about the implications of the Castle Rock closer in the abstract, and how it relates to the themes explored in the show's inaugural season.
"Besides the dueling energy of Jane Levy and the promise or the hope that some day she will find herself in the Overlook Hotel — leaving that question aside — I think part of what we strived for this season was the question of stories and the question of people," says Thomason. "Stephen King is obviously obsessed with stories, obsessed with writers, obsessed with the question with how one interprets their own narrative. In a way, ending with Jackie writing her book and finally arriving at this moment where she gets to deliver in purple prose her own experience of having put an ax in Gordon's head [in the season's harrowing eighth episode] as only she could, part of the fun and the idea of that was to solidify some of the notions of people and their own stories that exist.
"Stories are a really important part of what we set out to [explore] at the beginning," he continues, "and ending on Jackie and her amusing interpretation of her story with the hopeful promise of something to come felt right to us."
Much as Jackie's ax was left buried in another man's body earlier this season, Shaw and Thomason are leaving their plans for Castle Rock similarly slammed into their current body of work, opting not to confirm or deny the second season's location — but not without offering some clues about what's ahead. For example, without outright confirming the Overlook as a future setting for Castle Rock, Shaw and Thomason at least wrestled with the idea that their show could exist outside of King's fictional Maine setting from which the Hulu drama takes its name.
"Castle Rock is really just a state of mind," says Shaw. "In the end, Castle Rock is really the friends we made along the way." It's a tongue-in-cheek response, but one Thomason says actually speaks to their vision of the series: "I think that's exactly right! I do actually think Castle Rock is a state of mind."
The Hulu drama, already renewed for a second season, is the latest entry into television's increasingly expanding horror anthology game. Details about the show's anthological approach have been left under wraps, however. Will Castle Rock follow in the American Horror Story mold, for example, insofar as bringing series regulars back season after season, albeit in different roles?
"We certainly love the fact that Kathy Bates got to play two of the most iconic Kingian female characters," says Thomason, "and the oddness of knowing that she inhabits a couple of parts of that universe. We certainly have been incredibly fortunate and amazed by the excitement of having who we consider to be the alpha and omega of the King actors in [It star Bill Skarsgard] and [Carrie star Sissy Spacek] this season."
As for whether Castle Rock would ever return to the story of Henry Deaver in a future season, or if they view the current mystery fully resolved, Thomason offered, "We always took the approach that Steve does in his work, which is that we feel that he has been building this grand library of characters and stories that often bend back on themselves in unexpected ways. You look at Father Callahan in Salem's Lot and The Dark Tower, for example. I think the idea of returning to Father Callahan was something that had percolated in Steve's mind long before we saw him in The Dark Tower. In that same spirit, I think we feel like the time and place would have to be right, and we would hope to do it in just as unexpected a way as Steve does it with his characters."
Whether or not the future of Castle Rock belongs out west alongside Levy's Jackie Torrance and the Overlook, Shaw and Thomason are already plotting their course for season two. (For her part, Levy recently signed what sources say is a one-year deal to co-star in Netflix anthology What/If starring Renee Zellweger.)
"One thing that we set out to do at the beginning of this season was to tell a story about a very different kind of Castle Rock than the one that people had seen in the books," says Thomason, speaking to the thematic nature of what's ahead in the drama. "We wanted to tell a story about what a mill town in 2018 that had suffered from economic deprivations and job losses and exodus really looked like now in modern-day America. For us, Steve as a writer has always been incredibly contemporary. We felt like we were honoring his spirit by taking Castle Rock to 2018 rather than doing a picket-fence version of Castle Rock.
"I think that part of what we have really found true over the course of this season and what we have enjoyed writing has been some of the effects of thinking about that town and who the people are that live there and what are the everyday horrors that they face, whether it's working in a prison, suffering from dementia and the horror of that. What does a modern-day small town look like, and the aspects of the human horrors that Steve has been [exploring] for so long, are things that we certainly hope to continue to look at: taking natural horrors that we go through every day and turning them into something Kingian."
What are your expectations for Castle Rock season two? Sound off in the comments below, and keep checking THR.com/CastleRock for more coverage.