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We’ve Done Your Stephen King ‘Castle Rock’ Homework For You

It's connected to King's universe, but not beholden to it.

The first three episodes of Castle Rock are now streaming on Hulu, and if you’re not watching, you should be. But, before you do, you might be wondering: does a show set in the Stephen King multiverse require a complete re-reading of your King library? In other words, do you need to do a bunch of homework to fully appreciate Castle Rock? The short answer is no, Castle Rock is actually pretty self-contained and if you’re totally ignorant of everything having to do with the titular fictional town itself, you can watch the show without worrying too much about references you might be missing.

That said, the show is called Castle Rock because that’s the fictional place in Maine where a ton of King books take place. For the first batch of three episodes, there’s really only three books you need to peruse to fully grasp all the Easter eggs and references. Here’s what they are and why they matter.

The Shawshank Redemption 

The prison made famous in this book totally exists in Castle Rock and is mentioned enough to make you wonder if you should reread The Shawshank Redemption or possibly rewatch the famous film adaptation. The short answer is this: no, you don’t need to know what happens in either the novel or the movie to understand what Shawshank Prison is within Castle Rock, but obviously, it’s an awesome book. In the new show, the prison is simply that, a place that has a name that you’ve heard of before. At least, for now.

The Dark Half

The sheriff in Castle Rock is Alan Pangborn, a character who appears in the books The Dark HalfNeedful Things, The Sun Dog, and is mentioned in Bag of Bones and Gerald’s Game. His biggest book is easily The Dark Half, and for that reason, it’s a good one to have in your mind simply because Pangborn is a big deal on the show. He’s not exactly how he was in the books, but he is similar enough to matter.

Needful Things

When this book came out, it was billed as “the last Castle Rock story,” which of course turned out not to be true. Pangborn is a major character in this book, too, which also makes it really fun to read while you’re watching Castle Rock. This book is also super-interesting because it was the first one King wrote after getting out heavy-duty rehab. Something people don’t mention much about Stephen King is the fact that not only is he incredibly prolific, but he’s been through a lot of crazy personal stuff, too. Famously, his novel From a Buick 8 was inspired by a near-fatal car crash he experienced in real life. It’s also probably being made into a movie.

-Castle Rock releases new episodes every Wednesday on Hulu.