Movies & TV Shows

Why Stephen King’s It Prequel Series Is A Bad Idea

If the upcoming It prequel series Welcome to Derry focuses on Pennywise’s backstory, the Stephen King spinoff will miss what made the movies work.

The news that Stephen King’s It will soon receive a television spinoff is not necessarily good for the story of Pennywise and company. Stephen King can’t be faulted for his ambition. Although some of King’s best adaptations, like 1408, are based on the writer’s short stories, some of the author’s most beloved works rack up a staggering page count.

1978’s post-apocalyptic The Stand, for example, ran for over 1,000 pages. The sprawling story was told from dozens of viewpoints, but even The Stand’s ambition was dwarfed by King’s controversial bestseller, It. Released in 1986, It was a massive 1,138-page bestseller that chronicled a group of outcasts and their attempts to evade an interdimensional evil in the small town of Derry, Maine.

Related: The Boogeyman: Everything We Know About The Stephen King Adaptation

When It was turned into a television miniseries in the early 90s, the result was a divisive cult classic that failed as often as it succeeded. However, the two-part movie adaptation of It released in 2017 and 2019 fared a lot better with viewers and critics. In particular, 2017’s It: Chapter One was a huge success, despite It: Chapter Two having major issues. Thanks to their outsized financial success and the critical popularity of the first movie, the blockbuster series was always likely to get a television spinoff. However, the news that this It spinoff will come in the form of a television show focusing on Pennywise’s backstory is the worst possible approach for the franchise to take.

Stephen King’s It Prequel Series Explained

Reportedly, It’s television show prequel will focus on Pennywise’s origins and the tale of how Derry, Maine ended up plagued by the supernatural monster. Where both It movies zeroed in on the exploits of the Losers Club as adults and children, the television show will take a broader look at the world of Derry. Although the It series did a better job of avoiding Stephen King remake mistakes than 2019’s Pet Sematary, this prequel could well fall into a common trap by focusing on the lore of King’s world rather than on compelling characters. The series (which takes place in the 1960s), will reportedly be titled Welcome to Derry. This title alone, along with the news that the plot of the series will center on the 27-year-long curse on the town and illustrate Pennywise’s missing backstory details, could be bad news for the It spinoff series.

Why Pennywise’s Backstory Doesn’t Matter

It chapter 2 fake origin story plot hole Bob Grey pennywise

As proven by It: Chapter Two’s bizarre Bob Gray interlude, Pennywise’s origins aren’t particularly interesting. The origins of the being itself go back to the birth of America (and possibly the universe) and, as such, are more in the realm of cosmic fantasy than small screen horror. The backstory of the monster’s clown form Pennywise as an iteration, meanwhile, isn’t particularly special. As an extradimensional force of evil, It takes the form of whatever scares victims, meaning It has worn thousands of faces over the decades. As such, Pennywise isn’t a particularly notable form for the monster to take, as many people are afraid of clowns and their popularity as entertainers means the disguise is an effective way to lure children away from their guardians.

However, there is another more pressing plot hole that the It prequel series is likely to fall into here. Since Welcome to Derry will explore Pennywise’s origins, the series is likely to expand on It: Chapter Two’s Bob Gray scene. This sequence saw an elderly woman explain to an adult Bev that her father was a circus performer named Bob Gray, whose photograph reveals him to be Pennywise’s human self. The old woman then turns out to be Pennywise in disguise, prompting a flurry of unanswered fan questions. There is no satisfying way for Welcome to Derry to answer these questions. If Bob Gray was a real person who It possessed and turned into Pennywise, this leads viewers to wonder why It would bother to possess people when It can take any form it chooses. If Bob Gray turns out to have a sympathetic backstory, this won’t make the events of the movies particularly poignant since Pennywise isn’t Bob Gray — Pennywise is It, an ageless evil who happened to use this man as a conduit.

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It’s Prequel Series Has Pet Sematary’s Prequel Problem

pet sematary remake jud

Paramount Plus’s upcoming Pet Sematary prequel has an obvious problem. Despite being billed as a prequel, the movie will only focus on Jud Crandall’s discovery of the titular cursed cemetery, not its origins as a Native American holy site. This means the prequel won’t deepen the viewer’s understanding of the eponymous site, nor will it tell the story of its original indigenous creators/discoverers. Similarly, Welcome to Derry being set in the 1960s ensures it won’t really be a Pennywise backstory or a Derry backstory since It: Chapter Two’s Ritual of Chud sequence specified that Pennywise was around before Europeans invaded America. Thus, another franchise prequel will miss the chance to expand on the Native American origins of King’s story by focusing instead on 60s Americana — and this leads to another issue with the prequel.

Why An It Prequel Series Won’t Work

It Bill the losers club most important member

Despite their flaws, both It movies and the original It miniseries succeeded because each project focused on an engaging group of believable characters with a compelling intersecting story. The coming-of-age It: Chapter One would work as a Stand By Me-esque story without any horror elements. Similarly, if shorn of its horror scenes, It: Chapter Two is essentially The Big Chill or Return of the Secaucus 7. As such, focusing on the monster over his victims is a misstep. Much like Stranger Things season 4 can’t focus on the Demogorgon’s backstory over El, Mike, Joyce, Hopper, and the gang, a prequel series focusing on Pennywise profoundly misinterprets the primary appeal of It as a text. The original novel and its adaptations are beloved for bringing a group of likable heroes to life, not just for its memorable villain. That villain doesn’t particularly need a backstory or more character development, since they are an embodiment of evil and not a human. As a result, Stephen King’s It’s prequel series is likely to be a disappointment for many who enjoy both Stephen King’s work and the movie series itself.

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