Castle Rock combines misery with a dark unsuspected twist.
The second season of the supernatural horror anthology series Castle Rock has a big surprise for us. It had us all fooled and reveals its biggest twist yet: it wasn’t really an anthology series after all. Although the first season told the story of Henry Deaver, a new character of the Stephen King Multiverse, it also told the mysterious story of The Kid.
The second season goes all in, by immersing itself into the already existing universe of Stephen King, by telling us the story of Annie Wilkes and her daughter Joy, before the events that play out in Misery. When they end up in Jerusalem’s Lot, not only their story takes a very dark turn, so does the story of The Kid. The Kid turns out to be the big story arc of this series and now a bit more about him is revealed, showing us a new nemesis or maybe even an all too familiar one.
With a more coherent storyline, a great Stephen King vibe, more familiar characters and easter eggs, and the amazingly dark and gripping story of Annie and Joy, this season shapes this new story arc into an enthralling horror story that raises the bar.
This second season consists of 10 episodes with each a duration of 35-60 minutes. It tells the story of Annie Wilkes and her daughter Joy in the town of Jerusalem’s Lot and continues the bigger story arc of the mysterious Kid.
Annie Wilkes is a nurse who travels with her teenage daughter Joy across America, looking for a job where she can steal drugs and she’s also clearly on the run. When their car brakes down and they get into an accident near Castle Rock, they decide to stay in Jerusalem’s Lot for a while. But they don’t know that the place is cursed and bad things are starting to happen.
While Joy tries to break free from her mother, secrets are revealed, an ancient Cult is resurrected from the dead and their god called The Angel is an all too familiar face. Can Annie outrun her past, her secrets and the now rising evil that slowly takes over Jerusalem’s Lot and Castle Rock?
Why you should watch it
The story of Annie Wilkes, her background, her childhood and her struggles with mental illness and the dysfunctional relationship with her teenage daughter Joy is Stephen King drama at its best. It is very gripping and tragic and intense and Annie is portrayed by Lizzy Caplan in an exceptional way, bringing the character of Annie to life and also reflects the character’s portrayal by Kathy Bates in the film. It’s the strongest part of this second season, while the supernatural events unravel around her.
But it is very much the story of Annie as it is Joy’s. Their dysfunctional relationship is cringing and hard to watch, especially from Joy’s point of view. It is based on lies and secrets, on too much love and undeserved loyalty. The exposition of Annie’s childhood is splendidly done in an exceptional episode and explains why Annie became the Annie we know and fear. It adds real depth to the character and to the story, turning a supernatural horror series into something more.
The same struggles go for the dysfunctional family of Pop Merrill who owns the pawn shop The Emporium Galorium, a familiar character in the Stephen King universe. His relationship with his nephews Ace and Chris whom he raised after his brother John went to prison is disturbed mostly due to the arrival of Nadia and Abdi Howlwadaag, two siblings from Somalia whom he fostered, after the war, where he fought as a soldier. But there are secrets.
Their family relationships resemble the problems Annie and Joy are experiencing and dysfunctional families can be considered as the overall theme in this second season. Another theme that is a recurring theme in Stephen King’s novels is the strict religious undercurrent, that leads to anger, fear and paranoia. It also surfaced in the first season, but mixed with the supernatural sound of the Schisma.
While there’s much more emphasis on the development of the relationship of Annie and Joy, the Merrill family slowly takes a prominent place in the supernatural events. Thereby connecting Annie and Joy with the supernatural events, the rising Cult and the epic fight against evil.
The Cult connects this season with the previous one by The Angel, their god a.k.a. The Kid. They corrupt the town of Jerusalem’s Lot and use the Marsten House as their base of operation. The Marsten House is a very familiar place in the vampire novel Jerusalem’s Lot.
This season feels far more like a Stephen King story than the first season. It’s more coherent and flows more naturally. Still, the supernatural events aren’t fully explained and serve as a big story arc that remains too mysterious that plays out at the background, till the last episodes, where the fight between good and evil takes place in some thrilling scenes.
But it’s a far more modern story in the Stephen King Multiverse, involving other people than white people portraying the heroes with a different background. That makes the story more inclusive but also more interesting and involves more of the whole world into the little towns in Main, America. It’s therefore a pity that although the focus always has been on Annie’s storyline, we didn’t get a satisfying ending with Nadia and Abdi or Chance who are too easily left behind, ending their stories too abruptly.
The story of Annie and Joy pushes the season to higher levels, while the story of Nadia and Abdi bring new perspectives to it. The Cult, is maybe the least interesting part of the season, due to the minimum development, the too elusive nature of The Angel and how the Cult manifests itself. It’s only a small reveal that is part of something bigger, but yet unknown to us.
With great cinematography, that felt very intense especially when it comes to Annie, superbly chosen music and a great soundtrack, this second season of Castle Rock provides us with an enthralling and compelling tale of family and horror.
My favorite part
I was greatly impressed by Lizzy Caplan as Annie Wilkes. Her portrayal was amazing and her background story really gave us a look inside her head. Her mental illness isn’t merely used for a villainous outcome, but was also enhanced and increased by the wrong circumstances. Annie is a scary but very tragic figure, that tries but fails to do good, only to protect those who she loves most. She might be the most horrific realistic person who acts out of love and fear. That storyline was very impressive and exceptionally executed.
Thrill factor: ★★★☆☆
Gruesome factor: ★★★★☆
Originality factor: ★★★★☆
Entertainment factor: ★★★★☆
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Cast and crew
Castle Rock is created by Sam Shaw and Dustin Thomason. It stars Lizzy Kaplan (Annie Wilkes), Elsie Fisher (Joy Wilkes), Pop Merrill (Tim Robbins), Yusra Warsama (Nadia Howlwadaag), Barkhad Abdi (Abdi Howlwadaag), Paul Sparks (Ace Merrill), Matthew Alan (Chris Merrill), Abby Corrigan (Chance), Mathilde Dehaye (Amity Lambert) and Bill Skarsgård (The Kid/The Angel).
Music: Chris Westlake. Cinematography: Richard Rutkowski, Jeffrey Greeley. Production companies: Bad Robot Productions, Old Curiosity Shop, Darkbloom, Warner Bros. Television. Original network: Hulu.