Castle Rock returned for its second season in 2019 via Hulu. It continues to feature characters, settings, and themes inspired by the stories created by Stephen King and his fictional town of Castle Rock, Maine. This time around it focuses on Annie Wilkes in a story that predates her infamous role in King’s Misery. Annie & her teenage daughter, Joy have been traveling on the road since Joy was a child. They become stranded in Castle Rock following a car accident.
Annie & Joy take a room at the Stargazer Lodge, owned by Ace Merrill. Ace has a troubled relationship with his uncle, “Pop” Merrill, who raised Ace and his brother Chris, alongside two Somalian orphan refugees, Abdi and Nadia. Ace owns a mall property and is losing tenants to Abdi’s new development at Salem’s Lot, which worsens the friction between them.
Annie gets a temp job at the local hospital where Nadia is a doctor. She’s Short of medication to control her hallucinations but comes to an agreement with Nadia. This is after a number of frantic attempts to steal the medication from the pharmacy. Ace firebombs Abdi’s house and threatens Joy, who he knows witnessed him preparing the Molotov cocktails. Annie kills him with an ice-cream scoop and dumps his body at Abdi’s construction site. However, she falls through a chasm and encounters dozens of coffins. Leaving the body, she escapes through underground passages and surfaces at the nearby Marsten House.
From then on a mysterious force begins to take hold of Castle Rock. Ace returns from the dead but seemingly as somebody else altogether. His reincarnation unearths an ancient cult that will threaten Castle Rock and beyond. Abdi, Nadia & Pop’s relationship becomes damaged beyond repair as revelations about the reason they were adopted come to light. Joy makes some friends and begins to question Annie. She wants to know why they are hiding or more importantly, who are they hiding from?
Castle Rock season 2 continues the established story from season one. It introduces compelling new elements as well as expanding upon what came before in interesting ways. It manages to juggle a number of different storylines really effectively. It introduces new characters and gives them enough depth that you’ll feel a connection and root for their survival. However, at times certain plot points detract from the primary narrative a little too much. Annie, her backstory and her relationship with Joy is the most interesting aspect of the season. Therefore, when it doesn’t focus on this for a while it can be frustrating.
Talking of Annie, Lizzy Caplan deserves a special mention. Her disturbing performance as Annie is nothing short of phenomenal. Castle Rock season 2 is truly at its best every time she is on screen. She captures the character so well and does it complete justice as well as putting her own unique spin on it. We get to see angles of the character that we’ve never seen before and it all makes complete sense. What we’re left with is someone who while mentally ill and capable of evil, is sympathetic at the same time.
Just like the first season had one standout episode in “the queen” season two has one as well in “The Laughing Place”. It’s a fascinating delve into Annie’s past, giving certain answers for why she is the way that she is. It has a number of implications for her relationship with Joy, its great stuff.
Personally, I found this season much easier to follow than the first. Also, there is an abundance of Easter eggs for all you Stephen King fans to appreciate.
On the whole, Season 2 is a very satisfying continuation. It continues to expand into its very own shared universe based on the works of Stephen King. With the way it leaves thing, there is plenty to be answered. I can’t wait to see what comes next.
Castle Rock Season 2
The Final Score - 8/10
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