Castle Rock’s second season, which is building an origin story for Stephen King villain Annie Wilkes, took a detour this week to fill in some history on the town of Castle Rock itself and Jerusalem’s Lot next door—and to underline one of its most towering themes: The past sure has trouble staying in the past, doesn’t it?
With that came a huge reveal, so huge we need to talk about it here.
We’re all the way to episode seven, “The Word,” and so far Castle Rock has stuck to its guns about being an anthology series, with just the setting and a few passing references here and there to remind us that a lot of fucked-up stuff has happened, and is still happening, in this particular corner of Maine.
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Mostly, though, it’s been focused on the characters introduced in season two’s interconnected storylines. There are the new arrivals Annie and Joy (Elsie Fisher); Joy just found out she’s Annie’s half-sister, not her daughter, so there’s been quite a lot to unpack there. We’ve also seen violence erupt between Ace Merrill (Paul Sparks) and his adopted brother Abdi (Barkhad Abdi), with father figure Pop Merrill (Tim Robbins), who’s dealing with a terminal cancer diagnosis, and Abdi’s physician sister Nadia (Yusra Warsama) caught in the middle.
Last week, Joy’s birth mother, Rita (Sarah Gadon), showed up in Castle Rock and tried to kill Annie—but ended up accidentally shooting herself after Joy injected her with sedatives. In “The Word,” Annie’s desperate to keep Joy out of trouble, so she insists on taking the fall, making up a story about Rita being a random intruder who was killed in self-defense. The cops aren’t buying it, so Annie and Joy get taken in. That’s pretty much all we see of those two this week.
Instead, Castle Rock throws it back to 1619. We’ve long been getting hints that the town is prepping for a big 400th anniversary bash—Annie actually crashed into some decorations that had fallen into the road in episode one, which is what caused the car accident that stranded her in town. We also heard Pop describe the town’s early settlers as Satanists, rather than witches. But this week, we got a first-hand look at French-speaking New Jerusalem, where the starving population suddenly experiences a change in fortune when the town leader’s rebellious daughter Amity Lambert (a magnetic Mathilde Dehaye) returns from exile, glowing with good health and exclaiming she’s met “an angel.” Maybe even a ravening angel, like the Western novel Annie’s father spent his life trying to finish?
It’s certainly not a benevolent angel, because even though Jerusalem’s Lot prospers, anyone who questions Amity’s prophecies (including her own father) gets burned alive, tied to an upside-down cross for good measure. By the time the angel declares that everyone in the settlement must ritualistically die—with the promise of being reborn in 400 years—everyone obeys. We’ve seen their dusty coffins lurking under Abdi’s construction site, and we know that the angel’s followers have started to return. Ace, who’s possessed by the former priest of Jerusalem’s Lot, has selected Annie to serve as Amity’s (his lover’s) “vessel”—a situation complicated by the fact that a) she’s in jail, and b) the meds she pops to stay somewhat level will likely interfere with the gooey body-swap spell.
There’s also the fact that c) Annie is tough as nails and probably won’t let Ace get his hooks in her. (We’ve also seen what Joy is capable of when Mom’s backed into a corner.) Presumably, that’ll be next week’s big brawl, now that “The Word” has ripped the lid off a secret that season two of Castle Rock’s been keeping for seven episodes.
Foreshadowing abounds. If the lanky, hooded figure glimpsed early in the episode—appearing to a desperate Amity at the edge of Castle Lake, in a spot established in season one as ground zero for bad juju—doesn’t look familiar, maybe Ace’s visit to a certain empty but still intact sub-basement cell in Shawshank, later discovered by Pop (in a very cool “Tim Robbins is back in Shawshank!” meta-moment), will give it away. But Castle Rock doesn’t make you guess.
After a statue of the angel is unveiled at the end of the 400th anniversary parade, causing all in attendance (except Pop, who looks away at the exact right moment) to freeze in hypnotized awe, we flash back to 1619 and we see the angel’s face. It’s the Kid—the malevolent enigma played by Bill Skarsgård in season one.
Even if you figured he’d eventually turn up this season—a solid assumption, though the erstwhile Pennywise’s involvement was obviously a closely-guarded secret—there’s still no telling what’s coming next for Castle Rock, except that, to quote Pop, it’s “something bad.” Something very bad. The Kid couldn’t get last season’s main character to bend to his will, but clearly he had something much bigger in mind for the future. And we can’t wait to see what it is.
New episodes of Castle Rock stream Wednesdays on Hulu.
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