Castle Rock - The Word + Dirty - Review By Milo MJ (December 3, 2019, 2:00 pm)
Castle Rock 2.07 "The Word" - Review:
I was expecting the show to not display any connection at all between its two seasons when it was announced as an anthology so the biggest surprise was to see the chilling return of Bill Skarsgård's The Kid in the flashbacks, presenting himself as a mysterious Angel that watches over Castle Rock and it’s inhabitants. We saw the origins of Ace’s cult in the flashbacks, and Ace’s plan to use Annie Wilkes as the vessel for a so-called “witch” was fascinating to watch unfold. The show nailed the tone and feel of The Word’s flashbacks giving them a sense of eeriness to them that reminded me of not just Salem but also The Witch, one of my favourite horror movies – if not my favourite horror movie, of the last 10 years.
Pop is smart enough to realise that something’s not right with Ace when he notices that he has brought people together ranging from Abdi’s allies to members of the police under one banner, and although Ace’s organisation isn’t without dissenters of its own, they are enough to leave Pop a worried man – he gives Abdi the heads up despite Abdi hating him, and it appears Pop has lived long enough in Castle Rock to have experienced some of the stories, and maybe even took part in some of them himself – he recalls the events of the first season and returns to Shawshank Prison to find out the prison cell that used to belong to the Kid in Season one is still there, and it it’s still locked from the inside, complete with clothes in the cage.
Bringing Tim Robbins back in such a significant way to the Kingverse has been one of the series’ greatest strengths so far, and seeing Robbins back in Shawshank Prison again (remember, he’s been there once before playing a different character in The Shawshank Redemption), was a pure delight to cap off an all-round excellent episode that the series writers couldn't resist (I mean, would you be able to if you were in that position?). Not caught up in the trance that affected the rest of the townspeople by the end of the episode at the Church, Pop wondered away – alone, and it’s becoming increasingly clear that the only way he’s going to stand a chance of surviving the horrors that are affecting Castle Rock are if he reunites with Abdi and Nadia in time. It would be all too predictable if Pop was to earn Abdi and Nadia’s redemption by sacrificing himself to save them, so hopefully Castle Rock has something more surprising in store for us.
Annie meanwhile turns herself in to the police when they come for her and Joy following the fallout of the last episode and tries to protect her daughter like she’s always been doing. Unaware that she’s on a collision course with Ace’s cult (Ace’s occupant being none other than Amity’s lover, Pere Augustin), Annie is still dealing with the fallout of the previous episode. And as ever; it’s Lizzy Caplan who brings her A-Game to the table in this episode, even if she plays back seat to the past of Castle Rock and Jerusalem’s Lot. If this series has taught me one thing – alongside that of the rest of Stephen King’s work, is that I’m never, ever going to visit Maine.
Bringing The Kid back was not the only revelation that we got this episode although it retrospectively answers some questions that we had lingering from Season 1 whilst not shutting doors entirely; is he an Angel? Or is he a demon masquerading as one? It seems more likely that he’s the latter in this episode; especially given the actions of Ace’s demonic cult. The French colonists of New Jerusalem exiled Amity Lambert – played wonderfully by Mathilde Dehaye, who encountered an Angel on a clifftop that would reshape Castle Rock. Rebelling against their overlords who deem the dead crops finding new life to be more witchcraft; the townsfolk burn them at the stake after the Angel commands it through Amity; and a long and bloody period of the town is launched.
Although Mike Flanagan is getting all the attention and rightly so for adapting multiple Stephen King stories successfully handling both Gerald’s Game and Doctor Sleep really well, full credit has to be given to the showrunners Sam Shaw and Dustin Thomason for tackling not only Misery but more importantly Salem’s Lot without fear and finding common ground to link both storylines under the banner of the first series. Few could have done justice to this storyline, as is evidenced by the dreadful miniseries that most King fans will have already seen, and it ranks at completely the opposite end in terms of quality of his adaptions.
The revelation of the statue at the end of the episode to bear a striking resemblance to that of The Kid showcased its raw power, and if the statue alone could hypnotise so many people, what chance do those immune to him have against the real thing? Pop making a beeline to leave Castle Rock as fast as possible seemed like a good thing to do.
Castle Rock 2.08 “Dirty” - Review:
It’s hard to see things in Castle Rock ever being the same. The townsfolk have all been converted into following the Angel statue through on the parade march, and meanwhile both Joy and Annie are being manipulated by Ace who presents himself as a friendly, all-welcoming reformed man. It’s true that Ace has reformed; but his intentions for Annie don’t quite line up with hers, and it isn’t long before Annie discovers the buried secret in the basement beneath the manor house that Ace and his followers have converted – the bodies that are piling up there, and what that means for Ace’s plan.
Opening with Leonard Cohen’ Avalanche in the first scene, Castle Rock filled the King category of gore, blood and violence. It was foreboding, abliet shorter than the previous episode and worked as a nice character-centric episode for Annie who has been the star of this season no matter how many distractions we’ve had along the way. Annie confronted dangers both new and old in this episode; as she was haunted by a vision of her mother who tried to follow through on her plans to commit suicide by taking Annie with her, and the show seems to suggest that Annie plans to do something similar with Joy this episode. It’s clear that Annie doesn’t trust easily and she’s already asking questions the moment Ace tries to convince her to stay in Castle Rock, and by switching as Amity’s vessel from Annie to Joy this episode was an interesting twist and a welcome one. It gives Annie reason to stick around in Castle Rock of her own motivation and just cause, and having been taken by the statue of The Kid makes things worrying for Joy, especially as we’ve seen in the past Annie hasn’t always made the most well-judged decisions.
The situation in Castle Rock has looked pretty helpless for those unaffected by The Kid’s statue and Nadia was on the receiving end of some good news this episode; if you could call it that. Chris tries to attack her and Nadia’s drugging him shows that drugs can infect the new vessels and defeat them, bringing the host back from the beyond and giving hope that the people of Castle Rock can be restored after all, even though it’s hard to imagine that many citizens returning to their normal forms. There are a few who escaped the call of the Statue, like those bound in hospital beds, but even despite this, it’s the first glimmer of hope that the fight is winnable this season. But that said; it creates a further dilemma if old Ace comes back into his body. He represents his own kind of unhinged danger, and represents a problem that may have to be dealt with before the season is out.
Before his turning Chris has always been the best member of the Merrill Family and to see him die trying to save Nadia was one of the more effective moments of the arc so far. His death ramps up Nadia’s paranoia and her lack of trust in anyone, and it’s hard to imagine that a reconciliation with Pop isn’t going to happen before the end of the season. Annie is still lurking about but she has her own motivations and Nadia isn’t likely to trust her anytime soon given their history, and vice versa. Out of the two storylines Nadia’s is the only thing that’s interesting regarding the B-plots, as Annie and Joy’s have always remained the most interesting. So putting that back front and centre instead of the vessel plot was a welcome one, even if the writers have taken plenty of care to keep Castle Rock relatively grounded and foreboding despite this.
With just two episodes left, I cannot wait to see how the season wraps up.