By Lark Anderson
December 12, 2019
Mystery, Horror, Thriller
CAUTION!!!! MODERATE SPOILERS
One of my favorite streaming shows is Castle Rock(HULU), a supernatural horror based on characters created by Stephen King.
S1 was superb in both acting and storytelling. It was damn near perfect as far as I’m concerned, and although it left several unanswered questions, it ended as it should have, feeling deeply satisfying.
S2 is almost wholly independent of Season One—almost.
Castle Rock didn’t feel the same from S1 to S2. From a storytelling standpoint, they felt like distant cousins. S1 relied heavily on voiceover to tell the story, whereas S2 had just a touch. S1 also had more of a ‘grey area,’ meaning you didn’t know the good guys from the bad guys and their exact motives. S2 lacked that ambiguity.
Castle Rock S2 largely focuses on: Parenting children that are not your own.
Pop Merril(Tim Robbins) and Annie Wilkins(Lizzy Caplan), who do not know each other before the events of the show, are both raising children(seperately) that are not biologically theirs, having killed at least one parent of the children they are raising.
When Pop and Annie finally find themselves in the same town, the interactions of their families result in the calamity of Season 2.
In the beginning, we have Annie(Hello Misery!) traveling over several years with her daughter Joy(Elsie Fisher). A car crash leaves them stranded in Castle Rock, causing Local Scumbag Ace Merril(Paul Sparks) to take notice.
When Annie murders Ace for threatening Joy, it initiates a series of events prophesized 400 years ago. People are coming back from the dead, hallucinations are being had, secrets are uncovered, and we have a whole community on the brink of disaster.
You know, normal King stuff.
And this is all centers around the ‘Kid,’ played by Bill Skarsgard from S1.
S2 we learn more about the ‘Kid.’ We find out that a group of settlers believed he was an angel 400 years ago. The prophet of this group, Amity, sent her settlement to war in order to enact the ‘angel’s’ bidding, eventually going so far as to kill everyone in her band only to bring them back to life in present-day, taking over bodies as hosts.
We are left to wonder if the ‘Angel’ is Lucifer. Or perhaps the Crimson King himself from prior King’s work.
The thing that bothers me is that we really don’t know if the actual events of what happened in S2 were foretold or if the prophecy was thwarted. Did the ‘Kid’ have this planned all along, from start to finish? Was it to cause chaos and get key people out of the way for future seasons (Pop Merrill, Alan Pangborn from S1, Warden Lacey)?
S1 left questions that made it exciting and debateable. S2 left questions that made it look sloppy. Or, let me put it this way. The unresolved questions from S1 kept me talking about it with friends and thinking about it until the premiere episode for S2. The unresolved questions from S2 have me criticizing it.
Tim Robbins and Lizzy Caplan’s acting! WOW! They truly put on award-winning performances.
How they shot the scenes with Annie was phenomenal. The shakey camera added to the tension and her fraying mind.
The connections to King’s other works are satisfying to fans.
The ending is genuinely horrifying.
There is an unreliable narration at play with Annie that really works well, and I’m still unsure of some of the things that happened throughout the season.
The questions left behind don’t make the show more interesting. They make it look sloppy. Ex: They never explained why some could hear the sound and others couldn’t.
The Somalia angle didn’t lead anywhere.
Huge missed opportunity with Chance, who I was hoping was descended from the settlers and trying to bring this to fruition.
Annie’s backstory. Really? It was like a bland potato.
So, was Joy anything special? The sun came out? WTF? Way to leave an ARC grossly unsatisfying.
I enjoyed S2. It works as a fantastic backstory for Annie Wilkins, but that’s not really what I wanted for S2. It was a lackluster followup to S1.
I think trying to keep so many things ambiguous worked against them. I understand why they did it, but, once again, it made for sloppy storytelling.
I hope there is a Season 3 that addresses many of the issues because I did enjoy the story, despite its flaws, and I am interested in the secrets of Castle Rock and the surrounding towns.