Hulu’s Castle Rock
Season 2, Episode 1: “Let the River Run”
Directed by Greg Yaitanes
Written by Dustin Thomason
* For a recap & review of the Season 1 finale, “Romans” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “New Jerusalem” – click here
A young woman is frantically carrying a box marked THE RAVENING ANGEL on it into the woods. She’s covered in blood. This is a younger Annie Wilkes. We see an older Annie (Lizzy Caplan) and her daughter Joy (Colbi Gannett). They’re driving all over the place, from one state to the next. Time’s passing. Joy (Elsie Fisher) is getting older. Annie keeps on popping lithium, she keeps stealing from hospitals or wherever she can get a job, and her daughter’s getting tired of moving around.
This opening is set to “Let the River Run” by Carly Simon.
Stephen King Easter eggs early on: another mention of Jerusalem’s Lot— it briefly appeared last season— on a sign about a Somali community and business centre being under construction. Annie’s pumping gas when a dude collecting pictures of state plates snaps her. She makes him delete it. After that, she changes the license plate. Ms. Wilkes lives in the day and age of the internet. She knows to cover her tracks.
Soon, they’re nearing Shawshank State Prison. Annie realises she’s out of lithium. It causes her car to flip. What a time to be arriving at Castle Rock, where, coincidentally, it’s the town’s 400th anniversary. Quite the history. You could almost hear the ghosts whispering to Annie right before the crash.
A week later in town, we see John ‘Ace’ Merrill (Paul Sparks) outside The Emporium Galorium, which his uncle Reg a.k.a ‘Pop’ (Tim Robbins) owns. He’s also involved in running rackets around Jerusalem’s Lot. This brings friction because Abdi Howlwadaag (Barkhad Abdi)— whom Reg adopted, along with his sister, Dr. Nadia Howlwadaag (Yusra Warsama)— and Abdi is putting together his own mall, poaching tenants from where Ace makes money. Ace’s relationship with Pop isn’t good. He mentions “Sergeant Major” to his pot-smoking elder which his uncle advises him not to bring up again.
Annie and Joy are in Castle Rock, for the time being. Until they have to cut ties and move to the next place. Mom’s already worrying about Ace, who helped them with a tow after the crash. She frets about the “dirty bird” and what he might want out of her for helping. She hasn’t had any lithium in a week.
Annie picks up work as a temp nurse. She quickly starts to look for ways into the locked room where the drugs are kept. She’s beginning to slip mentally. How long can she last without meds? Interesting how the sound of the typewriter continues coming up when she’s getting overwhelmed, automatically bringing to mind Paul Sheldon.
Joy’s hearing all the eerie stuff about Castle Rock and Shawshank on the news, trying not to perish from boredom. She hears someone playing guitar. It’s a girl named Chance (Abby Corrigan), writing a song about witches from the area. She takes Joy with her to go hang with friends, Vera and Timothy. Joy’s upbringing is so much different, yet she manages to fit in fine. Annie isn’t enjoying her time like that. She runs into a tall, creepy man with a bloody, terrifying face. Only a hallucination from her not getting meds? A ghost? Back at the cabin, she’s trying not to go over the edge, diagnosing herself online, and generally spiralling out of control. She decides to Google herself, finding a Wanted poster with an old photo and a composite sketch.
In Jerusalem’s Lot, there are scary bugs in the sand.
Can’t be good for anybody— right?
Dr. Nadia works at the hospital where Annie is working the temp job. She notices the nurse’s rearranging of the board. She finds a necklace on the floor, which just so happens to belong to Annie. Nadia gets a visit from dad, who’s smoking weed for his cancer. She’s trying to look after him, as long as he’s alive.
A desperate Annie tries shutting down the power to get inside the pharma room. But she sees the creepy tall man with the bloody face again. Suddenly, the lights are back on again, and she’s alone. Her daughter’s home getting to be better friends with Chance, and also spying on Ace— he notices her watching outside as he’s busy preparing what looks like Molotov cocktails.
A bad coincidence happens now. Annie manages to get Dr. Nadia’s home address. She sneaks into the house, at the very same time when Abdi’s getting home, which happens at the same time as Ace showing up to light the place on fire. The naughty nurse does manage to get the keycard, barely escaping unseen.
The next day, Ace is questioned by police, and Annie’s at work stealing pills. Dr. Nadia catches the nurse in the act, forcing Annie to tell her vaguely about the “memories” that plague her, claiming she figured out “the recipe” to keep herself better when doctors supposedly failed. We also see that box she had years ago contained a baby— Joy, surely. The story Annie tells makes Nadia feel for her, so the doc offers to prescribe the meds. This act pushes Annie to decide she and Joy will stay in Castle Rock.
That night, Ace walks right into Annie’s place. He knows her real name, because he spies on his guests’ wireless internet. Ace says he wants her to shut her daughter up because Joy saw him preparing what would nearly kill his own adopted cousin/stepbrother, or whatever they call each other.
Annie feels threatened too much, backed into a corner.
She jams an ice cream scoop down his throat, slamming her fist into it so the thing chokes him to death bloodily. Another body left in her wake to clean up. She somehow gets the job done before her daughter makes it home. Perfectly, Annie takes the corpse to the construction site in Jerusalem’s Lot where the mall is being built. That’ll go over well. She’s about to cover up the body when the ground gives way. A hole opens up and bugs fly out all over the place, as she topples down onto Ace’s body.
A stunning opener for Season 2! Lizzy Caplan is outrageously good.
So much to come. Father Gore is dying with anticipation already.
“New Jerusalem” is next.