Castle Rock Season 2

Castle Rock Season 2 Episode 4: Restore Hope-Recap and Review, The 3 Most Amazing Theories

Secrets are dangerous; in Castle Rock they are downright deadly. Here are the three biggest theories.

Depth of character was a problem in season one. Shy of episode seven, The Queen, which was a tour de force performance from Sissy Spacek, character development came secondary to plot twists. More concerned with the “gotcha”, then the what now, story beats frequently were entertaining but hollow. Showrunners Sam Shaw and Dustin Thomason took those notes and delivered a masterclass in mystery box series’s, where the people matter as much as the mystery.

Pop Merril is a mostly good man with some gray morals regarding business. He is haunted by the mistake that brought Nadia and Abdi into his life. It’s not hard to make the logical leap between guilt and criminal activity. He believes he isn’t worth much more than that, and as a result that is what he became. The Pop pf the literary Stephen King Universe is hardened and corrupt, while Tim Robbin’s version in Castle Rock is a much more complex character. A devoted adopted father to four children, shrewd businessman, war veteran, and cancer sufferer this Pop is multifaceted.

Courtesy of Dana Starbard/Hulu

His relationship to each of the four children was explained this week. His sister Brenda had two children John “Ace” and Chris which Pop adopted and raised as his own. Additionally he also adopted two orphans from Somalia, Nadia and Abdi which he raised alongside his nephews. His motivation for caring for Nadia and Abdi is a common one, guilt. The brother and sister were left orphaned when a tragic accident killed their mother in the war torn country. What is even sadder is the family was fleeing to America shortly before the event. Until last night, Abdi and Nadia thought an anonymous soldier shot their mother when in reality it was Pop. Now that she knows the truth, it will be interesting to see how this informs their future.

Just like Pop, Nadia is driven by her past. She feels responsible for her mother’s death and can’t lose Pop as well. That is, before a nighttime breaking and entering session brings insight into her adopted father’s role in her life in America. Her ability to save herself from Ace’s thugs prove she is capable of protecting herself. With Joy now residing in her house, she and Abdi will need to use that self preservation to keep them from harm. Danger is coming from many angles, and Annie Wilkes is the least of their concerns.

Annie Wilkes has found herself in the unexpected position of potential hero. Sure she’s a little off her rocker, and her meds, and probably killed several people in her past, but at least she isn’t a member of the unholy Ace Merrill gang. Less was seen from her this week as the other story lines got more screen time. Even with limited time however, Lizzy Caplan was able to infuse Annie Wilkes with just the right mix of danger and sympathy. That depth of character leads to what could be the biggest twist.

Annie Wilkes, antagonist of Misery, hater of obscenity, ice cream scoop wielder, and all around disturbed person will be the hero of Castle Rock season two. She may be slightly manic, but at least she isn’t a vampire or whatever Ace’s gang is. She has already proven herself capable of extreme violence when necessary and her intense desire to protect Joy coupled with her resourcefulness could be a cool foil for Ace.

Annie also drives the second coolest theory of season two. Annie has already killed someone for love of literature. Before Paul Sheldon, she attempted to write her own novel, Ravening Angel. From all the blood Annie is seen sporting, not to mention the infant she is fleeing with I’m going to go out on a limb and assume it wasn’t well received.  The novel found by Joy in the locked box is on a CD which is curious in and of itself. CD’s were more commonly used in the late ’90s and early ’00s. This would place it at roughly the same time as Joy’s birth and the bloodied run through the woods.

There are a lot of writers in the King Universe and Annie may be just one of them re-imagined. In King’s Salem Lot, Ben Mears returns to the “Lot” as an adult and eventually burns the town to the ground. Mears is a writer. In Misery, Annie is obsessed with writer Paul Sheldon so much so she kidnaps and tortures him until he resurrects her favorite heroine in a new book. In this parallel universe, Annie could be the writer. She could have written Ravening Angels or she stole it from the dying body of whatever poor soul she “co-wrote” with before Paul Sheldon. The box young Annie is carrying when bloodied at the beginning of the season had that manuscript in it and her name written in sharpie on it. She is a lover of literature and it would be very on brand for her to be a failed writer herself.

The novel name itself could be a clue to what has happened. The Ravening Angel appears to be about a character named Prester Jack. That name is significant as a folk hero of sorts from history that is really more pop culture reference than historical savior. Lack of factual accounts make his story hard to determine just like Annie herself is an unreliable narrator and unexpected protagonist. There are also a series of novels from Sandy Dengler where Jack is a detective. I would be down for watching Annie sleuth out the supernatural nonsense in town.

Ace has become a much more interesting villain now that he is more than an ignorant thug. When he was killed by Annie and resurrected by the house he got a huge upgrade. He is Ace only different. A bad guy upgrade that has allowed him to be much more calculating. He knows French now, which I doubt he did before and is playing a long game as he and his group take over the town. Similar to the events of Salem’s Lot the town is being assimilated little by little. Policemen, local henchmen, a young boy, a couple of junkies, Councilwoman Pinto and now sweet Chris have all been turned. The vampires of Salem’s Lot did not get the same cerebral upgrade so it is more likely the evil here is of the Eldritch variety as in Jerusalem’s Lot. The Worm from that novella was a cosmic power that also converted people to something like vampires but with a connection to their host. The giant creature lived below the church in town and perverted all it came in contact with. After watching the demise of Chris in the Church at the end of the episode, it isn’t much of a stretch to assume something similar is happening here.

If Ace’s recent behavior is a hint, all who are turned are part of the greater whole. Hubie Marsten, who built the house they use as a clubhouse was a ruthless gangster. After the house fell into ruin following his death, Kurt Barlow an antiques dealer bought the house. He was a powerful vampire that would have had the ability to speak different languages and would account for Ace’s new found controlled and almost aristocratic behavior. If the house/Worm is turning people into vampires they are reborn with the ability to access predecessors memories and possibly talents.

Stray Observations:

  • Pop has a sign sitting on the desk of the Emporium Gallorium that reads “Caveat emptor”. The latin phrase which is commonly known as “buyer beware” is applicable both in his business dealings and in the town at large. Be careful what you ask for. Things always come with strings attached.
  • Why do they undead, vampires, newly born(?) crave eggs? There is a serious obsession happening here and it is so disgusting. Maybe the high protein snack is required to maintain the body? If the evil in Marsten House is more akin to Jeruselem’s Lot’s Lovecraftian nightmare The Worm and less straight vampiric nastiness from Salem’s Lot the town is in worse trouble than we thought.
  • Why does Ace have a stack of letters in his desk from deceased Shawshank warden Dale Lacy? Was he aware “The Kid” locked in the basement? If not what other secrets were they sharing?