Castle Rock Season 2 Episode 5: The Laughing Place-Recap and Review-Misery In The Making
An intimate vignette of Annie Wilkes concludes with one mother of a twist that only leads to more questions.
The episode begins with the Annie’s missing youth. How did this intelligent, rigidly moral cockadoodie become the ax-wielding, author kidnapping nutter we first met in Misery? The answer is as simple and complex as the second season of Castle Rock itself has been. Touted as simply Misery coming to Salem’s Lot, the side plots and intricacies of life in this tainted town have been much more subtle this season. Nothing was ever quite as enigmatically obvious. A sentence so clearly oxymoronic is exactly what the first season was. Puzzles were deliberately dropped in our laps to piece together painstakingly, only to realize we weren’t given all the pieces. This season is much more sneaky in its approach. While we were looking at Annie, we forgot about the power of Marsten House. When we became focused on Ace, Annie sidled up and became sympathetic. There is lot to be afraid of in Castle Rock and its neighbor Jerusalem’s Lot. This week we saw first hand the making of one of its monsters.
Similar in tone to last season’s master piece The Queen, The Laughing Place left us reeling in admiration for the acting and directing talents on display, and shaking our heads over the questions left unanswered. Poor Annie never had a chance. If episode five proved anything, it was that girl was doomed from the start. Among other things Annie is dyslexic and kids can be cruel. Let me revise that, kids can be dicks. Her parents although very supportive, maliciously so on occasion, don’t have the ability to understand, or the where-with-all to get the help she needs academically, or the therapy needed to handle her rage issues. She is a ticking time bomb who has been made by mentally ill parents and wound up by toxic regret, frustration, denial, and defensiveness.
It’s a nasty cocktail, regret and resentment. Annie’s parents have both. Her mother is tired and frustrated by a life that did not pan out. Inherently negative she sees the worst in every person and circumstance. Annie’s father is a dreamer, flawed in his own way, he never doubts his own ability, even when he should. They are the double edged sword of psychosis that contributed to the sympathetic beast she becomes. It’s sad that Annie loved and respected her father wanting to be just like him, but she became her mother. Paranoid, cautious, and rigidly moral she is the worst of her mother and father.
As the slow motion Greek tragedy plays, the bits that make up the whole that is to become Annie Wilkes come together. Her father’s love of typewriters here, Mom’s bizarre speech patterns there. Even a few doe eyed confused stares for good measure. Ruby Cruz as young Annie captured the balance of intense dangerousness and confused victim. Cruz and Caplan worked in tandem to develop the multifaceted Annie. Robin Weigert last seen in AMC’s Dietland gives another understated performance that could very easily have gone cartoonish. In her capable hands, Mrs. Wilkes is expired milk, just this side of curdled. She is a simmering cesspool of passive aggression. She is the malignant rot that needs removing. Her attempted murder suicide is as chilling as it is heartbreaking to watch.
Brilliantly written by Daria Polatin and Vince Calandra, it is a slow motion run away car with swerves and bumps like the chilling teeth cleaning scene that compel us to watch the whole way through. Director Anne Sewitsky produces an episode heavy on restraint. There are no obtuse angles here, just rounded edges that hide secrets in the shadows. Annie’s past is compelling because it informs her future. She had a friend and mentor she needed and a father that believed wholeheartedly in her. She wound up with neither, being displaced and untrusted. Coupled with her extreme black and white views on the world and she snapped. Her mother made sure that hard line stance on everything was followed without fail. It’s unfortunate her father and Rita paid the price.
This was a fantastic episode that did nothing to further the 2019 plot but explained so much about who Annie Wilkes was and is. She is troubled, but I maintain that she is not the baddest evil in town. Now that Joy knows the truth and Rita is likely on her way, Annie will have to shift focus from Ace to her past. Let’s hope Abdi and Nadia are able to help.
I thought I knew what was happening, I really did, but hell is coming to Castle Rock in the form of Rita Green and she’s not leaving without her baby. Not one but two showdown are looming. Annie may just have met her match and like everything this season, I was focusing on Ace when I should have been looking elsewhere.
- Annie was around seven or eight in 1994. Her baby sister Evangeline/Joy was born 10 years later, making her 15 and Annie 33.
- The mother if Annie’s half sister and Annie’s tutor is Rita Green. This ties to the Stephen King Universe in the following ways. Rita is in the name Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption, and Green of course is the poignant The Green Mile. In this series nothing is a coincidence.
- Annie tells Dr. Nadia that she has been to many doctors and had lots of tests with no success so that is why she is self medicating. In the flashback to her childhood we never saw her see a doctor. In fact we only saw her Dad refuse the doctor many times. Did she see a doctor prior to the events we saw, or did she seek medical treatment following her father’s death?
- How in the world was Annie able to get her nursing license and raise a baby all those years? Is everything a lie? Is she self taught only? The Annie from Misery was a nurse and she seems to possess skills and knowledge you can’t fake by reading Dr. Google?
- I don’t condone pushing your father down the stairs but Annie has a right to be pissed off. He really should have at least acknowledged both Rita and Annie. He told her he would always be her number one fan.
- Did anyone buy her father’s book? If a famous writer was killed I would think that would make it even harder for her to hide these years?
- Evangeline means the “bearer of good news”. She didn’t bring much to her folks, but to Annie she is everything good in the world.
As the Television Editor for Signal Horizon, I love watching and writing about genre tv. I grew up with old school slashers, but my real passion is television and all things weird and ambiguous. When I not watching and writing about my favorite movies and series, I’m introducing my family to the wonderful world of sci-fi, fantasy, and horror. My only regret there is not enough time in the day to watch everything.