A near-perfect episode that ended fittingly, with a laugh and a tear, instead of a bang, left us with one fewer hero.
It’s rare that a horror series or film can make you cry. In amongst all the scares and tension, emotion has a hard time taking root. There have been some exceptions, The Mist another Stephen King adaptation comes to mind, but by and large, you don’t need a ton of tissues to get through most things. Castle Rock has changed the game by delivering something inherently terrifying, but also sentimental. When you find yourself fist-pumping Annie Wilkes taking out baddies, or mourn Pop’s final act, you know you are watching something special.
How much of the old soul still remains is answered this week. Everything remains, locked within a flesh prison of their own bodies. Every memory waiting to be plucked by the invading entity and used against the wishes of the host. Like a plug and play game, you only need the right piece to solve the puzzle. Ace/Augustin needs information on his angel otherwise known as The Kid and someone has those memories.
History has a way of repeating itself, and for Pop he found himself smack dab inside a war again. One that could only end one way for him. Continuing to chew through Castle Rock’s cast, Ace converts Warden Lacey’s widow(Frances Conroy). She is the only person he knows who is still alive and may know about his angel. As the “collector of cast-off things”, a moniker that sounds more supernatural than it really was, Pops bought Warden Lacey’s letters to Sherrif Pangborn’s along with his trailer when he died. As much as we want everything to have ties to good or evil, sometimes things just…are. Pops has the letters because that is who he is as a person, a hoarder. More nicely put, a collector of forgotten and discarded items.
The group is complete with Chance and Abdi arriving right when they are needed. Chance is an endearing character and Abby Corrigan from Homeland and Banshee is a compelling queer character. She gives the group a sense of innocence, as well as another person who loves Joy. She also possesses the fearlessness of youth which may be necessary when push comes to shove.
Ace/ Augustin, who Pops nicknames “Gus” needs those letters to find his angel, better known to us as The Kid. Surrogate father and son square off with a formidable Emporium Gallorium between them. That’s the thing about junk, one man’s trash is another’s treasure and Pop has enough trash to blow the settlers sky high. Between the battle of wills playing out, a few more unaffected arrive. Annie and Evelyn who were spared hypnosis likely because of alcohol abuse and mental illness unwittingly bring one of the devoted with them.
After an attempt at interrogation goes nowhere, Annie fixes the situation as only she can. A swift, brutal, and absurd attack on Jay’s eyeballs with syringes. As death scenes go, you don’t more creative or grisly than Annie’s kills. She is deadly with just about any implement. That is something Gus and his group should be wary of as they hold Joy.
It’s not the statue, but the sound that entrances people. Schisma is a powerful thing. There are those immune though. If Odin was correct last season it is the colliding of all possible pasts and presents. If the schisma is like the “thinnies”, things can come and go between realities. The Kid uses the thin spots between worlds to travel. He’s already made an appearance once this season, it’s not unlikely he will be back unless Nadia’s group can stop the coming crisis.
It is reasonable to attribute some of the immunity to disease. Pop’s cancer and chemo drugs, Annie’s schizophrenia, Evelyn’s alcoholism for example. Chance smokes pot, so it’s a stretch, but another tick in the legalize marijuana camp. That leaves Nadia and Abdi, who to our knowledge, have no mental illness and do not take any medication. Why are they immune?
The final act played out like a haunted house complete with smoke, flickering lights, and mazes. In many ways, it was what it appeared. The ghosts of our characters’ pasts are haunting their futures. A tight episode from beginning to end was swiftly paced leading up to their escape. Visually as arresting as the drama unfolding, the Emporium was an ideal backdrop.
Poignant dialogue shared space with suspenseful action in “Caveat Emptor”. Lines like “You’re a hitchhiker in borrowed clothing.”, and “a tomb of trash” cut as deeply as the weapons and bullets. Poor Pops is not a perfect man. He beat his oldest charge Ace, had unfair business practices, and was a criminal. At his heart, he wasn’t truly evil though. Like all basically decent people, he wanted only to atone for his mistakes, leave a positive lasting legacy, and have his children love him. After all the anger and violence, he only gets one of those things, but it is the most important. Abdi and Nadia recognize his sacrifice and will mourn his death.
As intimate an episode about regret as The Queen last season, this was Pops swan song and it was a tense joyless ride through the mistakes of his past. In the end, actions are what matters and this flawed man gave his life to save his children. A faulty remote prevented things from ending the way he wanted. As the sign in his store reads, Caveat Emptor”, the buyer alone is responsible for checking on the quality of the items to be purchased or more commonly buyer beware. One last bit of irony prevails when his remote won’t detonate the bomb.
Things didn’t turn out how he planned because life isn’t fair but isn’t that the point? Make the most of what you have and prevail. Never giving up, never giving in, putting one foot in front of the other. Augustin may have won this round but the last four remaining are strong, righteous, and pissed. Let’s hope they stay that way. Read our ongoing coverage here.
Why can the settlers not have children? Or can they, but they shouldn’t according to Warden Lacey’s letters?
If the possession can cure minor ailments, was Ace telling the truth about Pop’s cancer cure? Either way why shoot him in the head when he needs the secrets he holds? Surely some wounds are permanent. Gus certainly seems to fear death by explosion.
If shots to the head are curable, we may not have seen the last of Pops.
As the Managing Editor for Signal Horizon, I love watching and writing about genre entertainment. I grew up with old-school slashers, but my real passion is television and all things weird and ambiguous. My work can be found here and Travel Weird, where I am the Editor in Chief.