'Castle Rock' Season 2 Episode 5 delves into Annie Wilkes' disturbing childhood as it sets up Stephen King's 'Misery'
Spoilers ahead for 'Castle Rock', Season 2 Episode 5
"Once the rot takes root, it's always there. Whether you see it or not..." Annie Wilkes' (younger Annie Wilkes played by Ruby Cruz) exhausted and wearied mother (Robin Weigert) says these words to her just before committing a scarring act in front of her daughter's eyes; something that would leave Annie so dented, she would never be able to recover.
The rot had already taken place in Annie's childhood and had just grown deeper over the years. And this incident, pushes Annie over the edge. And so, we get an idea why this bright child, who sees everything in black and white, devolves into a psychotic, author-kidnapping curse in Stephen King's novel 'Misery'.
The fifth episode of 'Castle Rock', 'The Laughing Place' takes a detour from the modern-day storyline and delves into the deeply troubling past of Annie Wilkes and explores her gradual mental breakdown. We journey back to 1994, where a young Annie is bullied by her classmates, and in response, she delivers a bloodied smack across a girl's face.
Rather than addressing his daughter's issues, her father refuses to believe there is anything wrong with her. Annie is taken out of school and is taught at home by her father.
Her mother, who is busy trying to earn for the household, is not happy with this plan, and Annie faces the brunt of their strained relationship on a routine basis. Annie adores her father (John Hoogenakker), who is a struggling writer, and takes his word as law.
If he tells her people are all good, or all bad, she believes it. Annie grows to love reading and writing but is rather disturbed when "bad" people get a happy ending. She cannot fathom why Pinocchio should be happy. He lied, didn't he? He should die then, she tells her tutor Rita.
Because for Annie, if you're not "good", you don't deserve happiness. This is clearly something she plans to follow for her entire life. Yet, these problems still don't seem to bubble at the surface.
Annie passes her GED exams. There's still some joy and hope left in the character that we know will take a demonic route in years to come. However, a deeply personal tragedy involving her mother occurs and Annie loses focus of everything, including her fraying end of sanity.
By the middle of the episode, you can slowly begin to predict some of the uneasy revelations. Yet, it still leaves you queasy. We learn why a bloodied Annie stood at the river banks holding a child and a manuscript at the beginning of the first episode.
The episode's pace slowly picks up and hits a crescendo. There isn't a moment where you can catch your breath, because you keep wondering, what will Annie do next?
Once again, the writers bring out the problem of bad parenting and broken childhoods in a very subtle, yet painful manner. Had Annie's parents just taken her to a therapist, maybe things would have turned out differently and she wouldn't have made her place in Stephen King history as the murderous nurse from hell.
Annie has grown up without help, in a broken home, and has formulated her own theories of the world, which were supported by her father. Parents might have the best intentions for their children, but they need to look beyond what they see.
And as the episode shows, anger and resentment make for a nasty cocktail. Depression is another concept that is touched upon in the episode and is etched on her mother's face throughout.
And this is one of the reasons Annie, taking the worst from both sides of her parents, grows up to be a ticking time bomb, wrapped in her paranoia, worries and toxic resentment. The second season of 'Castle Rock' keeps up with its engrossing storyline and panic elements, especially with a teeth-cleaning scene and a slow car accident.
The screechy music in the background further adds to the gloom of the episode, especially during intense moments. The young Annie (Ruby Cruz) is absolutely phenomenal in her restrained madness and shows the way for Lizzy Caplan to take the crazy reins later.
'Castle Rock' aired on Hulu November 6 at 12:30 a.m. ET.