'Castle Rock' Season 2: The real horror lies in confronting past sins, inner demons and consequences of wrong choices, not monsters
There is horror in 'Castle Rock' for sure, but the real chills come from the characters' struggle with the past sins, loss, and pain.
Loss. Grief. The sheer wretchedness of pain. The wait for closure. This season of Hulu's 'Castle Rock' has the viewers in an emotional tangle with its storylines and arcs surrounding strained familial bonds put to a test. The horror elements are present for sure and give the necessary chilling feel to it, but it's the drama that takes the spotlight. While the first season was just eerie and uncomfortable, the second season explores the dynamics of the unusual relationships between Stephen King's characters with the threat of body snatchers and murderers ever-present.
In the sixth episode of 'Castle Rock', Joy (Elsie Fisher) finally meets her birth mother Rita and uncovers the devastating truth about her life. She is not Annie Wilkes's (Lizzy Caplan) daughter, as she had believed. It's more of a shock for her to know that Annie had accidentally caused her father's death, stabbed Rita in a fit of panic and had made off with baby Evangeline now Joy. Annie tearfully tells her the whole truth and reveals that she had considered killing Joy along with herself as well. But what stopped her? In a trembling voice, Annie tells her that she heard Joy laugh. That laugh saved her, and "kept her on the right side of the yellow double line".
She knows she is not alright, far from it, but believes that the only thing in this world she has learned, is how to love unconditionally. And it is this pure and unconditional love that prompts Annie to take the blame on herself when Rita is accidentally shot in a small scuffle with Joy.
Too little, too late, perhaps, but Annie is desperately trying to fix the terrible wrongs she has committed over the years. In the past few episodes, it has become clear that there is a world of a difference between this Annie and Stephen Kings's Annie Wilkes in the novel 'Misery'. While the book Annie was diabolic, cunning and sadistic, the Annie in the show, whatever else she does in a fit of panic, is not so. She is a scared and broken soul, who is trying to redeem herself, but unfortunately, the past has caught up with her and has engulfed her. It's an inexplicable emotion that you feel for Annie. You can't forgive her for the wrongs that she has committed, but somewhere there is a strange twinge of pity and empathy.
There are other characters in the show, who have become the victims of cruel circumstance. Nadia has seen her mother being shot dead and has just realized that her foster father Pop Merrill was the one who killed her, during his time as a military man in Mogadishu.
Seething with the shock of betrayal and anger, she kicks out Abdi from the house for knowing this, and never uttering a word. These familial relationships are at the heart of the show, while the horror elements reside in the background, giving the chilling effect to the show.
Ironically, the viewer gets more invested in these ties that bind, rather than the body-snatchers, though they perform their share of thrills, with their grueling murders and jump scares. We know that the body-snatchers and Annie Wilkes, Joy will confront each other soon and that most probably will culminate in 'Misery'. Yet, the parent-children dramas have us intrigued.
The show has ensured not to get carried away with random jump scares but has stayed true to its genre of psychological horror. Because, the horror here in the show, is the demons that the characters are struggling to battle, and sometimes, the demons end up being victorious. The horror is about confronting past sins, the strange choices we make that define us finally, and waiting for an absolution that will never come.