Castle Rock season 2 premiere: Let the River Run

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - OCTOBER 14: (L-R) Barkhad Abdi, Yusra Warsama, Matthew Alan, Elsie Fisher, Lizzy Caplan, Tim Robbins, and Paul Sparks attend the premiere of Hulu's "Castle Rock" Season 2 at AMC Sunset 5 on October 14, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Phillip Faraone/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - OCTOBER 14: (L-R) Barkhad Abdi, Yusra Warsama, Matthew Alan, Elsie Fisher, Lizzy Caplan, Tim Robbins, and Paul Sparks attend the premiere of Hulu's "Castle Rock" Season 2 at AMC Sunset 5 on October 14, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Phillip Faraone/Getty Images) /

Hulu’s Castle Rock is back and possibly better than ever, with Lizzy Caplan as Annie Wilkes, the disturbed nurse of Stephen King’s “Misery.”

The first season of Castle Rock was capable of ramping up the tension. However, it had a decidedly restrained tone and delved into esoteric plot points involving a parallel universe. The violent aspects happened in occasional, sudden outbursts, or were hinted at. However, as season 2 begins, it comes off as more of a character study of Annie Wilkes (Lizzy Caplan), her daughter, Joy (Elsie Fisher), as well as some conflict between the Merrill and Omar families in the nearby town of Jerusalem’s Lot.

“Let the River Run” begins with Annie Wilkes covered in blood and carrying a box, with a regular motif of typewriter keys clacking. The title comes from a song called “Let the River Run.” We see that Wilkes is frequently taking pills, and she speaks to her daughter about finding “the laughing place” — presumably someplace where they can be themselves and have all their worries slink away. It’s apparent they are on the run.

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In one scene outside a gas station, a stranger oddly takes photos of Annie, and she asks him to delete the pictures due to her daughter facing online harassment. She also replaces her license plate, apparently fairly often. Things take a turn when her vehicle overturns while Annie is digging for pills (distracted driving is dangerous!).

1 week later

John “Ace” Merrill (Paul Sparks) is listening to an anti-Somali broadcast on his way to his mall, which seems to have plenty of Somali tenants. Ace is upset that some of them are leaving to join Abdi Howlwadaag (Barkhad Abdi), who charges competitive rates (and who is likely less hostile). Ace accuses him of “poaching” his tenants. As it turns out, Annie is also one of Ace’s tenants now, and she does not trust him. In fact, she doesn’t trust anyone in town and wants to leave as soon as her vehicle is fixed. When Joy asks for drawing paper, we get another glimpse at Wilke’s barely concealed anger (another clear tie-in between Castle Rock and the Misery novel and film).

In order to gain money (and access to certain pills), Annie has a job interview with Jamal (Isayas Theodros) for a temporary RN job. She studies how to get the passkey for drug access. We see she’s hallucinating, too, seeing a Tall Man (John Hoogenakker) covered in blood. It causes her to almost get hit by a bus. Meanwhile, we get hints at some controversy between Ace and his father, Reginald ‘Pop’ Merrill (Tim Robbins). Ace mentions a “Sergeant Major” to Pop, and Pop replies: “You’d be wise to not bring that up again.”

Family strife/This town is trash

Not far from the troubled town of Castle Rock, Jerusalem’s Lot seems to have its share of shiftless youth. Joy meets a young musician named Chance (Abby Corrigan), who practices singing a song about witches. Joy says she’s “from all over” and joins Chance and others in throwing rocks. We learn from Ace that Annie is going by the name of “Annie Ingalls,” and Ace says she “has crazy in her eyes.” To complicate things for the Merrills, we also learn that Abdi is actually Ace’s stepbrother. In other words, Ace’s trouble doesn’t only involve race, but his own family. To further illustrate this, Dr. Nadia Howlwadaag (Yusra Warsama) refers to Pop as her dad.

Meanwhile, Annie tells Joy that all the local kids are brats and that the town is trash. Later she looks up info on mental illness, also searching the internet for her own name, seeing that she’s wanted for murder. When she gets back to the hospital, Annie turns off the power in the building but has another hallucination of the “tall man” before she can break in and get some pills. When Jamal approaches her, she says she wants medicine for a patient. Jamal says Dr. H. left her override key at home. This gives Annie a dangerous idea (what else would one expect in either Salem’s Lot or Castle Rock?)

Break-ins, terror attacks, searchers and settlers

Joy sees Ace with a gun and also preparing Molotov cocktails against Abdi. Ace also notices her. Shortly after this, Annie breaks into Dr. Nadia’s to get that pesky override key. However, right when Abdi stops by to possibly catch her, Ace throws the Molotov cocktails into the house, letting Annie escape with the key. The police investigate Ace the next morning, and Nadia actually catches Annie in the act of stealing anti-psychotic meds — Risperdal, Haldol, and lithium, to be exact. Nadia helps her get the pills, partly because Annie lies, saying she found the key behind Nadia’s desk. It’s not entirely clear why Nadia didn’t get Annie in further trouble, It may have been feelings of sympathy, or perhaps she (like Ace), saw “crazy in her eyes,” and felt endangered herself.

Possibly feeling relieved from the meds, Annie seems happier when speaking with Joy now. She gives a talk about searchers and settlers, and how they are searching for the right place to settle. She even says “Maybe any place could be the laughing place if we’re there together…even here.” However, nowhere is safe. After Ace did some “KKK sh**,” Abdi gets a gun and makes clear that he’s ready to rock. Ace is preoccupied with harassing Annie, however, confronting her about her true identity and her license plates.

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He also knows Joy is a likely witness against him, having seen him preparing for war with Abdi. Still, Annie’s not having it. She swiftly kicks him in the groin and jams an ice cream scoop in his throat, killing him! To dispose of the body, she initially considers Castle Lake (prominent in the first season of Castle Rock), but later decides to bury him in the foundation of the Somali mall. However, she falls through the earth and hits her noggin, freeing a bunch of flying insects (beetles?) in the process.

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