Castle Rock season 2, episode 5 recap: The Laughing Place

Castle Rock -- "Let The River Run" - Episode 201 -- A nurse gets waylaid in Castle Rock. Alice (Lizzy Caplan), shown. (Photo By: Dana Starbard/Hulu)
Castle Rock -- "Let The River Run" - Episode 201 -- A nurse gets waylaid in Castle Rock. Alice (Lizzy Caplan), shown. (Photo By: Dana Starbard/Hulu) /

Episode 205 of Hulu’s Castle Rock explores the twisted past of Annie Wilkes, and we learn the origins of “The Laughing Place.” The past comes back to life!

Previously on Castle Rock, Nadia (Yusra Warsama) learned something unsettling about Pop Merrill (Tim Robbins) and Ace (Paul Sparks) expanded his otherworldly cult. Episode 5 takes a break from that, however, to focus more on the past of Annie Wilkes (Lizzy Caplan). What did Annie do to end up in the Jerusalem’s Lot/Castle Rock area?

To begin with, we learn where Annie got “the laughing place” from.  It’s from a book her class read when she was a kid (Madison Johnson) in school, featuring a character named “Brad Rabbit.” Unfortunately, Annie’s classmates laugh at her because she can’t read. Also, unfortunately, Annie retaliates against a kid by bashing her face with her lunchbox! In other words, she has temper flare-up issues even as a child!

Annie’s parents, Carl (John Hoogenakker) and Chrysida Wilkes (Robin Weigert) compare her school environment to an open sewer (not unlike how the adult Annie characterizes the Castle Rock area). They decide to home school Annie. As part of his reasoning, Carl says the school’s brainwashing her with a sanitized version of the Br’er Rabbit story, telling her the real rabbit’s life was in jeopardy, and that the actual life lesson is to eat or be eaten (which probably figures into Annie’s psychology a little bit).

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We also learn that “The Ravening Angel” is actually a story written by Carl. In order to teach teenage Annie (Ruby Cruz) how to read, he types it on his typewriter and she’d re-type it (and study it) on a home computer. At one point Annie is too nervous to read for her mom, which makes Chrysida mad at Carl for not finishing school or even his book. This inspires Carl to get his old job back at the bank. We also learn that Annie has bleeding gums, thanks to all the candy Carl gives her when they get through a chapter.

Even in success, failure

Castle Rock then introduces Rita K. Green (Sarah Gadon), hired by Chrysida to help Annie get her GED. When introduced to the Pinocchio story, Annie questions why Pinnochio should get a happy ending (she does not like moral ambiguity, although it’s a constant in real life). Things get too complicated for Annie and Chrysida when Rita gets pregnant, and everyone knows Carl is the father.

Chrysida even refers to him as a “dirty bird” and he soon moves out (though, in a heavy nod to “Misery,” says he’ll always be Annie’s number one fan). Although Annie passes her GED, her mom celebrates by speeding her car into a river or lake (reminiscent of season 1’s premiere)!

Annie escapes the car but comes to resent her father, who decides to stay and take care of Annie after Chrysida’s funeral. Despondent, Annie is no longer interested in college applications. When Rita and her baby (named Evangeline) move in, it’s more than she can take. Annie picks up a knife in a threatening manner, being at an age where many mental illnesses would take a stronger hold. It seems like one event at first, or like something that medication could address, However, Annie hears Rita and her father “getting busy,” feeding her resentment.

The final straw seems to be when Carl’s book is dedicated to Rita. In a moment of jealous rage, Annie pushes Carl down the staircase, accidentally impaling him on a railing! For good measure, Annie then stabs Rita with scissors and takes the baby. However, rather than drown Evangeline, Annie decides to keep her after she giggles. So yeah, that’s family life for you!

The present

In the present, Annie finds her daughter, Joy (Elsie Fisher) sitting in a car outside of Nadia’s. Annie assures Joy that, despite recently slashing at her arm, she would never hurt her. Joy wants Annie to get help and also to know who her father is. Abdi Howlwadaag (Barkhad Abdi) soon intervenes, telling Annie to get out of the car.

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Annie does, but she heads to the bar to drink vodka (her mother’s drink). Meanwhile, Joy sees the dedication to Rita in her mom’s digital copy of “The Ravening Angel.” She researches the name on social media, then contacts her. It’s very clear that Rita may head to Castle Rock ASAP. That’s not all, though: The twice-slain Ace Merrill takes a seat next to Annie in the bar, which definitely ought to weird her out.

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