Number 1 Fan
Given the scrutiny and negative reaction regarding the first season’s ending, Castle Rock had a lot riding on this ending. Thankfully, the show bows out season 2 of King’s deliciously twisted anthology series in the best possible way, delivering a satisfying and well written finale. With everything wrapped up nicely and nods to both the first season and Misery throughout, Castle Rock bows out to rapturous applause and one of this year’s best finales.
We begin the episode with Ace heading back up to Marsten House and laying Pop down in the coffin. Black goo swarms over him as the lids is closed, seemingly turning him into one of them, while Ace heads upstairs and addresses the others, preparing for The Angel to arrive. Joy, as we know, is the vessel for this being and stands motionlessly in her bridal gear awaiting the ritual.
Annie leads the others to the dig site where Nadia snatches up some explosives and begins planting them deep underground while Chance acts like a zombie, walking between the crowds until they point at her and chant “No” repeatedly. An officer approaches soon after, snatching her up and leading her right to Ace.
Meanwhile, Pop awakens from his slumber as Ace speaks to him about the imprisoned Angel. As it turns out, the warden wrote letters about Castle Lake, which happens to be a gateway that the Angel travels between at “His” will. Before they can continue however, Annie allows herself to be captured and pleads with Ace to let Joy go free. Instead he forces her down into the tunnels after she tells them what’s happening with the explosives.
Pop turns on the zombified townsfolk though, explaining that he took the serum just before being shot and, with a small window of time, organises Nadia and Abdi to set off the explosives. In the ensuing chaos as the place blows, Joy stabs Ace in the back while Pop helps Chance escape. Clinging on to his last shred of humanity, he pleads with them to blow Marsten House. As thick clouds of smoke choke the air, overlooking the lake a strange shadowy figure watches… is this The Kid?
Driving off with Joy, we cut forward one week later with Annie. She picks up a book called Misery’s Quest in a motel and begins reading. “Good beginning,” she mutters before continuing through the pages. Obsessed, she reads between driving up to the Canadian border. Once there, they stop at a nearby gas station and see a missing poster for Henry Deaver – our protagonist from the first season.
Eventually they make it to Annie’s aforementioned Laughing Place; somewhere they can be happy and live in paradise. Unfortunately Joy is not herself and as she distances herself from Annie, she begins to grow suspicious of her daughter. Between French TV, an ominous phone call and strange nightmarish drawings in her sketchbook, Annie takes drastic measures. She crushes up some pills and puts them in Joy’s icecream and, convinced she’s “one of them”, chases after Joy and throws her in the water, eventually drowning her.
When she heads back to the house, Annie finds a letter in Joy’s sketchbook that proves her daughter was actually sane and planned to move away; a bid to try and find herself again. Scrambling back down to the dock, Annie tries to resuscitate her and seemingly succeeds, as she cradles her sputtering and coughing daughter in her arms. As the episode closes out, Joy and Annie drive to the book signing of Paul Sheldon, the guy who wrote Misery’s Quest. “I’m his number 1 fan,” Annie smiles as the camera pans out and shows an empty seat next to her. She’s been hallucinating. Joy is not alive.
What a great finale! Not only did the show manage to round out this season’s story arcs in a satisfying and well-paced manner, it also serves doubly as a prequel for Misery, with a shocking and disturbing twist at the end. All of this is executed masterfully by Lizzy Caplan too, who I’ve been a big fan of over the years and here she tops off her performance with a maniacal blend of heartbreak and steely determination. It’s great stuff and all of this combines with the various Easter eggs dotted throughout to make the build-up this season well worth the wait.
Now again, correct me if I’m wrong but I’m assuming the mysterious cloaked figure by the lake is The Kid from the first season. Is he the Angel the villagers are referring to? Given the emphasis around eyes in Joy’s sketchbook and the significance of the lake itself, it all appears to be slotting together here. Then again I could be wildly off the mark. To be honest, I think this is partly why the finale works as well as it does, with an equal dose of ambiguity alongside the satisfying finish. Whether this one is renewed for a third season or not remains to be seen but given the positive reception this season has received on the whole, I hope Hulu renew this one as there’s certainly scope to expand here.