The Missing Man
Following the solid opening episode of Castle Rock, Hulu’s twisted horror series returns for another decent episode here. As the layers of Annie’s sanity slowly begin to slip away, the main conflict of the season begins to appear in this shorter, 45 minute segment of drama.
We begin with Annie awakening in the hole and finding herself sitting amongst a group of coffins. As she climbs up a gnarled tree root to get away, she falls, prompting her to breathe heavily and follow a stream of water leading to a pile of rocks instead. Underneath the pile, she finds a hidden grate and as she peers down into the darkness, she begins climbing down while Ace’s body remains motionless above.
Annie continues running down a damp hallway until she makes it into a medieval tower. Creeping above, she pushes open a trap-door and finds herself in a room full of graffiti. As she continues on, a tent in the living room is accompanied by two people having sex in the bedroom. Spotting her, Annie hurries out the front door before they can press her for answers where she finds herself in the Marsten Estate, some way off from the construction site.
After her ordeal, Annie heads back as we see flashes of her fixing up the grave site again. However, it turns out she lost her necklace in the chaos and takes it out on Joy, who shuts the door in her face.
With Ace missing, Pop phones Chris and they discuss his brother’s disappearance. Struggling to control his dog, Joy and Annie’s argument spills out into the street as the dog barks at her until Joy slips on a bike and cuts her hand open. We then cut back to Castle Rock in 1994 to see Pop Merril working on behalf of the refugee community, opening his arms and offering them jobs.
As we jump back to present day, Pop and the others question the locals about where Ace may be. Getting nowhere, Annie runs into a roadblock of her own as Joy refuses to let her into the room. It’s here Dr. Nadia learns more about Annie before going on to reassure Joy that anything told in the ward is completely confidential.
More fragments of the past come to light too as we see hostilities between Abdi and Ace begin to take shape over a milkshake and a joke. All of this leads back to the construction site where the builders head on site and begin working during the present day. However, one of the guys finds some jewellery – Annie’s necklace – but they write it off to squatters trespassing from Marsten. As one of the workers heads off to hand it back to them, he bursts in the house and, unable to find anyone, shouts to whoever is listening not to trespass on their land. However, he’s blind-sided and stabbed with a scythe.
Pop heads to the hospital and confronts Annie over Ace’s disappearance. Spinning the story to her advantage, he tells Pop that she thought Ace was going to hurt her but when he left, a man followed him. That man she refers to happens to be Abdi and it’s enough for Annie to deflect his vengeance away from her. He heads straight for Abdi too, where the police snatch him up and bundle him into the squad car.
Deciding to get to the bottom of what’s going on, Pop interrogates Abdi over where Ace is before letting his dog unsettle him. However, Pop has a panic attack midway through the interrogation and falls in a heap on the ground as the dog barks furiously.
Heading home, Joy confronts Annie over their constant moving and how there’s no record of either of them online. Seeing flies swarming around the car, Annie looks on fearfully as she spies Ace watching from afar as Joy hurries off.
With a deeper mystery and more drama surrounding Salem’s Lot, Castle Rock continues to weave the various threads of Stephen King novels together in a compelling manner. So far at least, Castle Rock has done a great job reinventing itself this season, injecting more urgency into the plot and delivering some captivating drama in the process. Quite what the series has in store for us next remains to be seen but right now Hulu appear to have stumbled upon a winning formula with its second season.