As we dive into Annie’s troubled past, Castle Rock takes a detour from its modern-day plot line to showcase just why our protagonist is so mentally damaged. It’s a good episode too, and despite a few pacing issues, does well to add some extra depth to this character and showcase her slow mental decline. It won’t be for everyone of course, and some may lament this episode for being a tad too slow, but the ending, and the way it ties back into the first episode, should be enough to see you through until the end.
We begin in 1994 with a young Annie in school being laughed at by the other kids. After lashing out at one of the bullies, smacking her upside the head with her lunchbox, Annie is forced into a meeting with the school where her parents are told she needs help. Taking drastic measures, her Father takes her out of public education and decides to home-school her instead. Once there, he tells her a story about The Laughing Place before showing off the start of his novel he’s writing.
As the years tick by, her Mum and Dad’s relationship becomes more strained, and it’s only made worse when she learns Annie still can’t read. After fighting with her Father, we then jump forward to the present where we see Joy and Abdi heading down to Jerusalem’s Lot. Annie hurries after her and tries to convince Joy to go home. Refusing to speak about her Father, Annie is forced to retreat and looks back at her daughter once before before drowning her sorrows at the bar.
Meanwhile in the past, Annie’s Mum hires a tutor called Rita to help her read. As the days and months tick by, Annie’s Dad decides to leave. Soon after, Annie learns she’s passed her GED and hurries to phone her Father and tell him the good news. Her Mum, however, is not so happy and slowly begins to sink into mental decline. In their car, Annie’s Mum locks the door and drives into the lake, attempting to kill them both. Although Annie survives, her Mother does not.
It’s a dark day for the family and one that sees Annie’s descent to darkness take a sharp decline, despite her Father returning to stay with her. Three months after her death, Annie refuses to fill out any college applications and continues to drown her sorrows with apathy. When Rita shows up and her Father announces they’re in a relationship together, Annie falls off the deep end.
Against the odds, Annie’s Father finishes the book after 12 years but dedicates it to Rita instead of Annie. Given the years Annie poured into helping to write and rereard the book, it’s a step too far for her and one that sees her push him down the stairs in a flit of rage. Unfortunately it also kills him, impaling him on the bannister. Rita sees the carnage and screams, prompting Annie to run after her with scissors and stab her in the stomach. Snatching the child up, along with The Ravenous Angel box, it’s here we see the first episode connecting up to this moment as Annie hurries down to the lake, covered in blood.
In the present, Joy reads through the story and sees it dedicated to Rita Green. After doing some research, she finds out who she is and phones through, finding her biological Mum. It turns out the scissor blow to her stomach didn’t actually kill her, and as she answers the phone we cut back to Annie in the bar, as Ace sits with her.
The twist at the end of this episode is a nice touch and while it won’t be for everyone, the exploration of Annie’s past does a good job fleshing out this troubled character. The use of colour, contrasting between cold blues and greys and warm oranges and whites, works well to show the different extremes Annie experiences as a child too, which is a nice touch.
As we reach the midway point of the season, I hope Castle Rock improves its pacing somewhat and doubles down on its present day story. At the moment, Castle Rock is certainly an improvement over the first season and the blending of Misery and Salem’s Lot is a smart choice, one that seems, so far at least, to be working well with the overarching plot. I just hope the series doubles down on its horror and tension now to deliver a second half that reaches those same heights achieved early on in this season.