Castle Rock has been a strange kettle of fish this season. From lofty heights to mundane mediocrity, this follow-up story has been an improvement over the first but a seemingly muddied one too, flitting between creepy, atmospheric horror and, as this latest episode shows up, closer to Walking Dead levels of action-packed horror. With plenty left on the line for the finale and a disappointing amount of screen-time for Annie, it’ll be interesting to see how this one rounds out its plot threads but this penultimate episode does feel a little anticlimactic and disappointing.
We begin with Castle Rock having been transformed, and not for the better. As Pop races off to the hospital, we return to see Ace greeting the newest member of his growing army, someone with ties back to The Kid in the first season. He asks her where “The Angel” is located and she guides him to Pop, who happens to have valuable information he needs in the form of letters that may hold some clues.
Nadia and Pop meanwhile, find themselves forced to try and outrun the murderous residents of Castle Rock, barricading themselves inside with Abdi, who joins the fray. As day turns to night, Pop rallies the troops and warns them that the zombie horde are outside and could strike at any moment. As the alarms sound however, they head down to the basement and find Annie along with Jamal and Chance hiding out behind a stack of tyres. Pop interviews them one by one, trying to determine if they’re sane, before Jamal seizes his opportunity and tries to ambush him. However, Nadia saves the day and shoots Jamal, working with Pop to eventually incarcerate him.
In the aftermath of this, Nadia shows them the serum used to inject Chris and turn him back, at least for a little while. As the group contemplate what to do next, Annie and Chance stare out the window where they see Ace and his army waiting outside. Communicating through walkie-talkies, Ace admits his name is actually Augustin and after discussing terms, Nadia suggests trying to outrun the army instead. While she does, Annie speaks to the man who’s possessing Jamal and winds up stabbing him in the eyes with needles.
Back on the walkie, Pop tells Augustin that he’s burnt the letters and goes on to tell him he won’t surrender what he knows. However, Augustin gets to him, telling him he’s messed up all four of his kids’ lives. As Pop begins burning the letters, the sins of a father come back to haunt him. He straps himself up with C4 as the army outside manage to break into the house.
The survivors scramble downstairs while Abdi and Pop hang back and wait. With guns in tow, the final part of the episode devolves into an action blockbuster as gunshots ricochet around the basement and the survivors work together to fight off the intruders. All of this culminates in Pop and Ace face to face with him about to press the trigger until…it all happens to be a bluff to let the survivors escape and cross the train tracks outside. As they do, Ace chuckles to himself in disbelief before shooting Pop square in the forehead while Nadia tries in vain to contact him.
I can’t remember the last time I watched a show that swayed my opinion so profoundly one way or the other every week. Castle Rock’s second season however, is the latest to do just that. This week’s episode is arguably the weakest and most disappointing of the season and although there is some good character work for Pop and Ace, Annie sinking into the background and Joy nowhere to be seen is a little anticlimactic.
It also doesn’t help that the early season atmospheric horror has been replaced with a more formulaic, action-packed approach too and these two things in particular, alongside the tired cliche of zombie hordes, have caused this episode to feel a little disappointing, especially given the slightly longer run-time of 52 minutes this time around. Still, it’s all to play for in the finale and quite what Castle Rock has in store for us this week, remains to be seen. Lets just hope this one pulls it out the bag and delivers a finale to remember!