In 1897, two gothic horror novels were published that bore an uncanny resemblance to one another. Both stories featured plots that centered the perspectives of a group of English protagonists as they joined forces to repel a supernatural invader, and both novels embodied the anxieties of the United Kingdom as the power of its empire waned and the inevitable consequences of colonialism began to come home to roost.
The first, Dracula by Bram Stoker, is likely familiar to anyone with even a passing interest in the horror genre. As mentioned in the recap of Castle Rock‘s previous episode, the novel is cited by King as his inspiration for ‘Salem’s Lot.
However it’s the other gothic horror novel released in 1897, The Beetle by Richard Marsh, that may be most relevant to this season of Castle Rock (at least, outside of those books that have the name “King” on the cover), and especially to “New Jerusalem.” The Beetle is considerably less well known but follows the same basic plot beats as Dracula: a foreign monster takes up residence in an English home, begins “possessing” the locals, then attempts to abscond with one of the women. However, in The Beetle, it isn’t a vampire that menaces the protagonists, it’s a — well, it’s a beetle.
The Marsten House
The second episode of the season, “New Jerusalem,” opens right where the last one ended: with Annie Wilkes at the bottom of the subterranean cavern she happened upon while attempting to hide Ace Merrill’s corpse. The sound of beetles’ wings clacking surround her, the insects that had previously been trapped in the cavern crawl around the construction site.
Annie picks up her flashlight and approaches Ace’s corpse, which seems to have fallen on some kind of sarcophagus and broken the lid. His body has been covered in slime, the same substance the skeleton inside the sarcophagus appears to be floating in. Further investigation reveals more coffins and grave markers, as well as the engraving of a beetle on the wall.
Annie attempts to climb out of the hole she’s fallen in, but it’s a non-starter, especially considering the fact that it’s begun to rain. Fortunately, her attention lands on a beetle’s wing that floats by in the small creek that formed through the bottom of the cavern. She follows the flow of water to a sewer grate, then follows the passageways that follow until she finds herself at a spiral staircase.
The stairs lead to a manmade structure that has been overrun by graffiti and disrepair. After following the sound of someone grunting, she discovers evidence of squatters and then finds two people having sex (“Christmas!” exclaims Annie). She flees outside and discovers that she’s been inside the Marsten house in the hills outside of ‘Salem’s Lot.
Castle Rock S2E2: “New Jerusalem”
After the opening credits, we open on what is presumably a flashback to Pop Merrill’s past in the United States military. It seems as though Pop is being haunted by his experiences in the present, as a nurse prepares his chemotherapy treatment, and he distracts himself by going through his account book.
Meanwhile, Annie has returned home after concealing the evidence of the hole that Ace’s corpse fell into when she realizes that her necklace, which tends to come unlatched and fall off, is missing. Joy is alarmed when she sees how dirty Annie is, and Annie, panicked after her experience at the construction site, begins ranting about leaving Castle Rock.
Back at Pop’s, Nadia tells her father about Ace’s molotov cocktail. Pop tells Nadia that it’s “his mess to sort out,” and that she should tell Abdi to do nothing, which leads to an ominous shot of Abdi opening a chest filled with firearms.
At Ace’s home at the Star Gazer Lodge, Ace’s younger brother, Chris, is searching for Ace. He gives Bobby, Ace’s german shepherd, some water, and then takes the dog outside, but all the dog wants to do is bark at Cabin #19, the last place Ace went before he died. At the same time, Annie and Joy’s fight continues, and the pair exit the cabin as the dog barks at them. Chris apologizes to “Ms. Engles” for the dog’s behavior, but as Joy storms across the Star Gazer’s grounds, she falls and badly cuts her hand on a rusty bicycle.
Another flashback to Pop’s past, this one set in a church with an almost entirely Somali congregation. According to the preach, when Pop heard about “what happened” in Somalia, he insisted they make a new home for the refugees in Maine, leading to his offer to let any of them open a business in his mall. In the present, Pop continues to search for Ace and enters a bar where a town hall meeting is taking place. Pop interrupts when witches are mentioned to say that they were actually Satanists. “Made a bad deal with the wrong hombre,” Pop says.
Pop isn’t the only one searching for Ace. His “business associates” are back at the Somali Mall, making more trouble than ever as they pump the tenants for information. When some of Abdi’s men appear and tell them to leave, the situation grows tense, but Abdi’s men outnumber Ace’s
At the hospital, Joy denies Annie entrance to the room as Nadia stitches her wounds. Seizing the opportunity to get some answers of her own, Nadia learns that Annie has told Joy their lifestyle of moving around was a necessity for her nursing job. By gauging Nadia’s reaction, Joy begins to realize that her mother has lied to her.
In the waiting room, Annie overhears a child say they want a “hot fudge sundae,” which triggers a flashback to the events of the previous evening, including killing Ace and his corpse in the subterranean cavern. She takes a pill and turns to a paperback (The Viscount’s Bride) for comfort.
Elsewhere, Abdi laments the effect Ace has had on his life, first firebombing him and then going missing and leaving his adopted brother a suspect. In another flashback, the day Pop began fostering Nadia and Abdi is glimpsed. Pop buys them a fast food meal and then begins to bond with the siblings over a vanilla milkshake. Meanwhile, teenaged Ace and Chris watch from the next room, and Ace bitterly wonders where their milkshake might be.
In the present, Chris and Nadia are lamenting Ace’s actions, as well. And speaking of lament, Chris apologizes to Nadia for a drunken voicemail message, and she tells him that given the situation with Abdi, it’s “not a good idea.”
At Abdi’s construction site, a worker discovers Annie’s necklace. Abdi and his associates conclude that it must have been left by the squatters at the Marsten House, sending his right-hand man up to eject the “junkies” who live there. But when he arrives, he finds that their bodies have been burned, and an off-screen entity kills him with an axe to the face.
Sons and Daughters
Ace’s disappearance has led to a power vacuum. Pop confronts Ace’s men over the fact that they’ve been causing problems at the Somali Mall, but they refuse to yield to his authority. After they’ve left, Pop opens Ace’s cabin and the german shepherd runs directly to Cabin #19.
At the hospital, Joy uses the cell phone that was given to her by Chance to search the internet, confirming her suspicions that Annie has been lying to her and uncovering the fact that “Ingles” is a pseudonym.
Annie is trying to locate Joy’s hospital room when she is confronted by Pop in the hallway. He begins interrogating her about Ace’s disappearance, explaining that his dog goes right to Cabin #19, which is paid for another week in spite of the fact that Annie has her bags packed.
Annie begins crying and tells Pop a story that integrates fact and fabrication. She includes details like the molotov cocktail and recounts the beginning of the encounter she had with Ace in the cabin, but then lies and says that a car came into the Star Gazer Lodge parking lot that caused Ace to flee into the woods. When Pop asks who was driving the car, Annie insinuates that it was a Black man, leading Pop to make his own assumptions about who it had been.
At the construction site, Abdi is ambushed and kidnapped by the officers on Pop’s payroll. In a flashback, we see the day that Pop told Abdi he was going to legally adopt him. Pop is smoking his marijuana pipe, suggesting that he’s already been diagnosed with cancer, and with death more closely at hand than ever, Pop is concerned about how his property will be distributed when he dies. He tells Abdi that adoption will help ensure Abdi will be able to inherit the mall when he passes. “Your people, your milk cow,” says Pop.
The Return of the Repressed
Back in the present, the situation is considerably less amiable. Pop has had Abdi tied to a chair and begins interrogating him, asking him where he dumped Ace’s body. Abdi is understandably upset and threatens to tell Nadia “the truth about” Pop if he isn’t set free. Abdi says that he believes Pop actually hopes that Abdi has killed Ace because then they’d be “even.” Pop goes outside and experiences another war flashback, then brings Ace’s dog into the warehouse and begins threatening Abdi with a dog attack, but as the tension rises, Pop begins to have a seizure. He collapses on the floor, still holding the dog’s leash.
At the Star Gazer Lodge, Annie and Joy return to Cabin #19 from the hospital. Joy demands to know what Annie is running from, revealing that she “broke the rules” and went online. Joy storms into the house, which is when the beetles begin to land on the windows of Annie’s jeep. The beetles continue to accumulate on the vehicle as she looks through the back window and sees Ace, the man she killed, standing in the parking lot and glowering at the car.
The first three episodes of Castle Rock, including “New Jerusalem,” are available on Hulu now, and be sure to check out the Beat recap of the third episode right here at 19:00 tomorrow!
Everything is Nineteen
- A wooden plaque in the cavern where Annie falls reads “Damien Aucoin – May 14, 1619.” Not only did he die in 1619 (the year that Castle Rock was founded), he died on 5/14 — and 5 + 14 = 19.