Castle Rock S2E3 picks up just where the previous episode left off: with Annie in her jeep outside Cabin #19, being menaced by the figure of Ace as beetles flit through the air in the background. The camera keeps a tight focus on Annie as she flees into the house, where Joy asks her what’s wrong. But when Annie peers out the window, Ace has vanished, just like the Tall Man who had appeared in her visions when she had stopped taking her antipsychotic medication.
Meanwhile, Abdi is still tied to a chair and being menaced by Ace’s dog, whose leash is still being held by Pop, who has not moved since collapsing. Abdi manages to free himself from the chair and bindings just in time to dodge the dog’s attack and trap him in the warehouse’s enclosed lift. Abdi brings the unconscious Pop to the hospital but leaves as soon as Jamal has accepted his adopted father in the hospital’s care.
Doubting her own memories of what transpired the night she killed Ace, Annie returns to the construction site to examine the place where she broke through the surface and fell into the subterranean cavern, only to find freshly laid concrete at her previous point of ingress. She then travels up the hill to the Marsten House, but what she finds inside does nothing to alleviate her self-doubt: rather than the dilapidated mess she discovered after escaping the cavern through the sewers, the interior seems to be in the midst of a renovation.
She discovers a heavy wooden door with a lock, but as she’s attempting to get inside, a man appears behind her. It’s Abdi’s late employee, but the axe wound on his head seems to be completely healed, and he’s covered in the same slime that was all over Ace’s corpse after it fell into the cavern. As Annie watches in horror, the dead man eats an egg, shell and all. He begins shouting at Annie and she flees the Marsten House before the opening credits begin.
Castle Rock S2E3: “Ties that Bind”
After the opening sequence, we see Pop waking up in the hospital under Nadia’s care. She tells him that he had a “little” stroke and tries to get her father to explain what happened. Pop says that Abdi should have left him in the warehouse, which he says is what he would have done with himself, then asks if he hurt Abdi. Nadia asks if Pop hurt Abdi, and Pop says he doesn’t know.
At Cabin #19, Chance knocks on the door and then asks Joy if she wants to “go look for a dead guy.” It’s a moment that is extremely reminiscent of the movie Stand By Me, as well as the King novella the movie was based on, The Body, as is the rest of the sequence that follows the four teens as they share a day together on the lake.
Chance invites Joy down to the lake to search for Ace’s dead body (but in that nonchalant teenage way that suggests the only real expectation is that they’ll get half-baked while paddling around the water rather than locating the corpse of the landlord). While Joy is reticent at first, telling Chance that she and her mom may be leaving the Star Gazer Lodge soon, she’s soon convinced by her flirtatious neighbor.
When they arrive at the water, Timothy makes a reference to the Shawshank warden’s suicide (seen in the first episode of the first season of Castle Rock), saying they found his body but never found his head. It’s a reference to a dark event, but the mood on the water remains cheerful. Under the surface, however, it’s a different story. A shot shows the underside of the boat, the non-diegetic music muffled and accompanied by a menacing and mysterious noise.
Elsewhere, Annie calls Nadia and demands to know how the doctor changed her medications. Nadia says that the only alteration was to replace one of the meds with a generic, but Annie insists that something must have changed because she’s seeing things, mistaking the actual horrors she’s witnessed for hallucinations. Annie insists something is wrong, but Nadia says she can’t deal with it at the moment because she’s dealing with a family emergency, and hangs up on the desperate Annie.
On the lake, it’s revealed than Chance has been emancipated from her parents, a fact that seems likely to become relevant in the future. In a very King moment, the conversation turns to Annie’s hatred of swearing, which leads to Joy screaming the word “fuck.” When one of the oars gets away from them, Joy voluntarily jumps into the water and retrieves it, but when she resurfaces, she notes that there’s a “weird sound down there.”
Mermaids are monsters
When the kids return to Star Gazer Lounge, Chance and Joy separate from the rest, and share a close moment that seems to be on the verge of a kiss. But when Joy makes it back to Cabin #19, she finds a mess of overturned furniture and books. Joy tells Annie that she’s going to get Annie’s pills, but Annie tells her that she thinks that Nadia has poisoned her.
“Her pills make me worse, not better,” Annie says, believing that the supernatural events she has witnessed were not real, but hallucinations. Annie confesses to killing Ace, then says that she can’t find a trace of it because she concealed her actions too effectively. Annie then tells Joy that Ace came back, even though she “ended” him.
Like Annie, Joy believes the things Annie has witnessed are impossible, and therefore hallucinations, and that Annie is having a psychotic episode. When Annie hugs Joy, Joy injects her with a sedative, apparently part of a prearranged plan between Annie and Joy to ensure Joy’s safety in the event that Annie became dangerous.
Nadia finally locates Abdi, who tells her that the only reason he spared Pop’s life was out of consideration for Nadia’s feelings. Meanwhile, at the hospital, “Ace” visits Pop. When Pop asks where he’s been, Ace replies, “Derry,” the Maine town that serves as the setting of the novels IT, Dreamcatcher, and parts of 11/22/63. Ace’s responses are strange and uncharacteristic, and Pop becomes increasingly agitated in his presence, telling him to “get the fuck outta here.”
In the next scene, the Ace-thing examines himself in the mirror in a very strange way, and then we see him driving his pickup while drinking a bottle of wine. A police officer pulls him over (played by none other than frequent J.J. Abrams alum Greg Grunberg), but the outcome of the encounter is unclear. Great use of the word “fucknuts,” though.
At Star Gazer Lodge Cabin #19, Annie wakes up to find that her daughter has used restraints to bind her to her bed. The situation immediately calls to mind Misery, which famously featured Annie Wilkes tying the author Paul Sheldon to a bed in order to force him to write a sequel to her favorite series of novels. Now, the situation is inverted, and after being involved in a car accident herself, Annie is the one tied to the bed (there may be a little Gerald’s Game in there, too).
In the other room, Joy is texting with Chance, who informs her that Ace is still alive. Unfortunately, Joy interprets this as meaning that Annie’s confession about killing Ace was another hallucination. Joy asks the restrained Annie if she’s ready to take her pills. Annie tries to talk her way out of it, explaining that the medication doesn’t seem to be working, but Joy insists that she’s seeing things that aren’t there and needs to take her pills.
“That’s what you said you’d say,” Joy insists when Annie tells her the medication is off. Annie agrees to take them, but she hides them in her mouth and spits them out when Joy has left the room.
At the Marsten House, Valarie Blount of Blount Real Estate arrives to show the property. Unfortunately, her client is the late Ace Merrill. The pair discusses the history of the house, which apparently involves millionaire Hughie Marsten, who “practiced black magic, lost his mind, shot his wife, hanged himself.” The Ace-Thing asks the realtor some deeply unnerving questions (including a very strange and ominous inquiry concerning her fertility) as they enter the mansion.
One inside the Marsten House, the realtor grows confused when she finds the same renovation-in-progress that Annie witnessed earlier. She heads upstairs, calling to see if anyone’s there, but she probably regrets the answer, because Officer Greg Grunberg is here, and he’s in a tub that appears to be full of slime and maggots. The horrified realtor turns around to find the Undead Ace brandishing a chain.
The Dog-Gone Worst
Back at Cabin #19, Annie is experiencing the effects of being off of her medication again: she hallucinates Ace appearing and breaking Joy’s neck before choking her, only to awaken gasping in her bed, alone. Annie looks thoughtfully at the empty water glass on the bedside table before Joy begins reading a book to her.
Joy asks her mother what’s kept in Annie’s lockbox, and Annie tells her it’s “just papers,” which, considering the character’s story in Misery, seems like a telling statement. An alarm goes off and Joy administers Annie’s medicine, which Annie hides in her mouth and spits out once again.
Joy leaves the room and goes to the kitchen, where she uses her phone to search the internet for information about visual hallucinations. Meanwhile, Annie manages to get the water glass under her pillow before breaking the glass by smashing her head downward. Annie is interrupted by Joy, who enters with a sandwich and implores her mother to “tell the truth” about “everything.” Joy wants answers about who they’re running from, and why.
Annie tells her that her father didn’t want her, so Annie took her and ran away with her. Annie says that she knew the cops wouldn’t “see what he was,” and they didn’t. Annie says her father is a bad man who is coming to get them, but Joy counters that Annie had told her that her father died a war hero. Joy’s trust in her mother is shattered as Annie grows increasingly desperate and incoherent in her pleading to be released.
That’s when Joy spots the pills Annie has spat out on the carpet beside the bed. Joy accuses her mother of lying, but knock on the door interrupts them. As Joy goes to answer it, Annie moves her pillow aside and picks up the broken glass with her mouth before using it to cut the ties that have bound her to the bed. If that doesn’t make you wince, Annie dislocates her arm next! Oof.
At the cabin door, Joy is confronted by Nadia. Nadia wants to know what’s going on with Annie, who missed her shift at the hospital. Joy lies and says that Annie had a stomach bug but is feeling better now. When Nadia presses, Joy says that Nadia should have “sent her to a head doctor.”
Annie has managed to free one hand and, drenched in her own blood, has set about cutting the other binding when Joy reenters the room. Joy is horrified and grabs for her mother, who instinctively slashes backward with the shard of glass, cutting Joy’s arm. Annie is horrified by what she’s done, and Joy is (understandably) horrified by pretty much everything that’s happening.
Annie eventually frees herself, but when she exits Cabin #19 a few minutes later, Joy is nowhere to be found. However, the Tall Man has returned. Annie runs back into the cabin and begins eating the pills off the floor, but the Tall Man enters the room behind her nevertheless. A she slowly stands, he speaks to her, telling her she knows “how this story ends,” with Annie killing “her.”
Which her? What’s happening? We’ll find out more next Wednesday when the next episode of Castle Rock streams on Hulu, and the Beat will be back with a recap at 19:00 sharp! …does the word “sharp” make anyone else think of broken glass? Oof!