Castle Rock S2E4 begins with a flashback to Mogadishu, Somalia in 1993. A young Nadia and Abdi are playing together in the marketplace when the United States military arrives. Their mother has decided that the best way to ensure the safety of her children is to relocate to America.
As Nadia and her mother witness nearby neighborhoods being bombed, Abdi returns home with an automatic rifle given to him by one of his friends. His mother says that she is returning it to the “devil” that gave it to him, but Abdi resists, and he surrenders the weapon only when his mother slaps his face and takes it from him.
Later that evening, the children are packing but their mother still hasn’t returned. Nadia leaves the house to search for her in spite of Abdi’s protests. Just outside, the siblings encounter several U.S. Soldiers on patrol. The children are wrestled to the ground by the soldiers just moments before their mother returns. She panics when she sees the soldiers apprehending her children and runs toward them, still clutching the weapon she took from Abdi.
One of the soldiers shoots their mother, who collapses to the ground, dead. Nadia throws herself over her mother’s corpse, protesting that it’s “just a little blood” and then apologizing profusely for being unable to save her before the opening sequence begins.
The Man in the Street
In the present day, a few shots that establish the status of the various characters in the wake of the previous episode. Nadia watches her father in the hospital. The Ace-Thing cruises the streets in his pickup truck. Joy sitting at a bus stop and crying after fleeing her mother in Cabin #19. The undead Ace spots Joy and pulls up next to her in his pickup, driving in reverse while he asks her questions about her evening and her mother before offering her a ride. Fortunately, the bus arrives and Joy gets on, escaping Ace-ish’s machinations (at least for the moment).
Nadia heads to the local church to volunteer her time and professional medical services to those in need, which is where she finds Joy. Back at the Star Gazer Lodge, Chase breaks into Cabin #19. Chase manages to lift the lockbox that Joy asked Annie about in the previous episode before she is caught by Annie. Annie shouts at Chase, telling her Joy needs to come home, but Chase tells her to look at herself – she is, after all, still covered in blood.
Meanwhile, Joy speaks with Nadia, who tells her that Annie’s behavior is not Joy’s fault. Nadia and Joy share a heartfelt moment as the doctor tells Joy that sometimes it helps to feel responsible because it gives you a sense of control over the circumstances, and there is a brief flashback to the death of Nadia’s mother. Nadia meets Annie in a coffee shop, where Nadia tells Annie that Joy will be staying with her for a while. Annie tells several lies as she attempts to reestablish contact with Joy, and attempts to appeal to Nadia’s womanhood, but Nadia won’t budge.
Annie goes directly to Nadia’s house and starts pounding on the door, but Abdi greats her at the door with a gun and says that Joy’s staying – “her words.” Annie screams her daughter’s name, but Joy doesn’t budge.
The Haunted Man
Next, we jump back to what’s left of Ace, a fact we know immediately thanks to an establishing shot featuring the pickup truck accompanied by a beetle. The Ace-Thing is watching old home videos of the Merrill family, evidently in an attempt to better replicate the mannerisms of the late Ace. Ace’s younger brother, Chris, arrives, and remarks both how strange his brother’s behavior is, as well as commenting on the fact that Ace’s associates are talking about “shooting up Somalis” thanks to Ace’s actions. Chris says Ace couldn’t live with that, but the Ace-Thing replies that he finds he can “live with a lot.”
At the hospital, Nadia arranges to have Abdi stay with Joy over the phone before entering Pop’s hospital room. Pop apologizes for how he treated Abdi, but Nadia interrupts him to inform him that the chemotherapy has been ineffective in treating his cancer. Nadia suggests clinical trials, but Pop says that he doesn’t want to fight the inevitable any longer. Nadia ignores him and contacts the Veteran’s Health System to connect him with a promising clinical trial.
Annie returns to the Star Gazer Lodge, then hides in her jeep when she sees the Ace-Thing talking on his cell phone. She overhears him speaking French before he returns to his cabin. Later that night, the Ace-Thing gets in his pickup truck with several duffle bags, then drives to the Marsten House. The realtor and Abdi’s right-hand man are waiting for him, but it’s clear that like the Ace-Thing, they have been “changed.”
Chris and Nadia share a drink and an intimate moment as they discuss Pop’s health. Nadia confesses that she feels responsible for both Pop and her mother, expressing her guilt at being unable to save them.
At the church, Pop explains his moral predicament to the pastor. He says that he is being eaten alive by the guilt of what he’s done, and wants to know if he should confess before his death. But the pastor asks him to reflect on why he is confessing to his daughter instead of god and then asks him to consider what the cost of the revelation would be upon the person to whom he was confessing. Back home, Pop takes out the confession letter he wrote and burns it. The pastor’s message has hit home for Pop, and he has resolved to take the secret that weighs on his heart with him to the grave.
Pop goes to the shop, where he runs into Chris and tells him that they’re having his wake at 4:00 on Sunday. Chris tells him that he has more treatment coming, but Pop tells him that he’s “pissing into the wind.” Pop is ready to go.
At Nadia’s house, Chase delivers the lockbox to Joy. Chase says she put more minutes on the cell phone and tells Joy to call her before leaving. Joy begins the process of attempting to open the lockbox, eventually figuring out that the key to the code is the phrase, “Christmas, Joy.” Inside, she finds a handgun (which she buries in the yard, but does anything in the Rock or the Lot ever stay buried?) and a CD-ROM with the manuscript of a novel on it: The Ravening Angel.
Elsewhere, Annie eats a tub of ice cream, which is probably the only thing she can handle after the mouth full of glass last episode.
Nadia wakes up beside Chris and checks her cell phone. A spot has opened up in the clinical trial, but they’ll need Pop’s military discharge paperwork in order to enter him in the program… and requesting the information from the archives could take several months – longer than Pop has left.
Nadia heads to her father’s office at the Emporium Galorium to find the paperwork and is ultimately successful in her mission in spite of Pop’s sloppy storage systems. As she’s leaving, she encounters Ace’s associates. They attack her, but she pulls the handgun Pop stores under the counter up front out and uses it to fend them off.
The New Jerusalem
At the wake Irish music and beer flow freely. There’s a tense moment between Pop and the Ace-Thing, but it seems to resolve itself. However, a few moments later, Office Grunberg and the late Realtor both enter the pub, suggesting the threat that’s growing at the Marsten House is still very close at hand. Meanwhile, Nadia is digging into her father’s discharge paperwork, and in the process, she discovers that Pop served in Somalia (in “Operation Gothic Serpent,” an appropriate name for inclusion in a Gothic Horror story).
Chris begins delivering the eulogy, but Pop insists that the only way to do something right is to do it himself. Pop begins delivering an appropriately sardonic eulogy: he talks about how Ace and Chris where his sister’s children, who he raised to be the men they are today. The eulogy then turns to Nadia and Abdi, and Pop says that fostering them was “just another debt to be settled,” then but then concludes his speech by saying, “but it can’t be settled.” It’s then that Nadia arrives at the pub.
Chris confronts the Ace-Thing. He wants to know if he’s told Nadia what happened. The Ace-Thing says he doesn’t know what he’s talking about but admits that there is something else going on. The Ace-Thing tells Chris that he’ll show him what it is. Chris follows the Ace-Thing out of the pub under the watchful gaze of the late of the Ace-Thing’s new associates – the late realtor and the late police officer.
As the Ace-Thing leads Chris to the church, the machinations of the monsters take place. As Timothy is riding on his bike, Abdi’s right-hand man runs him over with a truck. The realtor seduces the unsuspecting bartender and leads him to the back room, where she stabs him in the head. The officer pulls over the town councilwoman and then chokes her to death after putting her in the back of his cop car.
Meanwhile, the Ace-Thing tells Chris that he’s had “a conversion of sorts.” He then begins recounting the history of ‘Salem’s Lot, which was called “New Jerusalem” 400 years ago. The Ace-Thing tells Chris that a “very special group of people” settled New Jerusalem and that the land still belongs to them. He claims that they “fought enemies from east and west,” but never surrendered.
Chris is confused but still follows the Ace-Thing to the basement of the church, where the Ace-Thing attacks him, stabbing him in the gut. Chris fights back, successfully repelling the Ace-Thing and making it back upstairs into the nave of the church, where he collapses in front of the altar. The pastor approaches and tells him that he’ll call an ambulance.
Throughout the episode, the pastor has appeared to be a decent man: he has connected Nadia and Joy, offers Pop sound advice on how to deal with his guilt, and when one of the undead smiles at him from a car outside the church, the priest does not respond in kind. For Constant Readers, this may suggest Father Callahan, the priest who joins the battle against the undead in Salem’s Lot, later appearing in the fifth book of the Dark Tower series, Wolves of the Calla, where it is revealed that Callahan becomes something of a vampire slayer. However, another subversion of reader expectations has taken place: this clergyman is no friend to the living.
Chris is badly injured, and tells the pastor to hurry… but the pastor returns with a cold expression on his face and the church’s monstrance in his hands. As Chris kneels before him, the pastor brings the monstrance down to slice into the dying man’s neck, dealing the coup de grace. The Ace-Thing emerges from the basement and shares a smile with the pastor.
Back at the wake, Nadia confronts Pop. Pop tells her that if anyone could save him, it would be her, but that he’s done fighting the cancer. Nadia responds by telling him that she found his discharge papers and learned all the places he fought overseas while in the military, to Pop’s growing horror. In spite of Pop’s decision to bury the truth and take his secret with him to the grave in order to spare his daughter the pain of learning the truth, Nadia has discovered that Pop was the one who shot and killed her mother in 1993. As Nadia sees in Pop’s face that her realization is true, she tells him to fuck off and leaves the bar in tears, as Pop stands in horror watching her leave.
The first four episodes of Castle Rock are available now for streaming on Hulu, and the dirty birds at the Beat will be back next week with a recap of episode five: “The Laughing Place.”