2019 NEW YORK COMIC CON: For readers of Stephen King, the name Castle Rock will surely ring a bell. The fictional Maine town serves as the eerie setting for many of King’s tales of suspense, horror, and the supernatural. The second season of the Hulu anthology series from executive producer J.J. Abrams (“ALIAS”) set in the town of the same name will continue to interweave characters from multiple King stories into one thread. This season “Castle Rock” welcomes home one of King’s most infamous villains, Annie Wilkes of “Misery” fame (Lizzy Caplan, “Masters of Sex”). She becomes an unexpected citizen after she totals her car just outside the city limits. There goes the neighborhood.
WELCOME TO CASTLE ROCK
The second season is set decades before Annie, quite aggressively, “nurses” a crippled author back to health.Dustin Thomason (Lie to Me) creator, executive producer, “When we started the show, the intention was always to explore different corners of the universe. Annie Wilkes was always the crown jewel of a character who we wanted to find out what happened to her before she got to the place we know where she arrives at. This season really runs into the heart of that story. We wanted something where we could see Annie’s side of the story.”
Annie was last played last on-screen by Kathy Bates in the 1990 film – deservingly earning her the Academy Award for Best Actress Academy. Taking over the reins of such an iconic character is no easy task – Caplan has her work cut out for her, to say the least. She is a complex character, not one of clear cut good or evil. Her murky moral compass leads her to make bold, yet misdirected, moves to protect what’s most important to her… even when said moves include felonies.
ANNIE GET YOUR AX
We see a new side of Annie Wilkes, one that was unexplored in the novel or film. This Annie is not a jealous, psychotic caregiver, but rather a much more compassionate, loving Annie than would be expected. But, like most Stephen King characters, there’s more hiding under the surface. Clues are laid out early, during a cross country road trip full of mother/daughter sing-a-longs, license plate swapping and lots and lots of prescription meds that all is not right with Annie.
Although smiling on the outside, she is broken on this inside. A well-meaning mother forcing back bouts of psychosis with the constant downing of a self-prescribed prescription pill cocktail. Flashbacks provide more clues at what looks to be a dark, possibly tragic, past. Throughout the premiere episode, the audience ultimately pivoted between sympathizing with and fearing Annie. At the same time, she is obviously hiding some major secrets, a lady on the run from the law and her past. Hence, it is safe to say that she’s not the ideal neighbor.
SMELLS LIKE TEEN SPIRIT
The delightful Elsie Fisher (“Eighth Grade”) plays Annie’s daughter Joy, yet another teenage character struggling with the awkward challenges of growing up. Living with a mother teetering on the edge of insanity only compounds the teen’s troubles. Fisher draws inspiration from other horror films, namely “Hereditary” because of how it expresses family trauma, and as she put it, “how being a teen sucks.”
The premiere episode screened to a packed house at the Hulu Theater at MSG during NYCC. It is a tense, insane, thrill ride, with a mix of laughs, groans and some very well-deserved gasps. The episode sets up a season that teases numerous dark surprises. In addition to the horror aspect you would expect in a King-inspired story, this also looks to provide a gripping character study and an unorthodox family drama told from the perspectives of both the Wilkes and Merrill households. Two very different families, neither the picture of perfect… or even close.
ALL IN THE FAMILY
Loyal readers may recognize the Merrills from several of King’s works including “The Sun Dog,” “The Body,” and “Needful Things.” Reginald “Pop” Merrill (Tim Robbins, “Mystic River”) is the patriarch of a family with a penchant for trouble. If something shady is going down in Castle Rock, odds are the Merrills are certainly in the middle of it. Ace is the biological father of “Ace” Merrill (Paul Sparks, “Boardwalk Empire”) who is probably best known for terrorizing the kids of “Stand By Me” (as played by Keifer Sutherland) and new character Chris Merrill (Matthew Allen). The brothers seem to have taken on polar opposite aspects of Ace’s personality.
In addition, we meet the empathetic Dr. Nadia Omar (Yusra Warsama) and Abdi Omar (Barkhad Abdi, “Captain Phillips”), Pop’s adopted children of Somali descent — not what you’d expect from the small-time crook. A sibling rivalry, just the start of the family’s problems, look to play a key role in this season. Warsama describes the Merrills as, “your average dysfunctional family times ten. They love each other. So, when that relationship begins to unravel, it’s heartbreaking.”
We didn’t see much of the mentioned unraveling in the premiere, but color us intrigued. It’s just one of the storylines that promises to captivate in a season full of mysteries, blood and enough gloom to fill a shallow grave. This looks to be a sinfully good season.
Check out our exclusive cast interviews from the NYCC premiere in the video (below).
EXCLUSIVE AWARDS CIRCUIT VIDEO
For the rest of the scoop, watch the season two “CASTLE ROCK” premiere October 23rd, only on Hulu.