This Castle Rock article contains spoilers.
Castle Rock season 2 has come to an end. The season finale, “Clean,” ties up a few loose ends but leaves some of the show’s biggest mysteries unsolved. Who is the Angel and are he and the Kid one and the same? Where is Henry Deaver? What’s next for Annie Wilkes?
With Castle Rock season 3 yet to be confirmed by Hulu, it’s unclear if we’ll get answers to all of these questions. You shouldn’t worry too much though, as this Stephen King extravaganza is one of the most popular shows on the streaming service at the moment.
Until we do get that renewal, let’s chat a bit about the ending of season 2 and see what we did learn about the forces at work in Maine’s most haunted town as well as the fate of Annie and Joy.
Bill Skarsgard’s cameo in Castle Rock season 2 turns out to be a pretty inconsequential one in the end. While the Angel does remind us for a few episodes that ‘Salem’s Lot is a pretty great novel, we still don’t really understand his plan for Castle Rock. If the Angel and season 1’s the Kid/Alternate Henry Deaver are truly one and the same, what was the point of getting himself caged for most of the first season? We see in season 2 that even just a statue of the Angel is enough to take over an entire town, so why didn’t he just do all of this in season 1?
The closest answer I can come up with is that the Angel can only act through others, tempting impressionable people to commit evil acts. This seemed to be the case with Dennis Zalewski, who already had his doubts about Shawshank Prison — especially the way it treated prisoners — before the Kid pushed him to go on a shooting spree. Was this what he was doing to Warden Lacy too when he was suffering from a crisis of faith?
Amity Lambert seems to be the clearest answer we have to how the Angel/Kid operates. Before she meets the Angel, Amity is an outcast, exiled by her people. Amity agrees to do the Angel’s bidding and in exchange she receives the unconditional love of her people, whom she feeds and later convinces that ritual suicide is part of a greater plan for them. 400 years later, they’ll rise again to take over first the town and then the world. This is the Angel putting his grand plan to work, although, as I mentioned, the plan doesn’t necessarily make much sense.
Whatever the Angel’s true intentions are, it all seems to go back to Castle Lake, which is secretly a portal to other places beyond our reality. This is where the Angel meets Amity and where he fights Henry Deaver and where he waits for Amity to rise again in the season 2 finale. When Ace’s plan is foiled, and the statue and Marsten House are destroyed, the Angel retreats, vanishing to parts unknown once again. Gone as mysteriously as he appeared.
There’s still the question of how the Kid escaped captivity to begin with. The simplest answer is that he could always escape and has been merely playing games with the people of Castle Rock. Another explanation is that the rise of the first cultist, Pere Augustin, allowed the Kid to regain his powers as the Angel and get out of the cell.
Or perhaps it all goes back to the Angel’s ability to influence others. Did Henry Deaver himself free the Angel? It make sense, considering the many crises Henry experienced in the first season. This crisis of faith (in this case, faith in his father) is not unlike the one felt by Warden Lacy, and the result might be the same: the man in the cage escapes. At the end of season 1, Henry decided to stay in Castle Rock and guard the Kid, but how long could he keep that up?
As far as Henry’s fate goes, all we know is that he’s gone missing, gone before the start of the second season. It’s possible that he’s traveled to another reality or that something much more terrible has happened to him. There’s also the possibility that he simply ran away from the cursed town once and for all, leaving it to its fate, whatever that may be.
The season had to return to its core relationship, Annie and Joy, before the end. If you were hoping to see how Annie went from sympathetic mother to Paul Sheldon’s worst nightmare, you’ll find the harrowing answer in “Clean.” Caplan and Fisher save the episode from an otherwise very ordinary conclusion with their final tense moments as mother and daughter. Fisher shows the growth of Joy as young woman in scenes where she breaks away from her mother, whom she knows doesn’t always know best, but also proves her own growth as an actress. Much of the uncertainty of her breakout character in Eighth Grade returns in her final scenes but there’s something else hidden behind the veil of childhood. Annie thinks its Amity, whom she believes has taken over Joy as a vessel, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.
The traumatic events in Castle Rock have affected the severely mentally ill woman, but Annie is comforted by the presence of her mother (played by Robin Weigert, another of the season’s shining stars), who counsels her in moments of doubt, confirms that what she sees in Joy — Amity’s filth — is real. Of course, Joy is planning something — to run from Annie, to find a place to heal away from her mother, as Joy’s posthumous note to Annie reads.
But it’s too late. Joy, like Annie, will never escape her mother. While the season has been full of blood and guts, including a gruesome death involving an ice cream scoop, nothing could be more violent than Annie and Joy’s final scene together. I love the way the show plays with reality here, giving us two possible versions of what’s happening. In one, Annie is saving her daughter from Amity, while the other is so clearly the truth of the matter: Annie has finally reached her breaking point.
To make matters worse, Joy is robbed of her own perspective in those final scenes, as if the show is commenting on Annie’s lack of a voice in Misery. We see the dangerous nurse as a monster through Paul Sheldon’s eyes, but not why she is the way she is. Castle Rock sees things from Annie’s side, but it’s at the cost of what her own daughter is feeling in her final moments. We’re left only with the interiority of Joy’s drawings that might have never even existed in the first place. What is real when the veil of madness is lifted from Annie’s eyes is Joy’s letter, which is full of love for her mother as well as a confession: she’d planned to run away from her mother and get emancipated but hoped to one day reunite.
The tragedy of the final scene is palpable. Having lost the only thing keeping her remotely grounded, Annie gives in fully to her new obsession, which gets its own little origin story in the finale. “Misery’s Quest” by Paul Sheldon is the book Annie read to Joy in the days leading up to her death, and Annie’s final fantasy is of their equal admiration for Sheldon’s work. Annie hopes to one day have a Misery book dedicated to her as Sheldon’s number one fan, while the memory of Joy dreams of illustrating his book covers. And at last we understand why Sheldon’s books are so important to Annie. Her obsession doesn’t just come from an unsound mind but from her own pain. The Misery books are a way for Annie to keep Joy’s memory alive.
What Now for Castle Rock?
While Annie and Joy’s story gets its painful finality, the same can’t be said for the town of Castle Rock itself, which is left to deal with the aftermath of its latest nightmare off-screen. The people who survived the events at the Marsten House will ultimately go back to their lives, of course, since creepy shit is par for the course in this part of Maine, but what about those who didn’t fall under the Angel’s spell? What will Abdi, Nadia, and Chance do now?
Nadia could finally fulfill her wish to leave town and never come back. With Pop and Chris’ death, there’s little keeping her in town now except Abdi — and they’re not exactly on the best terms either. To stay in Castle Rock is to have to live with the painful reminder of what Pop kept from her all those years. Abdi, on the other hand, may choose to stay, to rebuild and help the Somali community in Jerusalem’s Lot. As for Chance, maybe she’ll be able to get away, too.
If and when Castle Rock season 3 does arrive, it will likely kick off a new story with a different cast of characters. This is an anthology series after all. Season 2 closed the door on Annie and Pop, and has seemingly done the same with Henry, which leaves only the Angel to continue to haunt the town until one day someone is finally able to defeat him once and for all.