This Castle Rock review contains spoilers.
Castle Rock Season 2 Episode 3
They grow up so fast, don’t they? One minute they’re singing along to Carly Simon with you, dreaming of the Laughing Place, and the next they’ve tied you to the bed. What a wonderful and shocking twist to see Joy turn the tables on her mother, the woman who will one day kidnap a writer and keep him locked in a bedroom. Castle Rock season 2 has so far found really interesting ways to incorporate disparate parts of Stephen King lore into the show, and never in the way you expect. Annie, the Marsten House, and now this familiar setpiece from Misery have all turned up in genuinely surprising ways.
Elsie Fisher is at her very best in “Ties the Bind” — a title that turns out to have a bit of a double meaning when Joy ties her mother to a bed. Fisher not only brings the teenage angst of her breakout performance in last year’s Eighth Grade to the episode, but also channels the spirit of someone older, more certain of herself. Someone more dangerous.
This isn’t a breaking point for Joy, though. (That will likely come later.) She genuinely thinks she’s helping her mother by forcing her to take her medication. Annie has become convinced that her pills aren’t working, which we know isn’t the case, but she can’t help but unravel at the sight of a resurrected Ace. So Joy sedates her and ties her up, a contingency Annie herself came up with.
The 16-year-old actor shows real range, considering the two very different situations she’s given to play with in the episode. Joy is a confused, naive girl when with her new friends, who are slowly teasing out the Wilkes daughter’s more rebellious side. It’s after this new taste of freedom — she curses at the top of her lungs and gets high for the first time while on Castle Lake — that she’s able to truly muster up the courage to challenge her mother. It’s frightening how calculating Joy is when she sedates her mother, sticking the syringe in her back as she consoles Annie. Is this the same teenager?
While Joy goes Misery on her mom, I actually think these moments play closer to Carrie. Joy wants to be a normal girl, and when she gets a taste of what that feels like, she begins to rebel against her oppressive mother. Is that what’s happening here? If so, things won’t end well for either of the Wilkes women, especially after Annie reveals the truth about Joy’s father.
Credit must also be given to Lizzy Caplan, who continues to shine as Annie Wilkes. Here, she transforms into the character at her most desperate, yet manipulative. Caplan plays Annie like a force of nature here, as she dislocates her shoulder in order to cut her other arm free with a piece of broken glass, which is clearly shredding the flesh insider her mouth. It’s gruesome stuff, and Caplan is up for the challenge.
She eventually gets herself free from the ropes, but she’s still trapped in her own mind, as Joy’s seemingly undead father comes knocking at the front door. It’s unclear if Annie has told Joy the complete truth about her dad, considering this man looks much older than the teenaged Annie was in the flashback that opened the season. It’s possible that Annie has been aggressively sheltering Joy over a delusion, or Joy’s origin is much darker than the show’s let on so far…
Pop, Ace, and Abdi also have a very complicated relationship that only gets worse in “Ties That Bind.” Things really went south for Pop and his foster son at some point before the start of the show. One minute Pop wants to adopt Abdi, and the next he’s tied him up to a chair in a warehouse. But there’s still love there between both men. Pop suffers a minor stroke while interrogating Abdi, whom Annie falsely accused of killing Ace in last week’s episode. But instead of leaving his captor on the floor, possibly to die, Abdi loads Pop up in the back of his pickup and takes him to the hospital.
But while Pop and Abdi show mercy, Ace is busy murdering a real estate agent at the Marsten House. Things start to take shape in Jerusalem’s Lot, as the cursed house comes back to life. We don’t yet know who lives in the old mansion, but we do get a grotesque look at what’s become of Abdi’s henchman, now covered in a strange goop and eating raw eggs with the shells. Might this be the work of the satanists the show teased last episode?
Whatever monsters lie ahead for all of these characters, Castle Rock season 2 is expertly handling its storytelling, with multiple threads that promise a stunning collision in the days to come. “Ties That Bind” is another excellent hour of horror.