This Castle Rock review contains spoilers.
Castle Rock Season 2 Episode 6
Castle Rock season 2 shows no signs of slowing down after last week’s season-defining Annie Wilkes origin story. “The Mother” not only delivers a big payoff after last week’s big cliffhanger, but also digs deeper into whatever the hell is going on at the Marsten House. (It’s sticky business.) The episode is exciting, heartbreaking, and as gruesome as you’d expect, and the climactic confrontation between Annie and Rita goes down as another one of the season’s many highlights.
Credit must be given to Sarah Gadon (11.22.63) for her top-notch performance as Rita. While gentle, sympathetic, and kind in “The Laughing Place,” here we see her at the end of her rope, a broken woman who has every right to be angry at the teen girl who stole her baby.
Her best line of the night, “The worst part was hoping you were a good mother,” cuts deep and is remarkable writing from showrunners Sam Shaw and Dustin Thomason. Gadon delivers those lines with real pain in her eyes, her acting so raw and seemingly unrehearsed. She taps into something really dark inside of her character, and it’s hypnotic to watch Rita’s murderous turn after she realizes Joy isn’t coming home with her.
There aren’t much more compliments to give Lizzy Caplan and Elsie Fisher for their work as Annie and Joy Wilkes. They nail every scene they’re in together. It helps that Caplan’s manic portrayal of Annie can carry pretty much any scene she’s in, no matter how dull or mundane. She gets nothing but quality material here, as she confronts first Joy with the truth and is then faced with her comeuppance when Rita pays her a visit.
I loved the way the episode played with time, framing Annie’s visit to the Castle Rock group home as too-little-too-late for a confession. Rita gets to Joy first, but the truth does anything but set her daughter free. In fact, the ties between Joy and her “mother” grow tighter by episode’s end. Castle Rock seems to believe that it’s not who birthed you but who raised you that matters when it comes to the question of motherhood, and Annie seems to have done enough to earn Joy’s mercy in the climactic scene. Joy saves Annie’s life, inadvertently killing Rita in the process — it’s the episode’s most convenient twist, as Rita clutches her stomach after dropping the loaded revolver, but it also sets up the season’s next major plot point, which is likely to be Annie’s true identity coming to light.
Meanwhile, the show steers things in a much more traditionally horror direction as the Invasion of the Body Snatchers continues to spread from Jerusalem’s Lot to Castle Rock. We learn that Ace — or Pere Augustin, the evil Frenchman who’s taken over the man’s body — is planning to use Annie as a vessel to bring back someone named Amity Lambert, whose corpse currently resides in a casket below the Marsten House. Are these Bodysnatchers the Satanists the show teased early on in the season? We still don’t know.
But Nadia, who pays a transformed Chris a visit in the tail end of the episode, might find out what all the goo is about soon enough. Overall, we don’t get much of the Merrill’s this week, with Pop completely absent from the episode besides a voicemail left on Nadia’s phone. It seems we’ll have to wait a bit longer for the wound in Nadia and Pop’s relationship to heal. Hopefully sooner than later for homeless Abdi’s sake.