Castle Rock: “Restore Hope” Review (Spoilers)

In a season that was heavily advertised as featuring Annie Wilkes, we got another episode in which she surprisingly gets barely any screen time.  However, what we get instead is an incredibly compelling revelation between Nadia and Pop that’s both compelling and shocking!

(Spoilers Ahead: You’ve Been Warned!!!)

Sins of the Past
The episode opens with a flashback to war-torn Somalia in 1993.  Abdi and Nadia’s mother is worried as the fighting and bombing gets closer to them.

She warns them to pack and leave, however they don’t act quickly enough as American soldiers make it to their house that very night.  In a tragic misunderstanding, their mother is shot and killed by one such soldier.

It wouldn’t be a stretch to say that Nadia blames herself for not taking the threat of war seriously.

Back in the present, a horrified Joy runs away from Annie, and ends up staying with Nadia and Abdi.  Aside from one brief scene of Annie showing up and being turned away by Abdi, we don’t really see much of her this episode.

It’s obvious that she was featured so prominently in all the advertising because Hulu knew that she was a character audiences were familiar with.  But it’s all made up for because Annie is but one of several fascinating characters in an ensemble, much like season 1 or any King story for that matter.

Despite taking Joy in, Nadia has very little time, as she’s busy trying to track down Pop’s discharge paperwork so that he can qualify for a VA trial.  As she researches further, she makes the astonishing discovery that he was in fact station in Somalia in 1993, something he failed to tell her (or anyone).

At his living wake, she confronts him about, and he confirms what we are all dreading to know, that he in fact was the soldier who shot their mother back in Somalia.  And rather than altruism, it was guilt that motivated him to foster Nadia and Abdi.

It’s heartbreaking for Nadia, more than anyone, as she fought really hard to get Pop in that trial, out of love for him. He’s also been like a father to her for more than 20 years!

Looming Threat
Meanwhile, Ace is creeping everyone out by acting way more subtle and calm than usual.  He and his new brood of vampires use Pop’s living wake to lure new victims to feast upon their blood and turn them into vampires as well.

The episode ends with Ace luring his brother Chris to a church, where we discover even the town’s priest is one of them.  Chris dies, but is told by the undead man of the cloth that everything will be fine once he is turned.

As far as pacing goes, “Restoring Hope” is definitely more of a slow tension build, setting up for later episodes.  Nadia’s investigation and revelation was certainly interesting, but from the moment we saw the 1993 flashback in the beginning, it was pretty obvious that Pop was the one who pulled that trigger.

He hints at it early in the episode, confessing to the vampire priest (before we knew he was one) that he had a blood debt to pay.  However, this probably would have had more an emotional punch had it been set up a few episodes earlier.

That said, it still hits hard and tragically, as the relationship between Nadia and Pop is forever ruined.  And it was one of the more poignant emotional connections in this season.  Between all the feuding with Abdi and Ace, Nadia and Pop seemed to be the only ones whose genuine famial love and affection held the family together.

Normally, this falling out would spell doom for Abdi, as there’d be nothing to hold Ace back, however given Ace’s recent vampire recruiting, doom is already spelled for everyone in ‘Salem’s Lot!

Apparently these vampires aren’t bothered by crossed, because they’ve set up shop in a church!

We also get to see Joy finally coming into her own, after a lifetime of being incredibly sheltered by her mother.  It’s a compelling storyline, and despite only getting a couple brief scenes in this episode, Elsie Fischer really sells it with a subtlety that many actors (let alone young ones) struggle with.

Hopefully this season doesn’t go the same way as last year, where many fans felt that the last five episodes significantly dropped in quality from the first five.  Thus far, it’s done a solid job setting everything in motion, along with this looming threat in the background.

Most fans would be incredibly satisfied to see Annie unite with Nadia, Abdi, and even Pop to take on the undead threat that’s growing right under their noses.  But alas, we must wait until next week to see where the story goes!

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