Following up what was arguably the best episode of all of Castle Rock, “Mother” had the daunting task of paying off the emotional setup we got in “The Laughing Place”, while also picking up Nadia and Abdi’s Merrill subplot, and also advancing the supernatural horror element which will most likely play a role later. And if that sounds like a lot to cover, it very much is!
(Spoilers Ahead: You’ve Been Warned!!!)
A (Salem’s) Lot to Unpack
After Joy made her fateful phone call to Rita at the end of last episode, Rita manages to track the phone number to Castle Rock, ME and makes the journey by bus. With a little private detective work, she’s able to locate Joy (or Evangeline) at the group home and an emotional reunion ensues; emotionally gratifying for Rita, but altogether devastating for Joy, whose whole world is crumbling.
She finally confronts Annie, and gets the entire truth about the horrific events that happened 16 years earlier. Forced to confront the fact that the life she’s always known is a lie, Joy panics, and tells Rita that sadly she can’t go with her (nor does she want to live with Annie). In a fit of rage, Rita abandons her sobriety, and confronts Annie with a gun.
This all culminates in Joy finding them in the woods, where she subdues Rita, but the gun goes off in the struggle, leaving Rita with a bullet wound in her stomach. Finally, in a completely selfless move, Annie shouts, “I did it!” as the police approach in the wake of hearing the gunshot.
The New Lost Boys?
Meanwhile, Nadia kicks out Abdi, after learning that he knew the truth about Pop and their mother for the last five years. But she quickly becomes preoccupied as strange occurrences are happening in town.
She receives a patient in the hospital who seems to be dying and covered in an unknown substance. It seems that Ace and his growing vampire brood are preying upon innocent victims and preparing an ultimate sacrifice (which Ace mentions will be Annie).
It’s honestly a fascinating and foreboding subplot that will hopefully get more time devoted to it later (which is probably the case). It just felt like with so much going on emotionally with the Annie/Joy/Rita narrative, everything with Ace and the vampires just sort of felt like a tacked on afterthought, like the episode was already so crowded. This made it hard to fully focus, or appreciate everything else that was happening.
Thus far, it seems that we’ve had multiple storylines happening simultaneously, but there hasn’t been a lot of overlap. Which has served both to the season’s benefit and detriment.
One the one hand, it’s given us the opportunity to see Annie Wilkes and the traditional “Salem’s Lot” vampires both get their day in the sun (well, figuratively for the vampires), but at the same time, it can’t help but feel like two completely separate series.
One is a going full supernatural horror, while the other is more of a character drama. Both subgenres are brilliant in their own right, but they don’t exactly mesh well together. And trying to combine them for the season’s ending may prove to be a challenge.
Once again however, the performances by Lizzy Caplan, Elsie Fisher, as well as Sarah Gadon were nothing short of brilliant. In a family case far more complicated than anything Jerry Springer or Maury have ever shown, we saw a great range of emotions from all three. One of the greatest strengths of this season has been humanizing the infamous Annie Wilkes.
The version of her we saw in Misery was what she would have become, if unchecked. But here, we see an alternate Annie that always was capable of love and compassion, it’s just that her own mental illness got in the way of her stability and happiness. She’s more tragic than we’ve ever seen her. And the act of taking the fall for the gunshot to protect Joy demonstrates that immense love she has.
However, with Rita having been shot, the next episode will most likely open at the hospital, where Annie and Joy (along with their plot) will converge with Nadia and Abdi, and whatever Ace is up to.
As we approach the last few episodes of the season, we can only hope that it’s all coming together for something big. But even if it comes together for anything at all, it would still probably be more interesting and exciting than Season 1!