Castle Rock: “The Word” Review

After last week’s tense cliffhanger, Castle Rock does absolutely nothing to ease up the tension this week, as it brings about a much awaited payoff and new stakes (no pun intended) from a subplot that’s suddenly becoming the most interesting and compelling one.

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

Trip Back in Time
Opening in what looks like a scene from The Crucible, we get a glimpse of Salem’s Lot in the year 1619, and begin to understand just what went wrong in that town so many years ago.  The infamous Amity (whom Ace is planning on bringing back using Annie Wilkes as a vessel), is something of an outcast in the highly puritan town.

After giving them reason to believe that she’s dabbling in witchcraft, she and her lover are banished.  However, everything changes when she meets an “angel” who guides her to turn the town into her own suicide cult, just so they can all be resurrected 400 years later.

In a scene of overwhelming brutality, Amity crucifies her own father upside down and burns him in the process. Doing so upside down has always had demonic undertones, as it is seen as a mockery of Jesus’ sacrifice.

In the present, Pop Merill becomes suspicious of Ace, after realizing that he’s been visiting Shawkshank Prison, and seems to be “recruiting” random people to a cause that Pop doesn’t quite understand.

Tim Robbins spent decades tunneling out of Shawshank just to go right back there! Still, this was a pretty awesome moment of pure fan service.

All of this comes to a head during the 400th anniversary parade, in which Ace, unveils a statue of the “angel” (who happens to be a familiar face) and everyone looking upon it falls under some sort of mesmerized spell.  Seemingly running for his life, Pop must now figure out how to solve this, most likely with the combined help of Abdi, Nadia, and Annie.

Fans of “Christine” will appreciate this Easter Egg in the parade!

Juggling Too Much?
Last week, we spent most of the episode completely enthralled with the entire mother dilemma with Rita, Joy, and Annie, while the Ace subplot seemed to just be building slowly and struggling to get the audience to care.  This week seems to have done the complete opposite.

While we do get a brief glimpse of Annie desperately trying to explain her doctored version of what happened to Rita, we never really follow up with her again for the rest of the episode.  Neither do we see Nadia, and the brief interaction with Abdi and Pop (while it is a great scene) lasts less than a minute.

It would have been even more compelling had we gotten more time with Pop and Abdi before their falling out. It makes it harder to believe now that they were ever even on good terms.

The season seems to be building momentum towards what will hopefully be a though-provoking and compelling climax, but it does bet the question: are they trying to do too much?  Between the season’s three major storylines: Ace and his cult, Annie and her secrets, and Abdi and Nadia’s feud with Pop, there’s just a lot going on.  And there isn’t always time to give each one the emphasis it deserves.

Case in point, we spent an entire episode exploring Annie’s backstory and how she knew Rita, as well as the disturbing truth about how she wound up with Joy as her “daughter”.  Then, when Rita arrived in the next episode, the entire subplot was essentially settled by the end of the episode, as it’s almost been certainly confirmed in this one that Rita didn’t survive.

And we can’t help but feel a bit cheated that her storyline was disposed of so quickly, probably to make room for the epic finale that was to come.  It’s not that either plot is bad or even more compelling than the other.  It’s just that both could have easily taken up a season by themselves, and together they’re taking precious runtime away from each other.

Perhaps it’s misguided to criticize this series for giving us too many good plotlines.  But much like a dinner that contains our favorite pasta, pizza, steak, burger, and dessert, there’s just a bit too much going on here.

Nevertheless, the narrative is moving confidently forward into what will most likely be a much more climactic ending than we got in season 1.  Despite the minor criticism (and it really is mild), we’re quite excited to see what happens next, especially now that Ace seems to have most of the town under his “spell”.

Do Pop, Abdi, Nadia, and Annie really stand a chance against all of them, along with the rest of the town?!

There’s a brilliant moment in many novels, TV shows, and even movies, where all of our seemingly unconnected subplots begin to converge.  And it seems like that’s about to happen here with Castle Rock.  And if it’s done right, it just may justify the “too many plots” criticism from earlier and cause us to eat our words!  Only time will tell.

What did you think of this week’s episode?  Let us know in the comments below!  And for more reviews, rankings, and other fun horror content, follow Halloween Year-Round on Facebook and Twitter!

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