Castle Rock: “Clean” Review (Spoilers)

It’s hard to believe that we’ve already reached the end of our second season.  What began as a mysterious drama based around the world of Stephen King has evolved into an explosive (literally) and tense second season that’s vastly superior to the first in many ways.

We’ve seen beloved characters like Annie Wilkes get second chances to be redeemed in the eyes of audiences, as well as a legitimate supernatural threat that feels like it could have been written by King himself.

No matter how this season ends, no one can deny that Lizzy Caplan has absolutely nailed her performance as Annie Wilkes. She perfectly capture the accent and little mannerisms that Kathy Bates once played the character with.

Among all this, we’ve been privileged with stellar performances by Lizzy Caplan, Tim Robbins, Elsie Fischer, Yusra Warsama, Barkhad Abdi, and many more.  But alas, all good things must come to an end (for now at least, we’ll see about Season 3).  So let’s take a closer look at the epic finale we’ve been waiting nine episodes to see, and see if it was all worth it!

Spoilers Ahead – You’ve Been Warned

A Very Climactic 20 Minutes
Picking up right where we left off, we see Annie, Nadia, Abdi, and Chance escape via the train tracks and watch as Augustin brings in Pop’s body to plant one of his own people inside to get information on the “Angel” from Season 1.  The next day, the survivors regroup and plant explosives underneath the Marsten House and ruin their little ceremony to put Amity herself into Joy.

In a final moment of brilliance, Pop reveals that he took Haldol right before he died, and thus has been fighting to maintain control of his own body.  He does so just long enough to help plant the explosives, but unfortunately Nadia is forced to blow him up as well, with the other bombs.

It’s genuinely awesome to see Tim Robbins get one more last laugh in this series!

It was one thing when she wasn’t ready to forgive him or let him say his peace in the previous episode.  But that fact that she has the push the button herself was all the more tragic.

There are so many ramifications to this that deserve to be played out, but we literally never see or hear from Abdi or Nadia, so it just feels like a huge missed opportunity.

And in a surprise twist that no one really could have seen coming, this is the very last we see of Nadia, Abdi, Chance, or anyone else in Castle Rock or Salem’s Lot.  From here, we jump again a week later with Annie and Joy trying to repair their relationship.

Joy seems quite distant, still struggling the grasp the knowledge that Rita was her birth mother, Annie nearly drowned her, and that Joy herself accidentally killed Rita.

Annie begins to suspect that Amity may have in fact bene put into Joy and force feeds her Haldol.  This ends in a struggle in the lake which sees Joy held underwater for some time and actually drowning.

Annie then realizes what a terrible mistake it was because Joy was herself the whole time, but was just planning on running away to legally emancipate herself, as evidence by a letter she wrote to Annie.

It is legitmatley heartbreaking to read/hear that letter!

Miraculously, Annie revives Joy and all seems well in the world, as they even attend a Paul Sheldon book signing.  The final punch to the gut comes when we discover that Annie is just hallucinating Joy being there, thus confirming that she did in fact die by drowning in the earlier scene.

Annie is now the woman that we would later come to know in Misery, as she’s by herself, clearly struggling with untreated mental illness, and bases her whole identity on being a huge fan of Paul Sheldon novels.

The loyal fans have been waiting all season for a reference to Paul Sheldon!

Not Quite Letdown, But Not Quite a Success Either
There is probably going to be a lot lamented about in this season finale, particularly areas in which fans felt that the series got it wrong.

And to disagree with many, having the entire climax take place and be resolved in the first 20 minutes isn’t a bad idea.  We’ve had nine episodes and character and story building, and leaving a good half hour at the end isn’t a bad way to allow for everything to get settled.

That said, it seems that Castle Rock really missed the mark when attempting to fully realize that settlement.  It’s disappointing that we virtually get zero conclusion or closure with Nadia and Abdi, but it’s even more disappointing that all the positive character growth we saw from Annie Wilkes was all for nothing.

Part of the appeal of seeing her character brought to screen again (by a different actress no less) was the promise that Castle Rock would do something unique or different from her.  And up until this finale, that was still very much the case.

It’s not that it’s a bad ending. It’s just not the type of ending the fits what we’ve been building towards for nine episodes.

We saw an Annie who realized that she had a problem, that wanted to better her condition, not just for herself, but for Joy as well.  This version of Annie was one that channeled her psychotic energy and potential into saving her daughter from a supernatural threat.

But to see all of this growth and effort cast aside to make her the exact same character we know by the end of the season is incredibly frustrating.  If this is where the season was always leading, then what the point of everything that came before?!

For those who will be needing to fill their Stephen King void, fear not!  With The Outsider debuting on HBO in January, and CBS All Access’ reboot of The Stand set to premiere later in 2020, we definitely will be able to get our King fix this next year.

And while we don’t know for sure if we’re getting a third season of Castle Rock, the showrunners claim they already have an idea for it, so only time will tell.

What did you think of tonight’s season finale?  What are your predictions for Season 3?  Let us know in the comments below!  And for more reviews, rankings, and other fun horror content, follow Halloween Year-Round in Facebook and Twitter!

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