Well, we’re back with the Hulu anthology series based on the works of Stephen King. Season One was fine, but not as intense or spooky as, say, The Haunting of Hill House, and parts of it got more surreal and fantastic than scary. That said, this is an anthology, so we get a new batch of characters, and this time, they may bring us more than a bit of misery.
Mental note: watch the movie version of Misery sometime…
Yes, we have a new cast, and this time the lead role falls to Lizzy Caplan as the psychotic nurse Annie Wilkes. But this is a younger Annie than we’ve ever seen before, and the episode opens with a bloody Annie carrying a box through the woods to a lake. The box moves on its own, and when Annie opens it, she takes out a baby.
I don’t know who that baby is, but in a quick montage, we see how Annie lives her life. She gets a job as a nurse at a hospital, and as soon as she can, she swipes anti-psychotics from the pharmacy and then hits the road with her daughter Joy (Eighth Grade‘s Elsie Fisher when the girl becomes a teenager), and the implication is the two travel, changing license plates, all while looking for something they call the “Laughing Place,” presumably a place where they can settle safely. Annie, it seems, is wanted for a possible murder charge.
Quite frankly, I love how Caplan embodies Annie. She moves with a determined stride, arms flat at her sides, and a steady gaze that marks her as unnerving, and that’s when her medication is working. When it isn’t…
Annie and Joy are currently in Castle Rock, and Annie doesn’t want Joy interacting with, oh, anybody. Joy does anyway because the two are stuck there and Joy can’t stay hidden away forever. She wants friends and outside contact while still staying loyal and carrying to her mother.
On the other side is the Merrills. Pop Merrill (Tim Robbins) runs the local crime family. His nephew Ace (Paul Sparks) is a hot head who doesn’t get along with Pop’s adopted kids, a Somali brother and sister. The sister, Nadia, is a doctor, treating Pop for an illness that will probably kill the old man. Brother Abdi (Captain Philip‘s Barkhad Abdi) is looking to build a business empire in the next town over from Castle Rock, Jerusalem’s Lot. Or, as it is commonly know, Salem’s Lot. But Abdi’s actions are costing Ace business, and Ace isn’t above tossing a Molotov Cocktail or two to get what he wants.
Now, Annie does have some interactions with the Merrills. With Nadia, it works out fine. Annie goes to work in Nadia’s hospital, but when Annie gets caught by Nadia stealing drugs and explains what she takes, Nadia decides to help Annie out by fudging some records to give Annie the drugs she needs. Nadia figures if Annie is stealing antipsychotics instead of opiods, she’s probably not that bad.
As for Ace, well, Joy saw the Molotov prep and called the cops, so Ace, after piggybacking off Annie’s Internet searches, decides to threaten Annie with blackmail. Keep Joy quiet or else the authorities find Annie and take Joy away.
Annie murders Ace inside of five seconds by jamming an ice cream scoop down the guy’s throat.
Sparks has second billing in the opening credits and is a recognizable actor. We may not have seen the last of him. Most likely because Annie sees things.
Annie sure hasn’t. She drags the body off and tries to bury him in a construction site for a Somili business center in Salem’s Lot before the ground gives way beneath them and the two plummet into a sinkhole. And a lot of bats come flying out…
I don’t think Castle Rock is going to play the vampire card, but that is a cool Easter Egg.
So, can Annie keep it together since she killed the nephew of the most powerful man in town?
My guess is probably not.