Home / Reviews / Review: Castle Rock’s signature slow burn pays off in tight, twisty finale

Review: Castle Rock’s signature slow burn pays off in tight, twisty finale

Lizzy Caplan portrays Annie Wilkes, one among Stephen King’s most memorable characters—from the novel Distress—within the second season of Hulu’s anthology sequence, Fortress Rock.

A nurse on the run together with her teenaged daughter finally ends up stranded in a small Maine city the place one thing evil lurks within the second season of Fortress Rock, Hulu’s psychological horror anthology sequence that attracts inspiration from the works of Stephen King. The sequence was a stunning breakout hit final summer season, and this new season would not disappoint, bringing the identical sluggish burn and sudden twists resulting in a riveting finale.

(Gentle spoilers for season one and season two under.)

The fictional city of Fortress Rock options in so a lot of King’s novels that co-creators Sam Shaw and Dustin Thomason thought they may use it as an organizing precept for his or her storytelling. The sequence is much less a direct adaptation of King’s works and extra new tales set within the fictional city that often bump up towards varied books. The most important King influences for season one had been The Shawshank Redemption and The Inexperienced Mile—in different phrases, a prison-centric setting with themes of crime and punishment. Shawshank tells the story of a prisoner’s disappearance, whereas Fortress Rock‘s focus is the mysterious look of a prisoner no person knew about.

Season one opened with the suicide of the native jail warden, Dale Lacy (Terry O’Quinn) and the invention that he secretly stored a mysterious younger man—recognized solely because the Child (Invoice Skarsgård)—captive for many years. Not solely did the Child not age, violent outbreaks appeared to observe in his wake. The present remained cagey about who the Child was, whether or not he was a monster or a sufferer, even within the finale, with its distinctively King-like denouement.

The season spotlight was the heartbreaking seventh episode, “The Queen,” instructed solely from the viewpoint of Ruth (Sissy Spacek), whose age-related dementia is quickly worsening and affecting her skill to tell apart between the current and the previous. (At a number of factors, she walks out of a dialog within the current and into a distinct dialog in 1991.)  The episode has deep private resonance for Shaw, whose personal mom suffered from dementia and died unexpectedly just a few days after he began writing the sequence. I known as it “probably the most superbly constructed, fantastically acted hour of tv of you are prone to see this 12 months.”

Fortress Rock‘s second season would not have a single standalone episode of fairly the identical caliber, however it nonetheless packs a punch. The supply materials this time round is King’s award-winning 1987 novel, Distress, that includes one among his most memorable characters, Annie Wilkes, a psychotic (and murderous) former nurse.

Within the novel, a middle-aged Annie rescues her favourite novelist, Paul Sheldon, after a automobile accident by which he breaks each legs. Paul’s final novel killed off the central heroine of his Victorian romance sequence, Distress Chastain, as he had grown bored with the character and wished to put in writing crime novels. However his “Quantity One fan,” as Annie calls herself, refuses to just accept Distress’s demise and holds Paul captive, forcing him to resurrect Distress in a brand new novel—or else. The 1990 movie starred Kathy Bates as Annie, who received an Oscar for her efficiency, which included an notorious scene by which Annie chops off Paul’s foot with an axe to make sure he cannot escape.

In King’s novel, it is clear that Annie suffers from schizophrenia and/or bipolar dysfunction. Paul Sheldon discovers a scrapbook of newspaper clippings hinting that Annie was accused and acquitted of killing infants at a hospital maternity ward in Colorado, and will have murdered as many as 30 folks. Fortress Rock‘s storyline focuses on a youthful Annie (Lizzy Caplan) on the run from an unspecified previous together with her teenaged daughter Pleasure (Elsie Fisher). Annie takes stints as a nurse in varied hospitals and stays simply lengthy sufficient to steal the treatment she must maintain her psychological sickness in verify earlier than hitting the highway searching for a utopian imaginative and prescient she calls the “laughing place.”

Naturally, the pair find yourself in Fortress Rock, and Annie takes a job with the hospital in close by Jerusalem’s Lot—the second of King’s trinity of fictional Maine cities, the third being Derry (the setting for IT). When Annie’s killer instincts get the higher of her, she tries to eliminate a physique at an area development website and uncovers a hidden burial website linked through a tunnel to the deserted Marsten Home. (King followers could recall the Marsten Home was residence to the vampires within the 1975 novel ‘Salem’s Lot.) And he or she inadvertently awakens one thing evil that has been mendacity in watch for 4 centuries.

Caplan offers a improbable efficiency as Annie, capturing the character’s trademark awkward earnestness, lack of direct eye contact, stiff gait, and odd speech patterns and phrasing (“soiled chicken,” “cockadoodie,” and the like). It is a very human (and humane) depiction of somebody struggling to regulate her psychological sickness. Annie could also be a bit loopy, significantly when her meds run out, however she’s pushed primarily by her love for Pleasure and proves to be a formidable opponent to something that may threaten her daughter.

Season two additionally stars Tim Robbins as a veteran named Reginald “Pop” Merrill. Regardless of his late-stage most cancers, he wields a decent maintain on native commerce with the assistance of his two nephews, Ace (Paul Sparks) and Chris (Matthew Alan). Pop additionally adopted two Somali refugees as youngsters, now grown: Abdi (Barkhad Abdi), who’s constructing a mall in Jerusalem’s Lot, and his sister, Nadia (Yusra Warsama), the medical director on the hospital the place Annie works. The household will get sucked into the supernatural menace going through the city(s), too. Over the course of ten episodes, tensions flare, secrets and techniques are revealed, and we be taught the true nature of what Annie woke up.

As all the time with a Shaw-created present, the writing is robust and emotionally evocative. It is intricately plotted, with robust character growth. Granted, for the primary a number of episodes of the season, the 2 narrative threads—Annie and Pleasure’s relationship and Annie’s secret previous, and regardless of the hell is happening on the Marsten Home—nearly do not feel like they’re a part of the identical sequence. The Annie storyline feels much more compelling—particularly the flashback episode, “The Laughing Place,” which acquaints us with Annie’s childhood.

However regularly the 2 threads converge as we be taught extra concerning the city’s historical past—together with an sudden twist that gives a hyperlink between season two with season one. This is hoping Fortress Rock will get a 3rd season so we will be taught extra about this frequent aspect loosely tying the anthology’s storylines collectively.

Itemizing picture by Hulu

About Jennifer Ouellette

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