Castle Rock Season 2 Review: Blending Misery and Salem's Lot Leads to Mixed Results

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Castle Rock's second season, premiering Wednesday, October 23, has a lot going for it. 

Promising the backstory we never got for Misery character Annie Wilkes, as well as themes from Salem's Lot, it's inevitable that there will be high expectations.

After screening the first five episodes of Castle Rock Season 2, it's clear the producers wanted to go in a different direction this time around. 

Annie in a Cave - Castle Rock

Lizzy Caplan takes on the role of Annie Wilkes, the character who was at the center of Stephen King's Misery novel, as well the movie of the same name. 

Kathy Bates played an older, wiser, and more unhinged version of the character in the movie.

Here, Caplan plays a much younger iteration, who is on the run from her past with her young daughter. 

Lizzy Caplan on Castle Rock

Annie is struggling to keep her life in check, and much of that stems from not having a steady stream of pills to make her feel good. 

You see, Annie knows she's not the sanest person around, and that's why she's going to some crazy lengths to make sure she gets the drugs she needs to keep both her and her daughter happy. 

Having Annie as a mother is a different side to her than we've seen before.

If you're familiar with the source material, you know that she grows into a woman who becomes obsessed with a certain character.

Restricted Access - Castle Rock

Caplan may seem like an odd choice for the role of Annie, but she turns in a stunning performance as this woman who will go to any lengths to get what she wants. 

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On the surface, Annie appears to be a very private woman who wants to keep everything and everyone in her house behind closed doors, but she has deeply rooted murderous tendencies that could put anyone at risk. 

You would be forgiven for thinking that would mean that the series would be filled to the brim with jump scares, but that's not the case here. 

Joy Wants to Have Fun - Castle Rock

Castle Rock Season 2 plays out more like a supernatural thriller than anything else. The moody atmosphere from the first season is back, and the show never really lets up from that. 

The omission of jump scares will probably alienate a small portion of fans, but psychological horror is far more creepy than having people pop up on the screen for a second to scare audiences. 

Elsie Fisher is another strong option as Annie's long-suffering daughter, Joy. Thanks to her mother's love for not putting down roots anywhere, Joy only really has her Annie to lean on for support. 

It's difficult for a teenager to be glued to the hip of a parent and not off making friends with the local kids. Joy's storyline is one of the more interesting in those initial episodes.

She is fiercely protective of her mother, but she starts to wonder what else is out there for her. 

Annie with a Flashlight - Castle Rock

That's to be expected when you're being ordered to stay in the house with the door bolted and no sunlight getting in through the windows. It's almost like the outside world is the villain in this narrative, but that's all thanks to Annie's warped state of mind. 

Tim Robbins is also on board as Pop, the head of the Merril crime family, and despite his name appearing up at the top of the cast alongside Caplan, he really doesn't get much to do in those opening installments. 

Related: Castle Rock Adds Lizzy Caplan for Misery Themed Season 2

His character does serve as an integral part of the narrative, but it almost feels like the actor was busy and requested to be used sparingly in those installments. 

Even so, it's clear from the get-go that Pop is the man who gets things done in Castle Rock, and there's a solid storyline involving an attack against his business that puts him at odds with some other people in town. 

Tim Robbins on Castle Rock

Blending Misery and Salem's Lot into one package is an odd choice and one that some people will struggle to get on board with. 

They are two vastly different stories, and it makes parts of the show feel disjointed as a result. It could come together quite nicely in the second half of the season, but critics were only provided the first half. 

As things stand, Castle Rock Season 2 is a step down in quality from Castle Rock Season 1.

The predecessor had more intriguing elements at play. The true strength of the sophomore run is the acting. 

Digging a Grave? - Castle Rock

If the series manages to increase the horror elements, and, you know, the scare factor in the back half of the season, it could emerge as a worthwhile watch.

But after five episodes, it's simply not at the stage you would expect for a series with such impressive talent. 

What are your thoughts? 

Will you watch it?

Hit the comments below. 

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Editor Rating: 3.5 / 5.0
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Paul Dailly is the Associate Editor for TV Fanatic. Follow him on Twitter.

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