Last week’s Castle Rock episode slipped through the cracks of my gravy and pie-induced haze, so for those of you who missed my quickie recap on Podjiba, here’s what happened: Annie isn’t going to be Amity’s vessel anymore — Joy is. The reason is pretty weaksauce (Joy’s drawings are like Amity’s, even though they’re not at all really and even though there’s already a woman going around Marsten House covering the walls in murals exactly like Amity’s), but thematically it makes sense. Annie is nothing if she’s not flipping out about protecting Joy, and having an undead cabal hypnotize her sister/daughter it just about the best, most understandable threat for her to flip out about.
So let’s pick things up this week with an episode that covered real, necessary ground. First up: FRANCES CONROY CAME BACK! If you’ve forgotten (I had), she played Warden Lacy’s wife last season, which means she’s one of the few people alive who might have information about The Kid/The Angel. So naturally Ace has her killed and resurrected with a dead villager inside her, so she can spill the beans. Too bad all she knows is that Warden Lacy used to write letters all about The Kid to his pal Alan Pangborn… and that apparently Pop Merrill bought up Alan’s entire estate when he died. Pop has had the details at his fingertips all along!
If you couldn’t tell, this week’s episode is all about pulling the plot threads together in time for next week’s season finale. The stage is set, with a handful of survivors — Pop, Annie, Abdi, Nadia, and Chance — coming together inside the Emporium Galorium for a last stand of sorts, to hold out against Ace’s minions. Everyone else in town has either been hypnotized or killed. But it’s also the episode where the various characters finally swap notes on all the strangeness that’s been going down, and begin to sense the shape of the trouble they’re in. Pop has witnessed the weird goings-on inside the Marsten House, and has read all those old letters. Nadia knows which drug can temporarily stop the possession. And Annie? It’s time for her to FINALLY confess to killing Ace in the first place — and tell Pop about the mysterious crypt she dumped him into. It’s enough for Pop to begin formulating a plan, one that hinges on the fact that Ace is desperate for information about The Angel. Which makes Pop the most valuable man in Castle Rock, and explains why Ace shoots him in the head.
Yeah, RIP Pop Merrill — but don’t worry, I’m pretty sure we’re going to see him again next week. Here’s what’s really going on: Pop only has days left to live, given his aggressive cancer diagnosis, and he’s more or less made peace with his mortality — though he’s also realized that he’s royally screwed up both his adopted and his surrogate kids and there’ll be no forgiveness for that. So instead, I think he’s trying to at least balance the debt a bit by sacrificing himself. Pop stays behind to buy time for Nadia to lead the survivors across the train tracks to safety, and confronts Ace. Since he burned all the letters, Pop is now the only one with information about The Angel, and he convinces Ace that he won’t talk by strapping on a suicide bomb and threatening to blow them all up. However, before the confrontation Pop does two things: He intentionally disables the bomb’s trigger, and he shoots himself up with Nadia’s anti-possession drug. Pop’s entire scheme appears to be a calculated effort to make Ace kill him and turn him into a vessel, and I’m betting the goal is to retain his own personality after the conversion and become a sort of inside man within Ace’s camp.
Or at the very least continue to divert attention away from Nadia and the others.
Next week is the season finale, which means Annie is probably going to murder a whole lotta old-timey folks on her way to save Joy, and maybe we’ll finally learn WTF is up with The Kid/The Angel!
— Loved the tease where Annie seems to threaten a man, strapped to a bed, with a mallet, only to kill him with a couple of syringes to the eyeholes. Honestly, more unhinged Annie please!
— I’m not entirely sure why it was necessary to replace Evil Cop Greg Grunberg with Evil Cop Chris Mulkey, but it’s always nice to see Mulkey in stuff. It actually inspired me to look up his IMDb page, and reading it is like unfurling an infinite scroll. Dude has near Eric Roberts-levels of omnipresence, apparently. He’s just all over the place, all the time!
— Abdi has taken a bit of a backseat as this season has worn on, which is a shame, though made his final conversation with Pop all the sweeter this week. Zero sentimentality, and zero lies. Just Abdi hitting the old man where it hurts, with the truth. Their dynamic has been one of the highlights of the season for me.
— Pop had a LOT of bombs ready. Like, a lot a lot. And were they built inside InstaPots?!
— Annie once again heard the voice of her mother this episode, and it reminded me: Is Annie crazy, or is she straight up haunted? At first the focus on her mental instability made all of her hallucinations seem schizophrenic, but knowing that she’s seen/heard both her mother and her father this season — and that both those characters are dead — make me wonder if maybe she’s just seeing ghosts.