“Let the River Run” – Episode 1, Season 2
Starring: Lizzy Caplan, Elsie Fisher, Tim Robbins, Paul Sparks, Yusra Warsama, Barkhad Abdi, Matthew Alan
Directed by: Greg Yaitanes
Written by: Vince Calandra
Created by Sam Shaw & Dustin Thomason
To dive into a Stephen King world, you either have to adapt straight forward or make it your own. There are a lot of Stephen King adaptations. They greatly display his world, and some widely miss the mark. What do you do when you want to mix all of the universes in a brand new story? You get something like Castle Rock.
Currently, I’m in the middle of Castle Rock Season 1, but I had the privilege of seeing the premiere of Castle Rock Season 2 at NYCC, with an all-new cast, all-new story, but the same fucked up Castle Rock we know and love.
Slight Spoilers Ahead.
“Let the River Run” premieres with a young girl running through the woods. She’s covered in blood, and hyperventilating, but carrying a box with her. She’s terrified and scared, she stops by a river and drops the box, and then drops to her knees. We watch her until the box starts moving, and that’s how we’re introduced to Annie Wilkes.
Annie Wilkes (Lizzy Caplan) is a registered nurse who takes her daughter, Joy (Elsie Fisher), on a cross country ride. Annie uses different identities to mask who she is but also uses it to be able to get the medication that she needs. You see … she suffers from haunting visions and typewriting noises, so a particular dose keeps her mind steady. When she and her daughter get into a car accident near Castle Rock, she has to settle down in Jerusalem’s Lot until her car is fixed. She doesn’t expect a shitload of changes to happen, including being in the middle of a family turf war that’s about to turn deadly.
In Season 2, we’re leaving (but not going too far) from Castle Rock and headed for Jerusalem’s Lot, which isn’t only welcome but makes it more exciting. It expands the world, filling out more of the map of King’s Maine. There’s a lot of subplots to go through (like in Season 1), but it never feels congested and overbearing. It feels even more connected. Castle Rock almost gives too good of a payoff with some of the mystery behind it. The mystery in this season establishes itself one after the other in the first episode alone.
We’re introduced to our central Stephen King anti-hero (or villainess) of the season, Annie Wilkes. If you guys don’t know Annie, trust me, you will, but she stars in Stephen King’s sinister book called Misery. Misery was also adapted into a film with the same name starring Kathy Bates as Annie Wilkes and James Caan as Paul Sheldon. Kathy Bates made Annie Wilkes her own. She’s the first person you think of when you hear the name. With Castle Rock adapting the story, you’d think this would be hard to replicate with a brand new story, but oh, dear audience, it’s everything you could have wanted in an adaptation of the story, but in a whole new context.
Before she gets to the place we know her in the book and film, the showrunner, Dustin Thomason, has created something original with Annie’s story. We go back to her roots to show “her side of the story.” She’s a woman on the run, and she’s barely holding onto her sanity. In that, you feel empathy for her, and it’s incredible how much empathy you feel. I think that’s mostly because of Lizzy Caplan taking over the role of Annie. Caplan has an intensity and vulnerability that she gives to Annie that’s insanely brilliant, but wild as fuck. It’s incredible to watch Caplan’s performance, because you don’t know how she’s feeling at any given moment. Caplan’s Annie strides down the hallway with great determination. She then smiles that lovely smile, and you feel like you’ve been smacked.
Elsie Fisher as Annie Wilkes’s daughter Joy is someone I didn’t expect to see in this show, but I’m happy we’re getting it. Fisher and Caplan play perfectly off each other, protecting each other, even though Fisher’s Joy is somewhat afraid of her. In this first episode, Joy is going through her transformation. She wants to separate from her mother just a little bit and be her person and live her own life. She makes a new friend in Chance, but we’ll have to stay tuned to see where all this goes.
An interesting subplot of this entire thing is a turf war brewing between three brothers (Paul Sparks, Barkhad Abdi, Matthew Alan), a sister (Yusra Warsama), and their patriarch father (Tim Robbins). This subplot brings out some stellar performances and some deeper mysteries to dive into later with this family. The three brothers have such a separation with Paul Sparks’s Ace and Barkhad Abdi’s Abdi going to battle with everyone getting involved. The ending will make you gasp but will bring you closer into this story with the family, and you won’t expect it.
“Let the River Run” is a perfect introduction to a new chapter in the Castle Rock universe that’s building beautifully. Even though, I guess I’ll have to wait til next season to get Jack Torrance in The Stanley Hotel. Annie Wilkes is a good substitute as I wait. If you’re worried about getting into this season from the highly successful first season, Castle Rock Season 2 keeps you engaged right from the gate with flawed characters, a curious storyline, and a Carly Simon song that will get stuck in your head for days.