Castle Rock returns with a brand new story featuring a Stephen King favorite, Annie Wilkes. Lizzy Caplan plays a younger version of the role that Kathy Bates made famous in Misery. So let’s get to know Annie a little better.
In the premiere episodes, “Let the River Run,” Annie didn’t plan to end up in Castle Rock. She also didn’t mean to get involved with the Merrill family, more Stephen King favorites. It doesn’t take long for things to spiral out of control for both Annie and the Merrills.
We first meet Annie (Ruby Cruz) as a teenager, running through the woods with a box. She is covered in blood and anxious. She goes deep into the woods and towards a river. There she sits down with the box and the box moves.
LET THE RIVER RUN
Annie Wilkes is living a life on the road with her daughter Joy (Colbi Gannett), who is about six or seven years old. She is a nurse and uses her nursing badge to get jobs in different cities around the United States. She tells Joy they are looking for the Laughing Place. While employed, Annie steals pills that she takes everyday at eight o’clock on the dot. It appears this has been going on for some time because before you know it Joy (Elsie Fisher) is a teenager. They drive everywhere, changing the plates on the car and singing Carly’s Simon’s “Let the River Run.” Eventually Joy gets sick of it, as she watches other teenagers live a normal life
One night, near Jerusalem’s Lot, a man takes pictures of Annie and her license plates. He collects the plates by taking pictures. Annie has to ask him to delete the photo because her daughter had some trouble online. The man understands and immediately deletes the pictures. Annie changes her plates as soon as she can. She has several plates locked up in a tool box in the back of her car.
Later that night, Annie looks at the clock and realizes it’s time to take her medication. She reaches for a bottle, but it’s empty. She looks for other bottles and those are empty too. Annie is so distracted by the lithium bottles, that she doesn’t see the cute announcements along the road. Joy sees them. The announcements are for Castle Rock’s 400th Anniversary. But neither of them see the debris in the road that causes Annie’s tire to pop and the car to turn on it’s side.
ONE WEEK LATER
The Merrills own much of the land and businesses in Castle Rock. Pop Merrill (Tim Robbins) is the patriarch of the family and he also owns most of the town, including the cops. His nephews, Ace (Paul Sparks) and Chris (Matthew Alan) work for him and own their own businesses that Pop gave to them. Pop also has two adopted children in Jerusalem’s Lot, Abdi (Barkhad Abdi) and Nadia (Yusra Warsam) Howlwadaag. Abdi and Ace aren’t getting along right now because Abdi is building a Somalian Business and Community center, otherwise knowns as the Somali mall. Ace’s Somalian tenants are leaving his mall for Abdi’s.
Ace says Abdi is poaching his vendors. He goes to Pop to settle the matter, but Pop won’t get involved. Ace isn’t happy with his uncle because Pop could have stopped the construction. The land wasn’t being used because a lot of people believe it’s haunted by the ghosts of witches killed during settlement. Ace doesn’t care. He doesn’t like Abdi taking money from him.
As for Chris, he owns the garage where Annie took her car to get fixed and like Pop, he doesn’t want to get involved. They are waiting on a windshield to come in. So Annie and Joy are stuck in Castle Rock until then. They are staying at the Star Gazer Lodge, owned by Ace. Ace makes Annie uncomfortable. She is very stern in her warning to Joy to stay away from Ace.
In the meantime, Annie gets a job at the clinic in Jerusalem’s Lot. And just as before, she tries to steal the pills she needs to remain calm. There is a problem though. Only certain staff members have the keycard to access the pharmacy closet. One of those people is Dr. Nadia Howlwadaag, or Dr. H as the staff calls her. Annie tries to find a way in without bothering Dr. H. But Annie starts to have hallucinations of a bloody man looking at her.
STAR GAZER LODGE
Despite her mother’s warning, Joy ventures outside of their cabin and meets other kids living at the lodge. Chance (Abby Corrigan) and her friends are a little shocked by how sheltered Joy is. They’re even more shocked by the fact that Joy doesn’t have a phone.
Annie checks on her car and runs into Ace. She tries to avoid him, but he’s curious about her. Not because he likes her, but because he can sense that she’s not right in the head. Chris tells him to leave her alone and leave Abdi alone too. Ace doesn’t like that everyone is on Abdi’s side, but they also consider Abdi family whereas Ace does not.
Annie has a short episode. The bloody man follows her home and comes face to face with Annie. She snaps out of it when she finds Joy with the local kids. That sets off Annie as she warns Joy about not letting people use her like trash. Joy has to stop her from yelling, knowing she needs her pills. Annie runs and hides from Joy, looking on the internet about how to self medicate and keep calm. She goes through a lot of articles before stopping and searching her own name. Annie Wilkes is wanted by the FBI for unlawful flight to avoid prosecution for murder. A picture of her as a teen pops up on an FBI poster with a sketch of what she might look like as an adult.
The next day at the clinic, Annie finally meets Dr. H when the doctor finds her necklace. Dr. H says Annie is doing a good job, but Annie doesn’t know how to respond. They are interrupted when Pop shows up to visit Dr. H. He tells his daughter that he thinks he’s dying. She examines him and then he tells her to talk to Abdi. He wants Abdi to stop recruiting from Ace’s mall. Dr. H doesn’t want to get involved in the family drama either, but she makes it clear that Abdi has a better deal than Ace.
THE KEY CARD
Annie’s anxiety is getting worse. She gets desperate one night during a storm. She goes as far as turning off the electricity in the building to get into the pharmacy closet. Annie has hallucinations and eventually trips and falls. When the lights come back on, the head nurse finds Annie on the floor. Annie makes up a story about needing medication for a patient, but the head nurse says Dr. H left her keycard at home. They will have to call security to open the door. She tells him nevermind and goes back to work.
Annie looks up Dr. H’s home address and goes to her house to steal the keycard. Meanwhile Joy draws a picture for Chance and takes it to her cabin. On the way back, Joy can see into Ace’s cabin. He’s pouring gasoline into empty liquor bottles. When he checks his gun, he see Joy watching him. She runs inside her cabin quickly and Ace closes his blinds.
Annie breaks the glass on the back door to get into Dr. H’s home. She looks around downstairs and looks at the stairs nervously. All the while still having hallucinations. Annie climbs the stairs and sees the keycard in the first bedroom. When she grabs it, she hears a car door close and looks out the window. Abdi is home. Ace is also at the house, watching Abdi.
Annie closes the bedroom door and backs up, knockin over something that makes a loud thud. Abdi hears it, pulls out his gun and heads up the stairs. Annie prepares to attack him but Ace throws a bottle into the living room, starting a fire. Abdi see the living room on fire and another bottle flies inside. He sees Ace leaving in a hurry. Abdi grabs the fire extinguisher and Annie rushes out the door. By the time she gets back to the hospital, the sun is rising.
The next day, the police question Ace about the fire while Joy watches. Ace won’t answer their questions or search his place, saying they don’t have a warrant.
Annie gets into the pharmacy closet and starts loading up on pills. When she finishes, Annie looks up and sees Dr. H looking back at her. Annie tries to cover, but Dr. H knows Annie is stealing pills. Annie gives in. She tells Dr. H that she’s not right in the head. She tricked the medical board to get her license and figured out which pills help the best. If she is diagnosed, the medical board won’t let her work in a hospital. Annie says she needs to be okay for Joy. She lost her mother when she was Joy’s age and she knows how hard life can be. Joy deserves her at her best.
While she is telling Dr. H her story, we see a flashback of Annie as a girl, sitting by the river next to a box. She opens the box and picks up a baby. She holds the baby while looking at the river.
Dr. H asks what doses she’s taking and Annie tells her. She writes Annie a prescription. She say as long as Annie is working in her hospital, she will help her. Annie is shocked. Dr. H says if more people took Lithium instead of Oxy, the world would be a better place. Annie thanks her and goes back to work. Before she leaves, Dr. H asks where she found her keycard. Annie lies and says it fell behind Dr. H’s desk.
THE LAUGHING PLACE?
Annie’s car is fixed and she returns home. Joy can tell she got her medicine, but she’s sad because it means they have to leave. Annie tells Joy that they are searchers, like her dad. Her mom was a settler. Annie says she gets mixed up sometimes, always searching to settle, but she always has Joy’s best interest at heart. She says Castle Rock is not the Laughing Place, but Joy deserves to know what settling feels like. Joy is so happy that she hugs and squeezes Annie tight.
Chance likes the picture that Joy gave her. She looks in a box under her bed and pulls out a phone. Annie gives Joy money to go to town and buy art supplies. When Joy leaves, she finds a small box on her doorstep. Joy walks to a bridge and opens the box. She finds the phone and smiles.
Dr. H returns home to find Abdi in the burnt living room. She tells him this ordeal with Ace has to stop. Abdi says it will and pulls out a gun. Dr. H gets angry with her brother telling him to put the gun away. He’s not going to do anything to Ace.
Annie sits at home, making a bowl of ice cream when Ace walks into her cabin. He knows who she is and what she’s running from. He tells her that Joy saw something she shouldn’t have. Now Annie has to make sure Joy keeps quiet about it. Annie doesn’t like being threatened, so she takes the ice cream scoop and shoves it down Ace’s throat, killing him.
Annie panics. There’s blood all over her hands and on her clothes. Joy could arrive at any minute so Annie takes Ace’s wallet and keys. She pries the scoop out of his throat and puts everything in a plastic bag. She loads up the body and heads out for Castle Rock lake. There is a fisherman there, so Annie has to find someplace else to bury Ace.
Annie listens to “Let the River Run” as she drives around. She sees a roadblock where the Somalian mall is being built and decides to go there. She has no problem dragging Ace to the middle of the construction site. But once she’s there, the ground collapses, burying Ace’s body for her. Annie is hanging on to the edge of the hole in the ground, but can’t hold on and falls. She hits the ground so hard, the fall knocks her out.
This is a great starting point to understanding Annie Wilkes…if that’s possible. I have to wonder how much of what is happening is real or part of Annie’s hallucinations? Can’t wait to find out…