Wednesday, November 6, 2019

REVIEW: 'Castle Rock' - Annie's Upbringing Is Explored as Joy Learns the Truth About Her Mother in 'The Laughing Place'

Hulu's Castle Rock - Episode 2.05 "The Laughing Place"

In the beginning...

In 2018, there were 495 scripted shows airing amongst the linear channels and streaming services. The way people are consuming content now is so different than it used to be. It happens according to one's own schedule. As such, there is less necessity to provide ample coverage of each specific episode in any given season from a show. Moreover, it is simply impossible to watch everything. As such, this site is making the move to shorter episodic reviews in order to cover as many shows as possible. With all of that being said, here are my thoughts on the next episode of Hulu's Castle Rock.

"The Laughing Place" was written by Vince Calandra & Daria Polatin and directed by Anne Sewitsky

This hour presents the case that Annie Wilkes is the byproduct of her upbringing and biology. Her origin story is fleshed out across this episode in order to showcase the many horrors that have previously happened with her. There are moments where she is bullied and victimized. She has always had the impulse to fight back and hurt those who slight her. That's the worldview her family has always embraced. Annie learns from her mother that people are either fundamentally good or bad. There is simply no room for moral complexities. Real life is so much more complicated than that though. Annie refuses to see it in that way. She understands the concept of redemption. However, she doesn't think that should replace the ending that awaits the bad people of the world. She needs clear and concise endings for the good and bad people. It doesn't matter if they evolve through their personal stories. The moment their true colors are revealed that's when the conclusion is set in stone. That's all that she expects. She is furious when it's never that simple. In fact, Annie's mother believes that the only way to preserve the good people from this dirty world is to kill them while they are still clean. She does so much to support her family. She isn't selfishly pursuing her own dreams. She has to be functional and realistic. Annie's father is the one dragging them all down. He refuses to believe that something is wrong with his daughter. Her loves her no matter what. That can be an uplifting message. However, it leaves her developmentally stagnant for over a decade. In that time, she doesn't make a whole lot of progress learning how to read. Her mother may be keeping her on a tight schedule to complete her GED. But her father hasn't been putting in the work to ensure that his daughter has a bright future around of her. He mostly just uses her as a sounding board for how to fix the various details of his novel. It's not until he finds new inspiration that he changes his life. At that point in time, it's so destructive as well. He leaves to be with Rita, the tutor hired who actually helps Annie. Rita is so inspiring and lovely. She makes so much progress in such a short amount of time. She wants Annie to explore the full complexities of the world. A children's novel shouldn't be seen as the sole extent of storytelling objectives. Nor should her father's endeavors in the same vein. He insists that he could only have finished this novel with Rita by his side. However, he also goes off his pills. He believes he can only fully be creative when he is unburdened by the science of modern medicine. He doesn't wish to subject Annie to the same depressed view on the world. He doesn't want to confine her in such a way. That only further escalates the tension and danger though. Annie's mother does her best to protect her. The way she chooses to do so is lethal and extreme. That's the only way Annie knows how to process the world. It's through these extreme reactions that one has to make perfectly clear who is in charge and demands attention. She lashes out when things don't go according to plan for her. She holds deep meaning on certain interactions not knowing just how much of a scoundrel her father has always been. The blended family eventually starts living together. But it's still a story heading straight towards tragedy. The only question was what would finally push Annie over the edge. The narrative has always said she's on the run for murder. And now, she kills her father and severely injures Rita. She kidnaps the baby and even plans on escaping this world just like her mother did. In that moment, Joy laughed. That reaction was all it took to change the focus of what was possible. Annie believes that she can do whatever she wants so long as she has the support of her "daughter." And yet, Joy is learning the truth about her mother's heinous actions simply by reading this novel. That final dedication sends her back to her true mother who is still alive after all these years. There is hope that Joy can escape all of this. But there is the looming uncertainty that comes from whatever Ace is planning for Annie. He is the one creeping in on her as she tries to drink her sorrows away at the bar. She is defeated and defensive. There is nothing she can say to change the past. She wants to argue that she did everything to survive and create a better world. However, she killed mostly out of personal vengeance and because she grew up with a warped and extreme view of morality. That may be an over-simplification to some. However, it does help inform the story that this season is telling with Annie Wilkes and how she will act moving forward as the world gets more insane and lethal.