Friday, November 29, 2019

REVIEW: 'Castle Rock' - Annie and Joy Fight to Escape Marsten House and the Satanists Taking Over the Community in 'Dirty'

Hulu's Castle Rock - Episode 2.08 "Dirty"

Annie sees things for what they are.

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.

"Dirty" was written by Michael Olsen & K. Corrine Van Vliet and directed by Craig William Macneill

A smile or laugh in a sea of misery can be absolutely life-changing. That has already been effectively illustrated this season. That's what makes it even more devastating when Annie is looking for that response once more and is met with total silence. That's such a shattering final image. It proves how the fight to survive may not always present itself in similar ways. Annie has to constantly fight against temptation. Right now, it presents itself in her mother's voice telling her that the only way to keep herself and her daughter safe from this cruel and dirty world is to kill them. Of course, the audience knows that won't ultimately change anything unless they can permanently destroy their bodies as well. Even that is left mysterious because of whatever is going on with all those bodies in the basement of Marsten House. This episode is all about Annie and Joy needing to escape from their current confinement. It's a simple and effective premise. It's one built around eerie imagery as well. It's startling to watch the crowd of followers quickly assemble around the parade. Pere knew that this was a powerful image. One that would convert many to the Satanist way of life. It's a way forward that offers salvation. And yet, it's one of true horror as well. It's one that confines those who disagree as scum who deserve to die as quickly and brutally as possible. That is absolutely horrifying. It's sickening to watch as Chris calls Nadia a bitch over and over again simply because she resists. In that moment, she is fighting to stay alive. She succeeds over and over again because of her determination. But she also prevails because of her love for him. That is a powerful motivation as well. Sure, their romance has been ill-defined this season. Chris is the least developed of the main characters. In fact, the show still struggles when it comes to giving its wide ensemble of actors interesting things to do. There are really only a handful of characters who are important to the plot. And yet, the show continues to cast recognizable faces to convey a sense of importance in this world only for them to change their actions as determined by the plot at any given point in time. That is frustrating. Even though this episode uses its brief running time to its advantage, it also feels like the show loses some of the momentum that was gained in the previous episode. It's an episode about the growing strength of the threat to this community. Most people weren't even aware that it exists until it swallows Castle Rock and Salem's Lot whole. Some people who do still operate with a sense of independence and urgency aren't seen though. Pop and Abdi have surprisingly gone missing since they last saw the horrors on display in their community. But now, there is a parade of silence walking the streets of Castle Rock to Marsten House. It's such a profoundly scary visual - reminiscent of the hoards of zombies on The Walking Dead. It highlights the strength and quick agility of this threat. Annie understands that something more is going on and that she needs to get Joy to safety as soon as possible. Everyone realizes that Joy would be the much better vessel for Amity upon her resurrection. That makes it unnerving when Joy is taken by the crowd just as easily as everyone else in town. People crave a sense of independence and being unique in this world. This show may argue that only some are important and stand out in a crowd. That can be heroic. Oftentimes though, it only creates more danger and uncertainty. Annie is on the brink of losing her mind. She still has to fight for control. Chris is the exact same way. He gives his life for Nadia. Annie would make the same sacrifice for Joy. The world conspires against her so that she can't do that right now. Everything may be too insurmountable for her to control. That doom and gloom is an effective place to leave off until the next episode. Hopefully, that one can feature the various characters coming together in ways explosive to the core narrative instead of relying a little too heavily on the cool imagery created.