This Castle Rock review contains spoilers.
Castle Rock Season 2 Episode 2
Castle Rock season 2 is a veritable feast of horrors so far. “New Jerusalem” builds on the excellent “Let the River Run” quite well. The episode picks up minutes after the premiere, as Annie finds herself in a chasm underneath the construction site where she planned to bury Ace. Jerusalem’s Lot is a town known for its secrets, especially those buried down deep in its darkest corners, and what Annie finds while trying to escape doesn’t disappoint.
“New Jerusalem” gives us our first look at the Marsten House, the infamous mansion of unimaginable horrors that first appeared in Stephen King’s ‘Salem’s Lot. But Castle Rock doesn’t usually play things straight, always putting a twist on familiar King lore. This version of the Marsten house doesn’t seem to be the home of a vampire but something possibly even more sinister. The premiere teased a coven of witches that once haunted this part of Maine, and “New Jerusalem” pushes it one step further when Pop alludes to a cult of satanists. Whoever the squatters at the Marsen house are, they’re a bunch of “dirty birds,” as Annie discovers on her way out the front door.
The Marsten House was a shocking reveal that was bound to come up in a season so invested in Jerusalem’s Lot, but I didn’t expect showrunners Sam Shaw and Dustin Thomason to go for it so soon. They go one step further too, as the house claims not just another victim but also brings back Ace from the dead. Paul Sparks is scary as hell as he stands outside Annie’s window at the end of the episode, too. It’s a common King beat: you just can’t keep a bad guy down for long in this cruel universe.
Abdi has more to contend with than a territorial dispute, it seems, and I can’t wait to watch these “squatters” reclaim what’s theirs. After all, you don’t just unleash a plague of locusts on a town unless you’re planning something big.
Meanwhile, we learn a bit more about Pop Merrill, Castle Rock’s very own crime boss. Pop might be dying but he’s still got plenty of fire to go hunting for Ace after Nadia tells him about the molotov cocktail. The episode effectively juxtaposes Pop’s viciousness and his kinder side throughout. Flashbacks show us different stages of Pop’s life, all leading to the moment he became Abdi and Nadia’s foster parent. Tim Robbins expertly switches between these different sides of Pop, exposing a softness reserved for his foster children. We know there’s more to Pop’s kindness towards the Somali people of Jerusalem’s Lot than meets the eye, and the episode teases that it might have something to do with Abdi and Nadia’s mother. It’s likely we’ll see more of Pop’s time in the military before the season is up.
Robbins scenes with both Abdi and Annie are the very best of the episode. There’s a real tension between these characters, an energy that was really missing from the opening hours of the first season. Lizzy Caplan is so good at making you both uncomfortable and giggle at the same time. When Pop accuses her of killing Ace, Annie quietly reprimands him for his language. Abdi, meanwhile, has a history with Pop that leads to a big secret, something that tore them apart.
Caplan and Elsie Fisher have real chemistry, too. Annie tries to manipulate Joy into leaving Castle Rock, but something’s changed for the Wilkes daughter. Starved of connection with other people her age for so long, Joy finally has a friend and she’s not willing to let that go so soon. Fisher is good at portraying the sadness and fear she feels towards her mother, but also the anger underneath. There’s a sense that she’s reached her limit…
“New Jerusalem” is a King spectacular through and through, moving effortlessly from one shocking moment to the next. This is what I’d always hoped the show would be: different aspects of the Kingverse coming together to create something truly captivating, scary, and exciting. So far, Castle Rock season 2 is very worthy of the creator who inspired it.
John Saavedra is an associate editor at Den of Geek. Read more of his work here. Follow him on Twitter @johnsjr9 and make sure to check him out on Twitch.