How Castle Rock’s surprise twist makes us empathize with Annie Wilkes

CASTLE ROCK -- "Let The River Run" - Episode 201 -- A nurse gets waylaid in Castle Rock. Joy (Elsie Fisher) and Annie (Lizzy Caplan), shown. (Photo by: Dana Starbard/Hulu)
CASTLE ROCK -- "Let The River Run" - Episode 201 -- A nurse gets waylaid in Castle Rock. Joy (Elsie Fisher) and Annie (Lizzy Caplan), shown. (Photo by: Dana Starbard/Hulu) /
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Annie Wilkes may be destined to become a serial killer, but we can’t help but empathize with Castle Rock’s younger version of Stephen King’s creation.

Poor Annie Wilkes has been trying to make amends with her daughter after accidentally injuring her in a moment of passion. However, their ongoing quarrel is just a minor part of what’s been happening on Castle Rock. The real issue is that Ace is converting half the town into minions through some slimy procedure that lobotomizes people. But that doesn’t make Annie’s efforts at reconciliation any less important, especially since the sooner they make up, the quicker they can pack their bags and leave the hopeless town of Castle Rock.

As if Annie needed any more problems, things get even more complicated in the episode “The Mother.” We learned the last episode that Joy discovered Carl Wilkes’ manuscript in Annie’s belongings and reached out to Rita, who was listed in the dedication. While we all thought Rita had died because Annie stabbed her before taking Joy and fleeing town, she actually had survived the stabbing. Rita spent the rest of her life trying to find Annie in hopes of getting back her daughter, who we know as Joy.

Joy’s call prompts Rita to track her down to a group home where Joy has been transferred to after spending time with Abdi and Nadia. Rita’s first meeting with Joy is everything that would be expected. She told Joy everything that happened and that Annie is actually Joy’s sister.

The worst part is that Annie had come to visit Joy at the very same time that this takes place and realizes that Rita had found them when the receptionist at the group home explains that Joy was with her “mother.”

One would assume that the realization that Annie was not Joy’s biological mother would send Joy into her birth mother’s arms, but things are never that simple. Joy has spent her entire life with Annie and has witnessed and experienced Annie’s love. Plus, Joy’s concerned about Annie’s future and whether she will end up in jail even if she did attempt murders. And frankly, Joy doesn’t know Rita, and that could bring up feelings of fear in the young girl even if Rita is her mother. So Joy decides to speak with Annie before she makes her next move instead of running off with Rita.

CASTLE ROCK — “Ties that Bind” – Episode 203 — Annie tastes her own medicine. Joy (Elsie Fisher), shown. (Photo by: Dana Starbard/Hulu)
CASTLE ROCK — “Ties that Bind” – Episode 203 — Annie tastes her own medicine. Joy (Elsie Fisher), shown. (Photo by: Dana Starbard/Hulu) /

In figuring out what to do with two mothers, Joy has a lot to process. Annie got to speak with Joy and plead her case by telling Joy that she is her purpose and even wrote her a letter to say what she couldn’t. Annie’s letter reminds Joy of every reason she’s loved the woman who has raised her, and she chooses Annie in the end.

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It may sound like an odd choice considering how easy it is for Annie to murder, but it’s ultimately all Joy knows. She knows that without a shadow of a doubt that Annie’s world is powered and driven by Joy. But when Joy runs home to tell Annie the good news, she finds that the backdoor is open.

After one too many drinks, Rita decided to make Annie pay by taking her out into an open forest to shoot her. Unfortunately, Rita has also succumbed to alcoholism after losing her husband and spending her life looking for her daughter. Joy gets there in time to save Annie and injects Rita in the shoulder. While we don’t really know what was in the syringe, I bet that it was something that would put Rita to sleep, considering that in the future, Annie uses a ton of those syringes on Paul Sheldon.

However, Rita drops the gun after she’s been injected, and it shoots her in the stomach. Annie instantly goes into nurse mode and tries to put pressure on the wound to stop the bleeding. Rita may have survived a stabbing, but I doubt she’s going to survive this bullet.

When the police arrive, they’re ready to round-up suspects as expected. The problem is that no one is going to believe that Rita shot herself accidentally. And even if they do believe the story, they’ll figure out eventually that Annie is wanted in another state for murder and kidnapping. But none of that matters when Annie realizes that the police will also be arresting Joy and that Joy feels responsible and would likely admit to killing Rita. Without hesitation, Annie puts up her bloody hands and admits to shooting Rita.

This, my friends, is the definition of a mother. Though Annie Wilkes is a woman with many problems, she was willing to sacrifice herself to save Joy. And I hate the Castle Rock writers for doing such a great job at making me sympathize with a murderer and a kidnapper. Because even though Rita has been wronged so badly in this story, I was still rooting for Annie all the way. Annie is so unlucky in this world that you just can’t help but feel bad for her.

I’m crossing my fingers that Annie will not serve any jail time and will get to whisk Joy away to safety before anything else unfortunate happens. But the fact that there is no Joy in the movie Misery suggests that something will eventually split these two apart. Will Joy die? Will she be turned into one of Ace’s lobotomized victims? Will she run away without Annie? What I hope we discover in the coming episodes is how Annie ends up alone for the rest of her life.

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A brand new episode of Castle Rock airs every Wednesday on Hulu.