Post Mortems

Castle Rock's Lizzy Caplan Explains Annie's 'Gut Punch' Finale Decision: 'This Was the Only Way to End It'

Castle Rock Season 2

The following post contains spoilers from Castle Rock‘s Season 2 finale. If you haven’t watched the episode yet, avert your eyes.

Paul Sheldon may not know it yet, but he just encountered his No. 1 fan.

Castle Rock wrapped its second season on Wednesday with an emotional finale, which, among other things, introduced a young Annie Wilkes to the Misery Chastain novels with which she ultimately becomes obsessed. But even as Annie gained a new “little love” in the form of Paul Sheldon’s writing, she lost another — and this one hurt.

First, a brief recap: Just moments before Amity Lambert was to be reincarnated in Joy’s body, Nadia and Abdi blew up the statue that had been hypnotizing Castle Rock’s residents. As soon as the statue had been destroyed, the spell was broken, and Joy drove a knife through Ace Merrill’s back before fleeing the scene.

With those traumatic events (sort of) behind them, Annie and Joy resumed their road trip, eventually landing in Canada where Annie found work as a caretaker for an elderly, bed-ridden man. But Joy didn’t exactly return to her normal self; she was moody and standoffish, and Annie grew increasingly suspicious that Joy was still possessed by Amity’s spirit — suspicions that were only made worse by a phone call she overheard, in which Joy and a deep-voiced man were discussing the plan for “tomorrow.”

Convinced that her daughter now posed a threat, Annie slipped some anti-psychotics into Joy’s bowl of ice cream… but when Joy realized she’d been drugged, Annie tried to force the ice cream into her daughter’s mouth, prompting a physical scuffle between the two women. Joy eventually ran outside to the lake surrounding their house, but Annie caught her before she could untie the boat next to the dock — and minutes later, Annie had drowned Joy in the water.

When a shell-shocked Annie went back inside the house, she found a letter that Joy had written to her, explaining that she needed to live on her own for a while, and the phone call Annie had heard was with a lawyer who would help Joy get emancipated. Realizing that she had just killed her harmless daughter, a horrified Annie raced back outside and tried to revive Joy, who fortunately spit up water and regained consciousness (and believed her mom’s lie that she had fallen into the lake, leading Annie to save her life).

Following Joy’s miraculous resurrection, she and Annie became closer than ever: They restarted their road trip once again, and Joy suddenly seemed content to live with her mom forever, rather than carving out her own life. At the end of the hour, Annie and Joy attended a book signing for Paul Sheldon, whose novels Annie had discovered (and become instantly infatuated with) during their stay in Canada. But as the event began, one final twist was revealed: Joy was only a hallucination in Annie’s head. Annie had drowned her daughter in the lake that day, and Joy wasn’t really there, after all.

TVLine caught up with series star (and Performer of the Year finalist) Lizzy Caplan, who explained Annie’s horrifying actions in the finale (and revealed a Misery homage that didn’t make it into the show).

Castle Rock Season 2 FinaleTVLINE | Let’s start with that very final moment, when we learn Annie did kill Joy, and her daughter is just in her head now. Had you discussed that twist beforehand with the producers, or were you taken by surprise when you read the finale script?
Yeah, that was something that [series co-creator] Dustin Thomason and I discussed. There was a version of a different ending that we thought we were going to do when we were halfway through shooting the season. And then it became very, very clear that this was the only way to end it. Annie had to kill Joy. It wouldn’t have had the same emotional impact if she had killed somebody else and Joy witnessed it, and then that caused their future emotional estrangement. None of it seemed to carry enough of an emotional gut punch as killing Joy…. We wanted the audience to constantly be questioning whether Annie was going to kill Joy. There’s this pull in that direction, and Annie spends so much time fighting that pull. We wanted this specter that’s hanging over Annie for the whole season: Will she kill Joy? Deep down, Annie was conscious of that fear, and Joy probably was, as well. And we just didn’t want to end the season with a whimper. We wanted to end it with a bang where [Annie’s] deepest fear about herself would actually come to pass.

TVLINE | As the woman playing Annie, did you feel as though her actions were justified? Or did you have a hard time wrapping your head around her decision?
Yeah, Annie took this one a bit far. [Laughs] The whole thing I realized in playing this character is that even though she often sees things that aren’t there, and she misreads the room quite a lot, it has to feel very true to Annie. I didn’t want it to be like, “Oh, she’s crazy. She does crazy stuff. I would never do that!” I wanted people to feel like, “Oh, God, maybe in that situation, backed against that wall, maybe I would do something like that.” That is sort of my job, to make her actions seem justifiable to her. And when we get to the second half of this finale, she’s suspicious that Joy is, in fact, one of the turned people. And she is well within her rights to suspect that, to be afraid of something like that. They’ve just survived this completely outlandish situation, so with Annie Wilkes’ logic — you can’t really fault her for thinking that is a possibility. We can fault her logic in previous scenes throughout the season, but I don’t think this one.

And when you’re a teenager, you start breaking away from your parents and looking for your own independence, and it seems most mothers have to grieve their little girl and welcome in this grown woman. And that’s a difficult situation in the real world. Our situation is obviously enhanced, to put it lightly. [Laughs] But this situation with Joy — you buy both versions of it. You buy the version that she’s still possessed and under this spell — that’s Annie’s reality — and you can also completely buy that Joy’s just being a teenager who went through some heavy s—t and needs to be by herself for a little bit. We wanted the audience to not know which was the reality. At the beginning of the season, the audience knows what is real and what is not, even when Annie doesn’t always. But because we’ve gone through this supernatural task, the audience is hopefully questioning what’s true and what isn’t. If we can put you a little bit in the brain of Annie, so that you’re questioning your logic around those decisions, then we’ve done a good job.

TVLINE | I want to get your take on Annie’s hallucinations at the end, particularly when she’s seeing Joy. Is that a direct result of her psychosis, and perhaps a lack of medication? Or is this just her twisted way of grieving?
Probably a combination of all those things. I do believe that, like many things about Annie, it’s very open to the audience’s interpretation. I personally believe — and this is truly just my opinion, since we won’t get to see what happens beyond that moment — that once she sees Paul Sheldon, and she’s completely locked into her new obsession with Misery and this author, Joy would eventually disappear. [Annie’s] got her sights set on her next true love. She leapfrogs from one to the next: from her father to Joy, and now to Paul Sheldon and the Misery books. She only has room to truly love one thing and be obsessed with one thing. So as she settles into this new obsession, I feel like Joy would probably fade into the background. I don’t believe that Joy is manifesting herself in Annie’s brain during the Sidewinder, Colorado days [in Misery]. Joy’s put to bed before that occurs.

Castle Rock Season 2 FinaleTVLINE | I loved that moment where Annie picks up a Paul Sheldon book for the first time and reads a passage, then says, “Good opening.” Did you get a kick out of those little nods to the future Annie?
Absolutely. It was the best. In fact, I just remembered something! And I’m really bummed it’s not in there! We got a prop made of a little penguin — I don’t know if you remember this from the movie, but Annie has a penguin figurine, and when Paul Sheldon goes out into the living room, that’s how she knows he’s been out of his room. So we recreated it! She was going to find that, too. [Laughs] Doing those little Easter eggs was the fun of it all. Yes, it’s a horror show, and there are really emotionally charged scenes. But the joy of playing and watching Annie Wilkes is that she’s not just this super intense, dark villain all the time. She has these other dimensions, including being silly and fun, and those are the things that I love most about Misery. She’s operating under a different rulebook.

TVLINE | Speaking of which — and I hope this isn’t too twisted a question — there was a moment in Episode 9 where Jamal is lying in that hospital bed, and Annie picks up a mallet, and she looks like she’s going to hurt him with it, but she doesn’t. Was there any part of you that was weirdly disappointed she didn’t get to pull the same move that Misery’s Annie did?
[Laughs] We did get that sledgehammer scene where I smash the guy’s head in [during Episode 8], so that was very satisfying. We were all very excited to get to shoot that. But in the scene that you’re talking about, those were just random props that were laid out. I wanted to have a moment of picking up that hammer and looking at it. Part of the fun of doing this show is those little homages to the queen [Kathy Bates]. We were always looking for little things we could sneak in, some of which started in the script stage before we started shooting, and some we would just find on set, and it gave us glee thinking about people discovering those when they watched the show.

TVLINE | You and Elsie Fisher had some harrowing scenes in the second half of this episode. Were any of those particularly challenging to film?
Yeah, all of the stuff in the water was really tough. Not only because it was very cold, but there was already so much emotional heavy lifting, and then you add the physicality of running through water. I find that really helpful, personally, in performance, because you’re kicking your own ass physically, in addition to whatever the emotional lifting is. Also, I love Elsie. I do have maternal feelings toward her, so even just pulling her head back by her ponytail or anything that would hurt her or make her feel afraid — I did feel guilty about that. But only after “cut.” [Laughs] Between “action” and “cut,” I enjoyed wrestling that little lady.

And weirdly, the ice cream scene — we were trying to figure out how to do that for quite a while. We kept coming back to that, to really sell how harrowing that moment would be. Elsie and I are really good friends, and you’re coming to the end of the season when you’re smashing ice cream in someone’s face… this is a little funny, and we don’t want it to feel funny. It was just about trying to find the right tone. She and I appreciated the weight of this relationship, and we knew what we were tasked with in this finale. But it was also the final episode, so there’s this last-day-of-school, celebratory vibe on set. We tried to find the line between those two things. It truly was an amazing experience to shoot this show, but obviously there’s some very heavy s—t.

Your turn, Castle Rock fans! What did you think of the sophomore finale? Grade the episode in our poll below, then drop a comment with your full reviews!