The series is interesting but probably not for what it says on the surface of the show. On the surface, a woman is running away with a 16-year-old girl she calls her daughter. She has an accident on the road and ends up in Castle Rock where she finds an important black Somali community more or less integrated into the white community led by an older man, US veteran Reginald ‘Pop’ Merrill. He has taken under his wing two Somali brother and sister, the sister being the main doctor of the local hospital and the brother the main entrepreneur building a new Somali shopping mall. We can see how the city is taken over by some supernatural spirits shown as living underground in a long set of tunnels from a house, the Marsten House to precisely the patch where the new mall is being built. The Marsten House was essentially a character in its own right in Stephen King's novel, Salem's Lot. The house overlooked the town of Jerusalem's Lot and was considered to have an evil presence. Then on the surface, it is violence from these taken-over people who have become the vessels for the spirits, and it is the fight of the woman of the beginning to escape with her daughter and she ends up in Canada as a psychotic woman, alone but living in the phantasmagoric illusion that is her daughter who is dead because she killed her when she realized she could not liberate her from the spirit inhabiting her.
If it were only that it would be a simple case of “deranged hallucination or psychosis.” I don’t like the word deranged some use. She should be described as being psychotic or schizophrenic and everyone knows psychotic and schizophrenic people can live freely in northern American society, provided they take their drugs and as long as they do not start killing people. Nothing is done to understand where the problem finds its origin in the history of the person. Northern American psychiatry is far from being what it should be: a way to bring individuals to a peaceful and conscious awareness of their real psychology and what they can do about it. They are satisfied with a label and a prescription, plus a regular visit to the doctor for the renewal of the prescription.
But the series goes slightly further in two ways.
The first way is historical: Originally the pioneers from England arrived there in 1619 (Mayflower in 1609) building a community under the name of Jerusalem’s Lot (a longer version of Stephen King’s novel’s title, Salem’s Lot) that is plagued with witches, or whose inhabitants are accused of being witches, which means the village was raided and all the witches en wizards were burnt at the stake. Only the Marsten house survives from this period, and the underground tunnels and tombs are under this house. Down there the most important spirits of this destroyed community are living waiting for their time which has to come four hundred years later, hence in 2019. For this to happen some people living in Castle Rock have to be killed or die and be buried in some coffins down there underground that contain a special liquid that enables the bodies to become the vessels of the spirits. They thus need to reincarnate the prophet, the leader of the old community, in fact, a young man at the time, and the angel we assume is of god, and she has to be a girl under 18. The daughter of the mother we are following is captured thus to become the vessel of this angel. This is what you have to suspend your disbelief about.
But it is essential to see that this story is the very rewriting of the famous witches of Salem, Massachusetts as told in Arthur Miller’s The Crucible. It is thus the reenactment of the past somber and even a-darker-shade-of-dark real history of the USA, of these American pilgrims that created and founded New England and its various states. The fact that Maine was French territory does not really change the story. American society is haunted by its past and there is a common conspiratorial mind at work in all Americans, not only a minority but a wide majority with two opposing sides, some conspiracy theories on the right, extreme right and white supremacist side, as well as conspiracy theories on the left, extreme left and egalitarian or socialist side. It is at times quite enough for one politician to capture the main but unidentifiable conspirator known as the deep state, or the military-industrial complex, to use it on the right or on the left to capture a majority that becomes nearly unchangeable and that believes they are the envoys of God to make the USA and the world right. Read my lips or follow my eyes and you will see I am alluding to MAGA, and I believe this second season of this series is alluding to the very same phantasmagoric absolutely real reality.
And that’s where Stephen King is not what he used to be for us: the describer of manipulation and the way to escape it peacefully, without extreme violence and in absolute consciousness, though the last page reveals it is going to start all over again. The “liberating” mother, Annie Wilkes, described as a female serial murderer on the sleeves, is anything but a liberator since she killed her father and his new wife, seized the baby of this father and this new wife, hence her half-sister, with the intention of killing her, but she is salvaged from this third murder by the laughing of the baby and she takes her along on a long trip to her Laughing Place which is supposed to be in Montreal. That’s in complete contradiction with what Stephen King often imagined, even as Richard Bachman. The end is Kingian but in no way what it is for example at the end of The Dark Tower novels, since the daughter has not been redeemed and is fictional at the end, and mentally embodied in the character Misery (another allusion to Stephen King’s novels) from a popular novel by a popular writer.
But this is the second real problem in this approach, and this one is quite common with Stephen King. His novels are supposed to be the cathartic virtual reality of the readers, though in this case, the Misery novels are not a cathartic liberation but a complete locking-up in a fictional un-reality or even anti-reality. The book, hence the author, hence the character Misery are sitting next to the mother in a reading of the latest volume of the series by the author, whose face we never see, thus becoming a generic allusion to Stephen King and other writers on the same line. This popular novel becoming the embodiment and the inspiration of a criminal desire founded on an unhealthy relationship of the girl at grade-school age with her father reminds us of the fact that one Richard Bachman novel has been taken off the market by Stephen King, Rage, because it is the story of a young teenager taking over a school in some mass killing attempt to obtain some recognition in a world where he is rejected because different, though white. Stephen King explained that he thought this novel might inspire some young teenagers into doing another Columbine. The list of school mass shootings over the last twenty years proves that no psychotic or bullied teenager needs a novel by Stephen King or Richard Bachman to find the inspiration and energy to set up his own adventure. Note these mass shootings are the doing of male students. Such psychotic visions that can become hallucinations are common in humanity and have always been common and they have been valorized in some cases with shamans and religious prophets, gurus and other masters of souls in all civilizations.
This is a common situation when some people who are awake have such hallucinations (visions that can be negative or positive). It is an asset in some situations and professions. A poet or a writer has to be able to shift him/herself into the reality he/she is imagining, to produce his/her poetry or fiction. This is typically psychotic or schizophrenic. Reality is clearly excluded from the vision with or without any conscious directionality towards it.
If the vision is oriented onto the "hostile" reality outside the vision, the person can become disruptive and go as far as killing, murdering, destroying that hostile reality that does not want to accept the phantasmagoric reality of the concerned subject.
This is basically the psychology of shamans or prophets in all civilizations that can lead to wars of conquest or crusades. In the field of Buddhism, it is the Book of the Dead of Tibetan Buddhism. Think of Hitler's vision, Stalin's vision, etc... When such a vision is endorsed by a mass of people, you can get into very difficult situations like pogroms in Europe until not so long ago. Hitler's final solution is nothing but the industrialization of such pogroms. If we say these visionary people are deranged, there is no solution to the social, political, historical problems that may emerge from their vision.
The worst type is those who wrap up their vision into some respectable philosophy or research like Marxism for Stalin, or century-old antisemitism for Hitler, or Monroe's vision of America the only nation endowed with some divine mission to conquer the Americas that are declared the field of action of the USA and the USA alone (Make America Great Again; the Monroe Doctrine, December 2, 1823, the cornerstone of U.S. foreign policy enunciated by Pres. James Monroe in his annual message to Congress. Declaring that the Old World and New World had different systems and must remain distinct spheres, Monroe made four basic points: (1) the United States would not interfere in the internal affairs of or the wars between European powers; (2) the United States recognized and would not interfere with existing colonies and dependencies in the Western Hemisphere; (3) the Western Hemisphere was closed to future colonization; and (4) any attempt by a European power to oppress or control any nation in the Western Hemisphere would be viewed as a hostile act against the United States.). It is a similar vision embedded in a simple skin color difference that made slavery possible for Africans, the Neolithic-old slave trade to the Mediterranean and around the Indian Ocean (starting in Neolithic time) and later the transatlantic slave trade to the Americas. The vision was simple: black was a punishment from God (the retribution of Cain's crime for example) or a simple biological difference that was declared a sign of inferior non-humanity.
And what about the Dalits in India? What about the vision of humanity and its castes being the result of the creation of man from various parts of Brahma's body? And what about the completely criminal assertion that the Dalits are not human since they were not created from a part of Brahma's body? All that is not "deranged." It is normal human functioning generally marginal as for the people directly concerned by such visions. In our modern world, such people are isolated, at times segregated against, and rejected as sociopaths, psychopaths, or whatever. Think of how we treat autistic children, not to mention adults. That rejection and this subsequent institutionalization do not solve the problem, even if the concerned people are executed. It is a normal way for a human mind to develop in some situations such a complete rift between the vision one has and the reality in which one lives. That is not "deranged" because that can be treated and solved if dealt with early. And that is what Buddhism is for me: a way to manage one's mind into some acceptable consciousness. For Buddha, everyone is able to get on the eightfold path to Nibbana (I use Pali, not Sanskrit) and he specified that everyone did include women and Dalits. That’s Buddhist salvation.
The least we can say about this series is it is far from such salvation.
Dr. Jacques COULARDEAU