From possessed cars to interdimensional, cannibalistic clowns, Stephen King has created some of the most iconic and terrifying villains in all of literature and the big screen. But not all of the Master of Horror’s antagonistic creations are as fantastical as Pennywise the Tap-Dancing Clown or Christine, the Plymouth Fury with a mind of its own.
John “Ace” Merrill (Paul Sparks) is the main protagonist of the episode “Let the River Run.” He, along with his brother Chris and uncle/surrogate father, Reginald “Pop” Merrill, run something of a business empire in the titular New England town. Of course, the legality of how that empire operates is highly questionable at best. Ace manages the Star Gazer Lodge, which Annie Wilkes and her teenage daughter, Joy, have been calling home (in cabin 19 no less) while stranded in Castle Rock.
After Joy catches Ace conducting illegal activity, the property manager confronts Annie about what her daughter had seen and warns that she should keep quiet...or else. With Annie’s mental health in drastic decline, she doesn’t take Ace’s intrusion lying down -- and winds up killing the former bully with an ice cream scoop. Yes, you read that right. An. Ice. Cream. Scoop.
Now, this isn’t the first time Ace has died in the town of Castle Rock. Decades after bullying Gordie LaChance and his friends as they searched for the body of Ray Brower in the summer of 1960, Ace Merrill appeared as a secondary antagonist in the 1991 novel Needful Things. And while he didn’t appear in the film adaptation (which is an underappreciated adaptation of King’s work), he played an important role in Leland Gaunt’s plan to push Castle Rock to the brink of utter chaos on the page.
Ace even went so far as to plant explosives around the town for an apocalyptic effect. Ace never got to see his work come to fruition (although, sadly, it eventually does). Instead he's gunned down in the novel's final showdownl, which is a more dignified end than “death by ice cream scoop.”
Hulu’s Castle Rock has a knack for introducing established characters and settings from the works of Stephen King and putting them in new situations outside King’s canon. Ace Merrill is one of the few characters from this shared universe to meet his end in two separate works. The only other one that comes to mind would be Dick O’Halloran, who, unlike in the novel, is killed at the end of Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining and passes away from natural causes early on in the novel, Doctor Sleep, the sequel to King’s original work. Of course, we all know that not everything that dies in the world of Stephen King likes to stay dead.
Season 2 of Castle Rock stars Lizzy Caplan, Tim Robbins, Elsie Fisher, Paul Sparks, Barkhad Abdi, Yusra Warsama and Matthew Alan. Now streaming on Hulu.