As a child, one of my favorite shows was Quantum Leap (yes, the nerd is strong in this one).
Every week, I would tune in and watch my hero, Sam Beckett (another Hoosier who also loved physics? Hot!) travel back in time, and avert some kind of tragedy or make better decisions to change the past. Sometimes, we got a two-for-one special, where Sam averted tragedy, and made someone (or even multiple someones’) life or lives better in the process.
Sure, it wasn’t always easy, and Sam frequently stumbled into road blocks. And often there was a twist: Sam thought he was there to do a particular thing, but Al and Ziggy would argue with him otherwise and push him into doing his “assignment.” Or Sam would have to take a detour, which would be necessary to accomplish his “assignment.” However, Sam would eventually be drawn back to his “assignment”, even when things were not as they seemed…
So yes, time travel was often a difficult thing. That pesky past that does not want to be changed…
And our hero, Jake Epping, was reminded again of that fact in last night’s episode of 11/22/63. In fact, I was reminded of Sam Beckett and his adventures fairly often when I watched this episode. However, I was also reminded fairly frequently that I was, in fact, watching something has been adapted from a book written by the man considered to be the master of modern horror…
So, Stephen King along with one of my favorite childhood television shows? Where do I sign up for that?!
Right, I did renew that Hulu subscription…whew!
So, without any further ado, here is my recap and review of the second episode of 11/22/63, titled The Kill Floor.
And, as always:
The episode begins with a young Harry Dunning, who is chased by bullies into the woods, on October 29th, 1960. The bullies steal Harry’s pants, so Harry heads to the neighborhood drugstore, where he stashes a spare pair of shorts with his friend the pharmacist. At the drugstore, Harry encounters Jake, who is reminded of his mission to save Harry and his family from his murderous father, Frank Dunning.
Jake asks the pharmacist about renting a room in town for a few days, and is referred to Mr. and Mrs. Price. Mrs. Price does not trust Jake, but rents the room to him anyway, demanding a week’s payment in advance. With the words of Harry’s essay echoing in his head, Jake heads to the local bar in the hopes of meeting Frank Dunning.
When Jake arrives at the bar, he speaks to the bartender, a young man named Bill, and inquires about Frank Dunning. Bill immediately becomes uncomfortable at the mention of Frank, and does not appear to believe Jake’s cover story that he is in town to write a book. Jake’s wish is granted, however, when Frank and a group of his friends arrive at the bar. Frank is charming and charismatic, and appears to befriend Jake. After spending some time drinking with Jake, Frank invites him to visit the local slaughterhouse, so that Jake can prove that he is “one of them.”
After arriving at the slaughterhouse, Frank demands that Jake slaughter one of the cows with a mallet. Jake refuses, so Frank slaughters the animal without a second thought. Jake begins to realize that his mission of stopping Frank from murdering his family will not be easy.
The next day, Jake visits the Dunning house, and tells Frank’s wife Doris that she and her family have won an all expenses paid Halloween vacation, in the hopes that he can prevent tragedy.
That night, Jake eats dinner with the Prices and makes some small talk. However, Mr. Price opens up to Jake, telling him about his experiences as a soldier in World War II. where he was awarded a bronze star after killing a young man. Mr. Price tells Jake that his actions were not heroic, despite the fact that he earned a medal.
Jake’s conversation with the Prices is interrupted by the arrival of Frank, who tells Jake that he wants to make up for his treatment of him the previous night. Frank takes Jake to his butcher shop, where his badly beaten wife emerges. It turns out that Frank has beaten his wife for accepting the “vacation” given to her by Jake. Frank tells Jake to not interfere in his marriage, and also badly beats Jake. This makes Jake all the more determined to stop Frank, and he makes a last minute purchase of a gun.
Again, Jake is reminded that the past does not want to be changed, as he suffers a suspicious round of food poisoning later that night. Al’s notes state that his cancer was a consequence of his attempts to change the past. However, Jake awakens the next morning, determined to go forward on his mission and stop Frank Dunning.
Jake stakes out the Dunning house, but runs into Bill the bartender. Bill tells Jake that he has it in for Frank Dunning, as he thinks Frank murdered his sister and her baby 12 years ago, but was never brought to justice. Jake confesses that he has time-traveled from the future and that he knows that Frank will murder the Dunning family, but Bill is suspicious, as the murders were supposed to occur at 8 PM. It is now 8:05 PM and the Dunning family is still alive. Jake realizes that Frank used the back door, and hears Mrs. Dunning’s screams. Jake runs in to the house in an attempt to save the Dunning family.
When he is inside the house, Jake tells the young Harry to hide inside his bedroom. Frank tells Jake that he should not be there, and Jake shoots him. However, this only further enrages Frank, who wrestles Jake to the ground. Mrs. Dunning runs, but Harry makes an appearance. Frank yells at his son to give him back his hammer, which he was going to use as a murder weapon. Franks demands that his son give him back the murder weapon, but Harry runs downstairs with it instead. Frank lunges after his son, and Jake strangles him with a piece of rope from behind, killing him, sparing the lives of the rest of the Dunning family. Bill also appears at the foot of the stairs, witnessing the death of Frank Dunning.
Jake walks out of the Dunning house and returns to the Price’s house. Mrs. Price asks Jake if she needs to call the sheriff. Jake tells her that he did not do anything wrong. Mrs. Price responds, telling him that only God can judge. Jake then proceeds to drive out of town.
While driving away, Jake is bothered by the blood on his hands. He stops to wash his at a street-side faucet and reminds himself that Harry and the rest of the Dunning family are still alive. Jake then turns around, and encounters Bill the bartender, who holds up a newspaper clipping from 1963. Bill demands to know what is going on, and ushers Jake into his vehicle at gunpoint.
Again, if you don’t have a Hulu subscription, get one…the first two episodes alone of 11/22/63 are worth it!
But of first of all, I am remiss…
I don’t even think that I can blame the fact that tax season is frying my brain for this one…
Derp. Derp derp. Derp derp derp. Derp…well, you get the point!
No, I did not recognize Bevvie from the levy er Annette O’Toole in this episode. I only saw her name on the ending credits. Talk about out of left field…
So nice one, Mr. Abrams and Uncle Stevie and whoever else was involved in this…I never saw that coming!
And of course, for us Constant Constant Readers, this was a great Easter egg…
As many who are reading this know, part of the novel takes place in Derry, Maine. Derry is a hotbed of strange activity of the Stephen King universe, and several books are placed in Derry. And perhaps the most famous of all the Derry books would be It.
Yes, the novel about your friendly neighborhood homicidal clown connects to a book about time travel, nostalgia for an era lost, Vietnam and all that other good stuff!
In the novel 11/22/63, Jake actually meets Richie Tozier and Beverly Marsh, who are two of the main characters from It. And all of King’s work is connected (this is a well known secret), but I think that this is perhaps one of his best connections. Somehow, the homicidal clown in the sewers gets a tie-in to the guy going back in time trying to prevent the Vietnam War, and it all makes sense…now how cool is that?
Of course, I had a funny feeling that this tidbit would not make it into the mini series, given the fact that written material has a different “face” onscreen, if you will. But we were given the next best thing: the actress from a mini series that was pivotal in my origin story as a Stephen King fan had a part in this mini series. And yes, this made sense too! Way to feel a chill up my spine, just like the chill I felt when I read that part in the novel.
So let’s talk about the visual component to 11/22/63 for a moment.
Well, more than a moment, as they deserve a little more time, since they are so great.
One aspect of the visual component of 11/22/63 that deserves some attention is the town of Holden, KY. As I stated before, this part of the story takes place in Derry, Maine in the book. And Derry is creepy, as any King fan will tell you. Jake even talks of this in the book, noting that he felt quite unsettled during his time in Derry. And I felt unsettled when shown the town of Holden, KY in the mini series. I am sure that said friendly, neighborhood homicidal clown probably has the rights to Derry, so we had to change the location to Holden, KY. However, the change was in name only. I felt the same creepy vibe when I watched the mini series and wanted to warn Jake to stay away from storm drains, as a matter of fact. So perhaps the mini series has created a Twinner of sorts to Derry…
One of my main concerns in regards to the adaptation of 11/22/63 was the portrayal of the time period, aka the early 1960’s. King paints such a vivid picture in the book of this time period, as seen through the eyes of Jake, who was born in 1976. And so far, the mini series is doing the same, and we see it in everything from Jake’s clothes (oh, that hat!), the cars, the neighborhood drugstore, the wallpaper in the Price’s house, to the TV dinners and even the books shown on display at the drugstore (The Flash and Batman…swoon). The care and detail in this portrayal is just amazing, and I love it.
Another part of the visual component I like about the 11/22/63 is the near constant reminder that we are watching something based on the work of Stephen King, aka America’s Boogeyman. 11/22/63 is not a horror story, and doesn’t really come across that way at all, but it does have its share of creepy moments. The flies hovering around the dead animal carcass are one example (gross much?). The use of red light when Jake is worshiping the porcelain goddess is another. We even had someone show up in a creepy, old school bunny rabbit costume. I don’t know how much, if any, say that good old Uncle Stevie had in all of this, but I am sure that it has his seal approval…I know that it has mine!
This mini series also makes good use of foreshadowing. Foreshadowing is used A LOT by the Master, but that does not always translate well to the big screen (which is why some of his work loses its punch when translated into movie or television format). However, this show is doing a fairly nice job of using foreshadowing. In this episode, I was struck in particular by the tale of war that Mr. Price confessed to Jake. First of all, this was great foreshadowing for what Jake would have to do: kill someone so that he may save others. I liked the implication that although killing may appear brave to others who were not in the trenches (aka Mrs. Price, who cannot figure out why her husband does not want to display his war medals), that is not always the case, and in fact the act of killing can be a cowardly thing, no matter what the circumstances or motivations behind the killing. Also, 11/22/63 is a book that makes a statement on war, and just what, if anything, can be done to prevent it, along with the consequences of going to war, and even the consequences of not going to war. So it seems to me that the show is setting all of this up with Mr. Price’s tale of war, although we shall see in the future episodes.
(Oh, and the M*A*S*H reference…nice one, guys!)
And let’s talk about the bad guy…
Well, he may play a relatively small role (what I call a “major minor character”) but Franking Dunning is hugely important to the story. For one, see the part about the foreshadowing. It seems that Frank is the warm-up for the “main” bad guy, aka Oswald. For two, Frank Dunning is a bad dude. A really bad dude. There are plenty of those in King universe, and Frank is just in a long line. However, Frank stands out a little bit, because of the fact that he is not a main character, but still manages to have a huge influence in the overall story.
And in portraying Frank Dunning, Mr. Fergie er Josh Duhamel has pulled out a performance that I did not know he had up his sleeve…Mr. Fergie is not one to be trifled with!
Frank Dunning is handsome, charismatic and psychotic. Naturally, Duhamel does not have a problem with that first part, but he also nailed the other two parts. I know I would cross to the other side of the street if I saw him walking around town. James Franco looked the same way in most of their scenes together…the chemistry between those two was fantastic, and they played off of one another very well. In fact, I am a little sad that Frank is now dead and we won’t get to see Franco and Duhamel together, although I do have the appearance of Oswald to look forward to.
So that’s it for The Kill Floor. Will the show continue to deliver? Has Jake changed his mind about the past, or has it been changed for him? Join me next week to find out, when we review and dissect episode 3, Other Voices, Other Rooms. And maybe make some new friends in the meantime…
Tune in next week…same bat time, same bat channel!