11/22/63: Episode 7 Recap and Review

For the past several weeks, I have been taking a long, almost leisurely car ride on Monday nights.

However, the ride has gotten more urgent and less leisurely as of this week.

In other words, I just finished watching the second to last episode (sniff) of the mini series 11/22/63 this week.

And the clock has begun to tick.  The foot is on the gas, ready to accelerate when needed.

In other words, the suspense has come to a crescendo.  And we are left to wonder:  Will Jake Epping succeed in his quest?  Can he change history, possibly for the better?

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Well, we are getting closer and closer to the answer.  The mini series has got down to business (even being so nice as to count down for us) and we should have our answer soon, although I have no complaints at all about the journey.  In fact, it’s all in the journey.

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But, I am ready to reach my destination.  I may love or hate that destination, but I am eager to finally reach it and find out for myself.  And after a bit of waiting, I am almost there.

So, without further ado, here is my recap and review of the last leg of the journey, aka episode 7 of the mini series 11/22/63, titled Soldier Boy.

And, as always:

Homer spoiler


 

Synopsis

The episode begins with Jake in a state of unconsciousness after his head injury.  Jake is also having hallucinations:  he sees he ex wife and Al, along with Anderson Cooper on his television screen.

Finally, Jake awakens in his present of November 1963, with Sadie by his side.  However, he has no memory of why he has traveled back to the past and does not even know what LBJ and JFK stand for, although Sadie attempts to help him jog his memory.

A few days later, Lee Harvey Oswald stops by the FBI office, asking after the agent whom he believes has bugged his apartment and is tailing him and his wife Marina.  Oswald’s behavior becomes erratic, and he is determined to make sure that people remember him.

Jake’s memory is awakened when he signs himself out of the hospital:  he remembers that he had his friend Bill committed to a mental hospital before his injury.  Jake also finds out from Deke that Mimi has passed away from cancer.

Sadie and Jake pay a visit to the hospital to see Bill.  Bill has become a shell of the man he was, as he has been subjected to electroshock therapy due to his talk of time-travel.  This is not good for Jake, as Bill is the only other person who remembers the details of his mission.  Jake attempts to take Bill home, but Bill tragically commits suicide by jumping out of a window.

At home, Jake continues to take pain pills, which make him groggy and do not help his memory.  This frustrates Sadie, who still tries to talk him through it, in the hopes that she can revive his memory.  Jake finally flushes the pills down the drain, and asks Sadie to repeat the last conversation between them before his injury.

Oswald’s mother berates him for bothering the FBI, and pulls out an old report card of his, reminding him of his potential.  Oswald sits on a park bench in Dallas, and appears to have some sort of an epiphany.  He walks away, appearing determined.

One night, Sadie and Jake share a dance in the living room.  Somehow, Jake remembers the street he used to live on in Dallas.  Jake and Sadie visit the area, in the hopes of recovering some of Jake’s memories.

Jake and Sadie are able to locate his old apartment building, and visit Oswald.  This triggers Jake’s memories and he realizes that Oswald is the enemy.  Jake attempts to kill Oswald with a knife, but is stopped when Oswald steps out of the nursery, holding his infant daughter.

That evening, Jake attempts to sneak out and stop Oswald.  Sadie catches him, and tells him that she is now involved and will be helping him, whether he likes it or not.  Jake tells her that he wants the non-violent solution:  steal Oswald’s gun so that he cannot shoot the president.  Jake and Sadie visit the Oswald’s friend Ruth, and look for the gun.  However, they are unable to locate the rifle, and Jake realizes that he will need to resort to violence to stop Oswald.

Jake and Sadie stake out the plaza in Dallas the night before the assassination of the president.  Sadie continues to ask Jake questions about the future, and Jake admits that he does not have many ties to his own time, in terms of friends and family.  However, Jake’s conversation with Sadie is interrupted by the appearance of the Yellow Card Man.  The Yellow Card Man tells Jake that he is a failed time traveler himself who traveled back in time to attempt to prevent the drowning of his daughter, and is now forced to watch her death repeatedly on an endless loop. Jake awakens and attempts to convince Sadie to give up on their mission, but she reminds him that he has traveled back to the past for a reason, and giving up the mission is not an option.

The next morning, Jake and Sadie awaken, finding out that their vehicle will not start.  Jake grabs a gun, and he and Sadie run.

Oswald awakens, having spent the night with Marina.  Marina tries to convince Oswald to spend the day with her and the children, but he heads out of the house, telling her that he has a job to do.

Sadie and Jake hotwire a car, in an attempt to reach Oswald in time.  Oswald climbs to the abandoned upper floor of the book depository with his rifle, and waits for the arrival of Kennedy.


My Thoughts

Before we move on, let’s pay our respects:

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Well, to Bill actually.  Although he did look a little slack-jawed, if I do say so myself.

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In all seriousness, this death was sad.  I may not have liked this particular character all that much.  However, he did serve his purpose, and his death was just…pitiful…I cannot think of any other way to describe it.

The moments leading up to Bill’s death were actually well done.  In fact, Bill’s death was probably one of this character’s better moments, at least from a writing standpoint.  I thought that the scene in the mental institution, along with the portrayal of Bill right before his death were both well executed.  This show has reminded us several times that we should not be looking back at the 1960’s with rose-colored glasses, but with a more realistic viewpoint, as it was not as idyllic as it is made out to be.  The scene in the mental hospital is another example of this.  Even today, mental illness is still stigmatized.  However, we have made giant strides in our understanding and treatment of mental illness over the past 50 years.  Patients are treated much more humanely, and the stigma is slowly lessening.  We do not use electroshock therapy.  This was not the case in 1963, and 11/22/63 provides us with yet another powerful reminder of this fact.

The primary antagonist in 11/22/63 is obviously Lee Harvey Oswald.  I have not discussed this aspect of the mini series much, because I felt that I to simply see more before forming an opinion.  So, I think I have seen enough at this point to discuss this now.

lee harvey oswald

When I first read the book, I was impressed with this character, simply because he is a historical figure, as opposed to a fictional character.  Oswald is also someone who lived before social media, the Internet or even before television was as commonplace as it is now (I have three TV’s in my house myself, but who’s counting?)

So, in order to construct a character for someone like Lee Harvey Oswald, we have to rely on written accounts.  And the memories of others, most of whom are likely deceased at this point.  In other words, reconstructing a person like Lee Harvey Oswald takes an awful lot of imagination.

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Stephen King has an awful lot of imagination, although this usually used to create creepy clowns that still haunt my nightmares to this day (or is this just me?)  But King is far more than a writer of horror, as a book like 11/22/63 demonstrates.  So he was able to construct a convincing character using the equivalent of literary fumes.  Hence the reason he is The Master.

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And from what I have seen, the show has been able to do the same thing:  turn a historical figure into a good, convincing fictional villain.  Daniel Webber, the actor who plays Oswald on the mini series, is yet another good casting choice (like almost everyone else on the show).  Over the course of the mini series, we have seen Oswald become more and more erratic over time.  This is realistic, given the circumstances.  No one just wakes up one morning with the desire to kill the leader of the free world.  Rather, this is something that develops over time, and both the writers of the show and the actor playing Oswald have taken great pains to establish this fact.  The result is a compelling character, who is at times sympathetic (not even Jake could kill him when he was carrying the baby in his arms), but still a villain, and one of the most notorious villains in all of history.

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The other main “villain” of 11/22/63 could be considered to be the past.  Although the past may not be a villain in the literal sense of word, the past is certainly foreboding.  As Jake says, the past “fucks with you.” And the past will indeed go to great lengths to protect itself, and anyone trying to change it (like Jake, Bill and now Sadie) are often subject to some tragic consequences.

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Establishing the past as a character on the screen can be tricky at best.  Even in the book, creating a character out of something that is an abstract concept is almost as tricky as creating a character out of a historical figure.  However, the book was able to also create a character out of the past.  The mini series has also been able to do this, although the approach has been slightly different.

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The mini series has relied on the use of the character The Yellow Card Man in establishing the past as an onscreen character.  This is actually a good move.  For one, this character is just downright creepy, and maybe even a little tragic.  The fact that strange things happen when he is around is also something that adds to the mood, and further cements the idea of the past “pushing back”, in the same way that an animal may attack if disturbed.

I also loved that we learned a little more about the mysterious Yellow Card Man in this episode, and how he is a also time traveler stuck in a perpetual loop.

In fact, I thought of this guy:

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I also think that the concept of the the Yellow Card Man being a time traveler stuck in a perpetual loop is a great bit of foreshadowing in terms of Jake, who has also become an unwitting time traveler.  Will Jake be forced to watch some horrible event over and over, as punishment for his attempt to interfere with history?  Will the misdeeds that he has committed (in the name of changing history for the better) doom him to a horrible existence and maybe even force him to become the next Yellow Card Man?  Is the Yellow Card Man in fact an alternate reality version of Jake that’s supposed to serve as a warning about what will happen to him if he continues on his path?  All fascinating questions, and I don’t think there is a right or wrong answer.  And this is a sign that the writing is good.


 

Well, that’s it for Soldier Boy.  Join me next week as we review and dissect the final episode, titled The Day in Question.

Tune in next week…same bat time, same bat channel!

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Dead is Definitely Better: My Review of Pet Sematary

Well, I just finished A Dance With Dragons, the fifth book in George RR Martin’s A Song of Fire and Ice series.

So now, we wait.  And wait and wait.  And wait some more for books six and seven, at least, according to history, as our beloved GRRM is not exactly the quickest when it comes to publishing books.  However, I love this series so much, so I forgive the bumbling writer of what will probably be one of the most epic fantasy series of all time.

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In fact, I think of it as karma:  I discovered The Dark Tower series after all the books had been published, so I was able to read them at my leisure.  So now the universe has paid me back by forcing me to wait on Game of Thrones.  It’s all good though, I am sure I can find something else to occupy my time before my return to Westoros

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Well, good thing we have The Master!  Really, are you even surprised any more?

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So, in order to relax while waiting for book six in A Song of Fire and Ice (yes, I may fight windmills while I am waiting for that, actually), I decided to pick up another Stephen King book.  In other words, I have time to kill (see what I did there).

I casually thought about what relaxing book of King’s to read.  I mean, there are quite a few to choose from.

So, I chose Pet Sematary.

Stephen King's Pet Sematary (1985)

I mean, that’s a relaxing read, right?  It will give me some pleasant dreams, right?  It’s good family fun, right?

Ok, you got me.  I really need to stop abusing the sarcasm font.  Seriously…

I deliberately chose Pet Sematary.  If memory serves, this is the one King book I have only read once, and there are very good reasons for that.

I first read this book when I was about 13 years old.  Shortly after, my parents made me stay in this really weird place…I think it’s called Arkham Asylum?  And I met some really funny folks there and they became my lifelong friends!

joker and harley

In other words, Pet Sematary scared me into a change of pants.  I couldn’t sleep with lights off for at least a couple of nights.  Being alone in the house sucked.  And I felt the need to hug my cats really, really tight, claws and teeth be damned.  I may have been turned off from horror and had to resort to watching Disney flicks after this book, as a matter of fact.

Of course, I decided to re-read it, nearly 25 years later.  Makes perfect sense, right?

Well, horror is about confronting fears, to an extent.  In fact, King has written about that, in more than a few books.

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So if a group of plucky kids can travel down to the sewers and confront their fears, why can’t nearly 38 year old me re-read a book that terrified her at age 13?

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Therefore, I convinced myself to read Pet Sematary.  Don’t worry, I have the Blue Heeler Protection Agency at my service, so I will be safe at all times…screw you, Wendigo!

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Anyway, here goes nothing, aka my recap and review of Pet Sematary.

And, as always:

Homer spoiler


 

Synopsis

The story begins with the introduction of the Creed family:  Louis Creed, who is a doctor; his wife Rachel; his five year old daughter Ellie and his infant son Gage.  The Creeds have relocated to Ludlow, Maine from Chicago, and have also brought their pet cat Church along.  The Louis and his family meet  their new neighbor, Jud Crandall, shortly after their arrival at their new home, and become fast friends with Jud and his wife Norma.

Louis and his family quickly settle into their new life in Ludlow.  Louis begins his new job at the nearby university.  Ellie starts kindergarten.  Gage slowly settles into his new routine, and Rachel also becomes friends with Jud and Norma.

One afternoon, not long after Ellie’s first day of school, Jud Crandall stops by the house and invites Louis and his family to take a walk with him.  Jud takes the Creed family for a walk on their property that is about a mile long, and shows them something that is called the “Pet Sematary.”  This is actually a graveyard for family pets, many of which were victims of the busy nearby highway.  Louis and Ellie find the site to be a curiosity, although Rachel is disturbed by it.

The next morning, Ellie becomes upset over the idea of the Pet Sematary, as she realizes that her cat, Church, will not live forever.  Louis tries to calm her and explain death to her, but Rachel becomes extremely upset over the conversation, as her sister Zelda died when Rachel was a child.  Rachel becomes so angry that she forces Louis to promise tonever bring up the subject of death again with their daughter.  Louis becomes troubled, thinking that there may be much more to the story of Zelda’s death than Rachel has told him.

The next day, the university that employs Louis is back in full session, so the real work begins for Louis.  And Louis is put to work right away, as one of his first patients is a young man who is the victim of a car accident.  The young man’s name is Victor Pascow, and Louis quickly realizes that his patient will die.  Before the young man passes away, he mentions the “Pet Sematary”, and tells Louis that is not the real cemetery.  However, before Louis can ask any more questions, Pascow passes away from his wounds.  Louis dismisses the young man’s words as a trick played on him by his ears, and proceeds to do his job as a physician.

That night, Louis encounters Victor Pascow in what he believes to be a vivid dream.  Louis follows the being claiming to be Victor Pascow to the Pet Sematary.  The being then warns Louis not to go beyond the Pet Sematary, no matter how tempted he becomes, and that the destruction of himself and all that he loves is very near.  The next morning, Louis finds pine needles on his bedroom floor.  Louis dismisses the incident as an extremely vivid dream accompanied by an episode of sleepwalking, and continues with his day.

The weeks pass by, and the memory of the incident with Victor Pascow begins to fade.  On Halloween, Louis takes Ellie out trick-or-treating and stops by Jud’s house.  While he is there, Jud’s wife Norma has a heart attack.  Louis is able to administer treatment to her, and Norma survives the incident and makes a nearly complete recovery.

For Thanksgiving, Ellie, Rachel and Gage fly back to Chicago, while Louis remains in Maine.  While his family is gone, Church the cat is run over by a vehicle on the busy road.  Louis is upset and wonders how he will break the news to Ellie, who is very attached to Church.  However, Jud tells Louis that he may be able to help him, and insists on burying Church that night.

Jud leads Louis to the Pet Semetary, and Louis believes that he will bury Church there.  However, there is a burial ground beyond the Pet Semetary, and this is where Louis buries his daughter’s cat.  Jud tells Louis that his burial ground is a Micmac burial ground and that it may contain magical properties.  Louis is skeptical, but buries Church there anyway, and returns home shortly after, still wondering how he will break the news to Ellie.

The next day, Louis gets the surprise of his life when Church returns to his house.  Initially, Louis thinks that he perhaps made a mistake in thinking that Church was dead the night before, and was perhaps just unconscious.  However, the cat seems to have changed, and Louis cannot get rid of the feeling that something just is not right.

That night, Jud tells Louis the story of how he buried his dog, Spot, in the same burial grounds.  Like Church, Spot is resurrected, but is not quite the same.  Jud tells Louis that he was relieved when his dog died a few years later, as his personality had changed, and always smelled like dirt.  Jud also tells Louis that this could be a good lesson for Ellie, to help teach her that death is not such a bad thing.

Rachel returns home with Ellie and Gage, and Louis is glad to see his family again.  However, Ellie notices that something is different about Church.  She says that he stinks and no longer allows the cat to sleep with her.  Other than that, life continues on its normal course for the Creed family.

That winter, Norma Crandall passes away in her sleep.  The Creed family and Jud are extremely saddened by this.  Over Rachel’s objections, Ellie attends the funeral with Louis, and this becomes a rite of passage of sorts.  Rachel finally tells Louis about the death of her sister, Zelda, who passed away from spinal meningitis when she was ten years old.  Rachel was left alone in the house to care for Zelda before she passed away, and the experience was extremely traumatic.  Rachel has spent her life feeling guilt in regards to Zelda’s death, and Louis tries to convince that she finally needs to let go of the guilt and move on with her life.

Tragedy strikes that spring.  Gage is struck by a truck on the busy highway near the family’s home, and is killed almost instantly.  The entire family, including Louis, succumbs to a state of shock and grief.  Rachel’s parents blame Louis for Gage’s death, and Louis gets into a fistfight with his father-in-law at Gage’s funeral.  Louis is in so much pain that he is unable to offer much comfort to either his wife or daughter.

Jud speaks to Louis, as he is afraid that Louis is considering burying Gage’s body in the Micmac burial ground, in the hopes of bringing his son back to life.  Jud tells of a young man who was killed in WWII and buried in the burial grounds by his grieving father.  The young man was resurrected, but did not come back as his former self.  The young man’s personality became vicious, and he only wanted to speak of the nasty secrets kept by Jud and a fewer other townspeople.  Jud theorizes that the man was possessed by the spirit of the Wendigo.  The young man is killed again by his father, who also commits suicide.  Jud and the other townspeople who convinced the young man’s father to end the experiment had their lives spared, but Jud feels that coming into contact with the Wendigo has cursed him, and possibly caused the death of Gage Creed and the pain that the Creed family is now suffering.  Louis promises Jud that he will not bury Gage in the burial ground, but the thought never strays far from his mind.

Despite his promise to Jud, Louis decides to carry out his and attempt to bring Gage back to life.  He sends Rachel and Ellie back to Chicago with Rachel’s parents, promising them that he will join them in a few days.  However, both Rachel and Ellie sense that something is not right with Louis, and Ellie begins to have disturbing dreams in regards to the Micmac burial ground, her father and her brother.  The ghost of Victor Pascow also speaks to Ellie in her dreams, telling her that he can warn her of the danger, but that he cannot interfere.  After hearing of her daughter’s dreams, Rachel attempts to call Louis but receives no answer.  This prompts Rachel to call Jud and ask him to check on Louis.

Jud complies with Rachel’s request and checks on Louis.  However, he finds no sign of Louis in the family home, and fears that Louis intends to attempt to resurrect Gage via the Micmac burial ground.  Jud also fears that the curse of the Wendigo is upon him and the Creed family.

Louis steals the corpse of Gage from the graveyard, intending to carry his plan through.  In the meantime, Rachel rushes back to Maine from Chicago, in the hopes of stopping Louis from doing something potentially dangerous.  Rachel speaks to Jud via the telephone, and Jud promises to tell her the whole story the next day.

Louis buries his son in the Micmac burial ground, and returns to his house to wait for Gage, in the hopes of making his family whole again.  Meanwhile, Rachel frantically tries to return to Maine, but it seems as if someone or something is trying to prevent her return.

Jud is awakened early in the morning by a noise in his house.  It turns out that Church the cat and Gage have paid him a visit.  However, Gage is no longer a little boy, and begins to torment Jud with speculations of his wife’s infidelity.  Jud realizes that he has been tricked, but it is too late, and he is murdered by Gage with a scapel.

Rachel is finally able to drive back to Maine, and heads directly to Jud’s house.  She also encounters Gage and Church, and is attacked by Gage.

The next morning, Louis receives a call from his father-in-law with the news that Ellie has been hospitalized due to hysteria. Ellie has also been having prophetic dreams in regards to her family. Louis’ father-in-law tries to persuade Louis and Rachel to come back to Chicago, and Louis promises that they will attempt to return that night.

Louis then finds Church the cat, and kills the animal by giving it a shot of morphine.  Louis then goes to Jud’s house, where he finds the old man’s body.  Louis then discovers the body of Rachel, who has also been murdered by Gage.  Rachel’s corpse also appears to have been cannibalized.  Louis is then attacked by Gage, and is forced to administer him a fatal short of morphine.  After killing his son, Louis then burns down Jud’s house.

After burning down Jud’s house, Louis brings Rachel’s body to the Micmac burial ground.  He is convinced that he waited too long to bury Gage, and that was the reason why Gage turned evil.  Louis has convinced himself that by burying Rachel right away, things will be different, and buries her in the grounds.

That night, Louis is playing solitaire in his house.  His hair has gone completely white.  He hears a voice, and a cold hand falls on his shoulder.  The voice is full of dirt, and simply says, “Darling.”


 

My Thoughts

Let’s get one thing straight:

Pet Sematary is a good book.

And if you are crazy enough to be reading this blog and have gotten this far, you may be thinking:  Well, water is wet.  The sun does set in the west, right?  Why do we need to state the obvious, in other words?  Of course Pet Sematary is a good book…it was written by The Master, right?

Stephen King mit Katze "Clovis", tierischer Held des Films "Schlafwandler". Der Meister des Horrors wird am Sonntag (21.09.1997) 50 Jahre. Mit 50 hat er mehr als 30 Romane veröffentlicht, ein Sachbuch, fünf Geschichtensammlungen und neun Drehbücher. dpa (zu dpa-Korr vom 17.09.1997) nur s/w

Well, there is that.  However, I have talked about this book in an unflattering light at times, so I wanted to set the record straight:  this is a good book.  I may have taken 25 years to re-read this book, but it is an excellent book.

As stated earlier, I was scared into a change of pants the first time I read this book.  And this is still true:  I consider this to be King’s scariest book ever written (more on that in a bit).  However, when I re-read the book at the almost impossibly ancient age of 37 going on 38, my feelings were a bit…mixed…is the best word I can come up with.

If you are a member of the approximately 5,000 Stephen King fan pages that I am member of on social media, you will see Pet Sematary memes on a regular basis (yeah, I need to get out more, I know).  And they are funny.

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And joking around is ok.  Really, it is.  A bit of whistling in the dark is ok, especially when you are dealing with serious topics, and Pet Sematary has many of those.  In fact, Pet Sematary is overflowing with…feelsies…

Yes, the book with the “grumpy cat”, Zelda and the creepy guy who reminds us that “dead is better” is also filled with feelsies.  In fact, there are so many that King should have put up a caution sign, so his Constant Readers aren’t liable to trip on them.

For example, we have the story of Zelda (also the subject of more than a few social media memes).  And the subject of quite a few nightmares.

And the scene involving Zelda is scary, it really is.  But it is also tragic.  When I read this book this time around, however, I was more saddened than anything when I read that part.  Obviously, I was saddened for Rachel.  The description of what Rachel witnessed and how it affected her, even into adulthood, was just heartbreaking.  I was also saddened for Rachel’s parents.  Rachel’s parents may not have made the best decisions in handling care for their daughter, who was facing a horrible, painful death without the slightest shred of dignity, but I was still sad for them, as no parent should ever have to face that.  But most of all, I was sad for Zelda herself.  Zelda was not a monster.  She never was.  She was simply a child who received some extraordinarily bad luck in life, and whose life was cut off too soon.  Her illness transformed her into something else entirely:  something in constant pain and unrecognizable to the ones who loved her the most.  She was robbed of her childhood.  When she should have been playing with dolls, running around outside with her sister and doing whatever other things that kids do, she was a prisoner to her pain in a back bedroom, where she lived her last days and served as a living reminder to her family that life is never fair, and is perhaps the most unfair to those whose deserve such unfairness the least.

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We also have the Creed family.  As I have stated before, the only “bad guy” in Pet Sematary is the Wendigo (more on that later).  When I was younger, I do confess to thinking that Louis was not entirely a “good guy.”  I thought that he was weak and played a role in the events that transpired.  However, this re-read has caused me to re-think this, and I no longer believe that Louis was a weak man.

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In fact, I like Louis Creed.  I like his whole family, actually.  The Creed family reminds me a lot of my own family.  I even have brother who is younger by about the same number years as Gage was to Ellie.  Louis also reminds me of my own father:  he wants to keep his family happy and safe, and for his children to have the best life he can give them.

King spends a lot of time letting his reader get to know the Creed family.  I loved reading about the day to day life of the Creed family.  I loved the interaction between Ellie and Gage.  Again, it reminded me of growing up with a younger brother who could be a pest, but I still (secretly) loved to pieces any way, even if he drove me crazy most of the time.  I also loved the relationship between Louis and Rachel.  They took their duties a parents seriously (again, each wanting the best for their kids), but they also had a great partnership.  Louis and Rachel were lovers as well as parents and partners, and their chemistry jumped off the pages.  The description of the day-to-day life of the Creed family may have seemed mundane, but King managed to the turn the mundane into something extraordinary.

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Because King turns the mundane into the extraordinary, the events that transpire are that much more heartbreaking.  I have said it before, and I will say it again:  King has the ability to create monsters, but his greatest strength is writing about everyday life.  Pet Sematary is a great example of this.  King lets us get to know the Creed family and maybe even fall in love with them a little.  Then, tragedy strikes.  The death of Gage splits the family apart, as any death will, especially of one so young.  And King gives us a cutting description of the split.  One of the scenes that struck me in particular was the fight that Louis had with his father-in-law at this son’s funeral, where the fight comes down to fists.  I actually had sympathy for both sides, since I could understand the feelings, especially Louis’, given his shaky relationship with his in-laws.  The fact that the family was fighting, instead of supporting each other, was just so tragic.  However, it was also unfortunately realistic, as people don’t always show their best faces in times of tragedy.

Time to talk about the Wendigo.

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In re-reading this book, I came to a realization of what a big role the Wendigo actually plays in the events that transpire in this story.  And I did not realize what a large role this entity plays in the fate of…well, pretty much everyone is what it boils down to.

As I said before, when I was younger, I blamed Louis for much of what happened.  My though was that he should have known better and been able to fight against the unnatural forces that ended up destroying him and his family.

However, I no longer feel that way.  I believe that Louis was actually just another pawn in a horrific game.  In fact, I believe that everyone was a pawn in that game, even Jud Crandall.

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The Wendigo clearly had its designs on Jud for a long, long time.  And this is not really Jud’s fault, he fought the Wendigo because he was forced to fight it, due to someone else burying a human in those burial grounds.  Jud was also just trying to help his friend Louis teach his daughter some lessons about death.  Jud had no idea just how far out of control events would spiral, when Louis performed an experiment that should not have been performed.  In fact, I believe the Wendigo used the Creed family to get to Jud, as revenge for being defeated all those years ago.

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When reading this book, I was struck by the apparent influence that the Wendigo had over the town of Ludlow.  For example, the driver of the truck which hit and killed Gage stated that he felt compelled to speed for no reason when passing through Ludlow.  I don’t think that this was just a coincidence, rather I think this is just one piece of evidence of how much control the Wendigo really has.  I may even be able to make that same argument in the case of Church the cat, who felt compelled to cross the street for no reason, resulting in his death and Louis finding out about the burial grounds, which was a secret that should have stayed a secret.  Early on, the Wendigo was working its horrible power for its own gain.

I love how King subtly works the the mythology of the Wendigo throughout this book, even right up to the very end of it.  Louis sees the Wendigo as he takes Rachel’s body to the burial grounds, but his co-worker Steve also sees the Wendigo and is touched by its evil.  I also noticed that Steve has noted the run of bad luck of the people around him that year.  This is just not in regards to what happened to the Creed family in recent months, but it also appears that other people around Louis have had a run of bad luck.  Additionally, Steve is nearly pulled into Louis’ madness, but is able to resist it.  Interestingly enough, Steve moves far away from Ludlow shortly after that encounter, and never returns again.

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So is the town of Ludlow, Maine controlled by the entity known as the Wendigo, in much the same way that Derry, Maine is controlled by Pennywise the Clown?  I actually think the answer may be a resounding “yes.”  The citizens of Ludlow are protective, in a way, of the burial grounds and the Wendigo, in much the same way that the citizens of Derry were protective of Pennywise the Clown.  Like Derry, the Wendigo is a part of Ludlow, and anyone who interferes (like Jud and Louis) will be forced to pay in the form of some unpleasant consequences.

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Well, that’s it for the dark journey known as Pet Sematary.  But it is a journey worth taking, as I gained much from this re-read.  Join me next month as we spend a few sleepless nights in Derry.  In other words, we will be reviewing and dissecting the book Insomnia next month.

Tune in next month…same bat time, same bat channel!

batman and robin


Connections

Pet Sematary is set squarely in the middle of the Stephen King universe.  I did not find a of connections, but here are the few that I found:

-Rachel Creed passes by a sign for the town ‘Salem’s Lot and thinks that it is not a nice name for a town.  ‘Salem’s Lot, course, is the setting for the book of the same name, along with two other King short stories, One for the Road and Jerusalem’s Lot, both are which a part of the collection Night Shift.

salem's lot 3

-The town of Derry is mentioned a few times. Derry is the setting for several King novels, including It, Insomnia and Bag of Bones.

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-Louis thinks of a medical case where a fetus consumes an un-formed twin.  This is the premise of the novel The Dark Half.

sparrows

 

11/22/63: Episode 6 Recap and Review

Sometimes, being a hero means that one has to do things that may not exactly be…well…good.

This guy can testify to that, actually…

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And this guy can as well, as he is has done more than a few things that could be considered morally ambiguous, in the name of the greater good.

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And now, this guy has made it onto my list of heroes who don’t always do good things, but we can justify it because they are trying to save their fellow man, dammit (an anti-hero, for the uninitiated).

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Yes, Jake Epping, the mild mannered English teacher who (probably) wouldn’t say boo to a goose, is now a anti-hero!

And no, he has not joined a biker gang in northern California…

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No, Jake is on a mission…to stop the assassination of John F. Kennedy, that is.  And his mission has caused him to make some interesting choices, to say the least.

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Apparently, changing history is not as easy as it sounds.  For one, the past can be kind of a bitch about being changed, and will “fuck with you.”

And then there are feelings…

Yeah, those.  Apparently, even hardened English teachers have those.  They make friends when they are on their mission.  They start caring about the people they meet.

They even fall in love…gasp, the horror!

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The clock is ticking down for Jake, and he doesn’t have much time to complete his mission.  The past realizes this too, and is pushing back with a vengeance.  In other words, the mini series 11/22/63 is getting really interesting, and shaping up to be quite the ride wild, if I do say so myself.

So, without any further ado, here is my recap and review of 11/22/63 episode 6, titled Happy Birthday, Lee Harvey Oswald.

And, as always:

Homer spoiler


 

Synopsis

The episode begins about six months after the end of the previous episode.  Lee Harvey Oswald is interviewing for a job at the Dallas book depository.  According to history, this is where he will try to assassinate John F. Kennedy.  Oswald has also lost his wife, Marina, and is upset about this.  Outside his new employer, Oswald is confronted by a FBI agent, who is apparently spying on him.  The agent also taunts Oswald about Marina.

Oswald then visits Marina, who is now living with a friend.  He tells her that he is now employed.  Marina is happy, but tells her husband that she will not move back in with him, as she has tired of the abuse and his unpredictable mood swings.  Marina is also several months pregnant.  Oswald becomes upset, and Marina’s friend tries to reassure him, telling him to just allow her a little more time.

Jake pays Bill a visit at his apartment.  Bill has become upset with Jake, as he has been left to his own devices while Jake cares for Sadie.  Bill and Jake hear George de Mohrenschildt speak to Oswald via the surveillance equipment, telling Oswald that General Edwin Walker was shot by an unknown assailant.  Lee laughs off the shooting in the conversation, but Jake is sure that Oswald was the assailant.  Bill then argues with Jake, telling him that they have possibly changed history for the better by simply being there in Dallas.  Jake disagrees, reminding Bill that they have not actually had any interaction with the Oswalds.  Bill tells Jake to kill Oswald if he is so sure, but Jake is hesitant, reminding Bill that he has already killed two people and is not happy with himself over his actions.

Sadie is at Jake’s house in Jodie, playing cards with Principal Simmons.  Deke tells Jake to ask Sadie to marry him, but Jake shrugs this off.  Sadie asks Jake more questions about the future, but Jake reminds her to focus on her surgery, which is scheduled for the next day.

Back at school, Jake speaks to Mimi, who also wants him to marry Sadie.  Mimi also tells Jake that she has cancer and does not have much time left.  She tells Jake that she loves Deke, but that they have spent their lives next to each other and not with each other, and that Jake should not make the same mistake with Sadie.

In order to pay for Sadie’s reconstructive surgery, Jake places another underground bet with seemingly impossible odds.

When Jake returns to his Dallas apartment, Bill is nowhere to be found.  However, Jake hears a party upstairs at the Oswalds, and also hears Bill and Marina talking.  Jake confronts Bill at the party and they argue, knocking over a lamp.  This reveals the bug Jake has placed inside the lamp.  Oswald becomes upset, blaming the FBI for the bug, and starts trashing his own apartment.

After Jake returns to his apartment, he sees Bill kissing Marina.  When Bill returns, Jake fights with him about this.  Bill becomes upset with Jake, as Jake has a relationship with Sadie, but will not allow Bill to interact with the Oswald family.  Bill then pulls a gun on Jake, telling him to never come back to the house.

Jake tells Sadie about the incident with Bill, and Sadie encourages Jake to contact the police.  Jake tells her that this will do more harm than good, and again reminds her to focus on her upcoming surgery.

The next day, Jake accompanies Sadie to the hospital.  He tells her that he loves her, and she is taken into the operating room.  However, the Yellow Card Man makes another appearance, which frightens Jake badly.  The Yellow Card Man begins tampering with Sadie’s equipment, but Jake is locked out of the operating room.  Jake finally breaks the doors with a fire hydrant, stopping the surgery.  It is discovered that Sadie was not receiving enough oxygen, and would have died if it had not been for Jake’s intervention.

When Jake returns to the Dallas apartment, he discovers Bill on the porch talking to Oswald, and realizes that Bill may be the second shooter in the JFK assassination.  Jake then comes into the apartment, and tells Bill a story that Marina Oswald is in labor at the hospital.  However, Jake actually takes Bill to a mental hospital, where Bill begins to rant about Jake and his mission.  This confirms to the doctors that Bill needs help, and Jake has Bill committed.

After Bill is hospitalized, Jake confronts George de Mohrenschildt and garrotes him, threatening to hurt de Mohrenschildt and his family if he does not cooperate with Jake.  de Mohrenschildt tells Jake that Oswald has never been a recruit, and that he helps Marina because she has no family.  de Mohrenschildt also denies any involvement in a plot to assassinate Kennedy, confirming Jake’s theory that Oswald acted alone.

Later that night, Jake calls Sadie from a pay phone, telling her that he is about to do what he came to do (i.e. kill Oswald).  Jake also proposes to Sadie.  Sadie is thrilled and promises to give him an answer when he comes home.

After Jake hangs up, he is confronted by the bookies with whom he placed the risky bets.  The men are extremely angry with Jake for costing them money, and beat him into unconsciousness.  Jake later awakens at the hospital with Sadie by his side, but he does not remember her, which the doctor says is due to the extremely traumatic head injury he has suffered.


My Thoughts

So, how far do you go to make the world a better place?  To what lengths will you go?  Is it okay to hurt someone, if hurting (or killing) that person will save others?

And there are no easy answers to these questions.  11/22/63 is a work that explores questions like these, and the answers are actually…well…pretty gray.

Jake Epping is struggling with the color gray.  He has killed two people so far on his mission to save President Kennedy and to potentially make the world a better place.  One of them was Frank Dunning, who killed his present day friend’s entire family.  The other one was Johnny Clayton, who was going to kill Sadie, with whom he has fallen in love.

11/22/63 EPISODE 103a Photo Credit: Sven Frenzel

It is clear that Jake is struggling with his decisions, and that he is not actually a cold blooded killer.  The mini series is doing a good job showing this struggle, in having Jake contemplate alternatives other than murder in order to stop Lee Harvey Oswald.  Nothing can ever be clear-cut, and I love that the mini series is actually reminding us of this.

Again, this mini series is based on something written by Stephen King.  And this mini series is doing a pretty good job reminding us of this fact.  In particular, the scene in the hospital where the Yellow Card Man attempts to tamper with the medical equipment (which would hurt or maybe kill Sadie), is a really good reminder of this.  The use of the color red in the doors and the fire hydrant was particularly striking, and added an element of the disturbing to this scene.  I also thought the music was done well, giving another surreal layer to this scene.  The Yellow Card Man himself is also another reminder that we are watching something based on a novel written by Stephen King, aka the modern day boogey man.  In the novel, the past is a character, in the same way of Jake, Sadie, Oswald and all the other players in the book.  I wouldn’t say that the past is a villain, but there is certainly something foreboding about it.  And so far, this is has been translated quite well to the screen, especially with the use of the Yellow Card Man, along with the creepy things that keep happening to Jake and his friends.

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Again, I have to give a shout out to the overall acting on this show.  And as much as I like James Franco as Jake Epping, I am going to focus on some other characters.

Namely, the women on this show.

King’s women’s characters are a bit of a mixed bag.  Some are extremely well-drawn, like Annie Wilkes, Dolores Claiborne and Beverly Marsh.  Some are not so well drawn, like Frannie Goldsmith.

Dolores C

And we have Sadie Dunhill.  Also, we have Marina Oswald.

I have said it before, and I will say it again:  Sarah Gadon seems to be have been born for the role of Sadie Dunhill.  She brings just the right amount of wistfulness to this character, along with that bit of innocence.  In other words, she lights up the screen every time she makes an appearance.  A perfect casting choice.

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Lucy Fry, the actress who plays Marina Oswald, is another perfect casting choice.  Marina’s role has been expanded a bit from what it was in the book, since we are seeing the characters from something other than a first person narrative.  In the book, Marina is depicted as somewhat pitiful.  In the mini series, she is a victim as well, but Fry has managed to make her more sympathetic, and it almost as if she is another version of Sadie, but without the resources to fully escape the situation with Oswald to build a new life for herself and her children.  Her performance also brings a little more depth to Oswald’s character, making him to be a little more “human”, although he is still a pretty bad guy (he shoots JFK, can’t get more evil than that.)

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My only complaint about this episode is in regards to the Bill character…

Yes, I gotta rag on him again.  I understand the need for this character, but ugh.  Just ugh.  And that accent.  And the premise that he was the second shooter?  Ridiculous much?  Hopefully, Jake had him committed so we see the last of the Bill experiment.  But I will still keep my fingers crossed for the last episodes.

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Well that’s it for Happy Birthday, Lee Harvey Oswald.  Join me next week as we review and dissect episode 7, titled Soldier Boy.

Tune in next week…same bat time, same bat channel!

batman and robin

 

11/22/63: Episode 5 Recap and Review

Just don’t tell ’em I’ve gone crazy
That I’m still strung out over you
Tell ’em anythin’ you want to
Just don’t tell ’em all the truth
Yeah, don’t tell ’em all the truth

Jason Aldean, The Truth

Sometimes, telling the truth can be the hardest thing. Even when it may be the best thing to do, it can still be the hardest thing.  Or even the most painful thing.

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However, lies will come back and bite you in the ass, so to speak.  After so many lies, the house will be blown down by the big, bad wolf, and no amount of running will keep you away from the wolf, aka the truth, and you are forced to face it.

big bad wolf

And our hero, Jake Epping, discovered exactly that in the latest episode of 11/22/63, simply titled The Truth.  Finally, the lies have begun to catch up to Jake, and have consequences.  Jake is forced into letting someone in on his secrets, or he may lose what is most precious to him.

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So, without any further ado, here is my recap and review of The Truth, the fifth episode of the mini series 11/22/63.  And, as always:

Homer spoiler


Synopsis

The episode begins where the previous episode left off:  Sadie pays a visit to Jake, and discovers his recordings of the Oswald family.  Sadie’s trust in Jake is shattered, and she breaks it off with Jake after they argue.  Sadie leaves and Jake is upset by the argument.

It gets even worse for Jake the next day at school, as Principal Simmons invokes the morality clause in Jake’s contract, after finding out about the recordings.  Jake is forced to resign from his teaching position, and Ms. Mimi appears to be the only one who still believes in him.

The day that Oswald attempts to assassinate General Walker is drawing near, and Jake and Bill discuss their plans for that day.  If Jake can prove that Oswald shot Walker, then it proves that he is also the one who shot Kennedy, according to Al’s theory.  Bill questions why Oswald would shoot Walker and Kennedy, when the two men are political polar opposites, but Jake does not have an answer.  Jake plans to follow George de Mohrenschildt, while Bill will shadow Oswald.  Jake wants to kill Oswald then and there if he can prove that Oswald tried to assassinate Walker.  Bill questions what the future will hold when the deed is done, and expresses some interest in returning to 2016 with Jake.  Jake is taken aback by this request, and does not know what to say to Bill.

Jake returns to his house in Jody and begins packing up his few belongings.  He receives a phone call from Sadie’s ex husband, Johnny Clayton, and discovers that Clayton is holding Sadie hostage.  Jake abandons the plans concerning Oswald, and tells Bill that he is on his own for shadowing Oswald.

After arriving at Sadie’s house, Jake is invited to the kitchen by Clayton.  Clayton attempts to force Jake to drink a glass of beach, as punishment for his involvement with Sadie.  Clayton also reveals that he has hurt Sadie quite badly, slashing her face.  Jake is horrified but refuses to drink the bleach.  Sadie knocks down a bowl of apples, and begins to mock her ex husband, while Jake reaches for a shard of glass.

Jake is interrupted, however, by the arrival of two of his students, who are dropping off a gift basket for Sadie.  He shoos them away and tries to hint that the police need to be called.

While Jake is dealing with Clayton, Bill continues to try to talk to Marina Oswald.  He shares a cigarette with her, and shows her a picture of his deceased sister.  They are interrupted by Oswald, who comes outside to find Marina.  Oswald gives Bill a book about Karl Marx, telling Bill to read it, and then they will talk.

Back at Sadie’s house, Johnny appears to have the advantage, after the students leave.  Jake appears to be on the verge of drinking the bleach, but throws the bleach on Johnny’s face at the last minute.  This allows Jake and Sadie to take refuge behind the couch.  Jake tricks Johnny by throwing his watch across the room, and then stabs Johnny in the face with a fire poker.  Johnny seems dazed, and Sadie takes advantage of this and shoots him with his gun.

An ambulance takes Sadie to the hospital, and Jake is reminded that the medical care is 1960’s medical care, not 2016 medical care.  A cop questions Jake about the shooting of Johnny Clayton, but Principal Simmons intercedes and takes Jake to the hospital, telling the cop that Jake can give his statement there.  Principal Simmons also expresses his approval over the death of Johnny Clayton.

Oswald leaves the apartment, telling Marina that he is going to the library.  Bill follows him, per Jake’s instructions.

At the hospital, Jake finds out that Sadie is in critical condition and is unable to leave to help Bill.  The cop questions Jake again, but seems satisfied when Jake tells him that he enjoyed killing Clayton.

Bill has arrived at the site where Oswald will attempt to assassinate Walker.  All is quiet for a little while, but Bill is distracted when he sees a woman who he believes to be his sister.  Bill runs after the woman, but realizes his mistake when he catches up with her.  Bill also realizes that he has lost any chance to prove that Oswald is actually linked to the assassination attempt on Walker.

At the hospital, Jake sees Walker being admitted for the injury he suffered at the hands of the assassin, and knows that Bill has failed in his attempt to stop Oswald.  A phone conversation with Bill confirms this, and Bill is extremely upset.  Jake abandons the call and speaks to the doctor in regards to Sadie.  The doctor tells Jake that Sadie will live, but the scar on her face will remain there for the rest of her life.

Jake visits Sadie in her hospital room and admits that he has not been honest with her.  Jake then tells Sadie that he is a time traveler from the future, and that he loves her.


My Thoughts

 

Dear abomination otherwise known as Under the Dome,

If ya wanna know how it’s done, tune in and watch 11/22/63.  It has everything that you didn’t:  good writing, good imagery, stays faithful to its source material and oh yeah…acting talent!

Sincerely,

A fan who is beginning to believe in book to screen adaptations again.

Ok, that may be a wee bit harsh.  Maybe I should leave poor Under the Dome alone for a bit, and allow it to finish licking its wounds…maybe!

Rennie

Ok, let’s shift back to 11/22/63.  And after being slightly more than halfway through (which is a little depressing, but I will try not to think about it this series ending…sniff…), it is clear that 11/22/63 is doing right.  And this is no small feat, especially for something based on a novel by The Master.  Many King adaptations are mixed at best.  However, my feelings on 11/22/63 are pretty clear-cut:  nothing but love, love and more love!

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Oh, and I did not miss the Easter egg this time around…

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Yes, the vehicle driven by the douchebag ex husband should be one that is quite familiar to any Stephen King junkie:

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Oh, and speaking of the ex husband…what an acting job!

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This was one character in the book who was not very well fleshed out (in my opinion, at least).  The mini series has taken some liberties with this characters, and these liberties have actually paid off on the screen.  By fleshing out his character a little more, the writers have been able to do a nice job building up to his attack on Sadie and Jake, along with his death.  And yes, I know that this character actually committed suicide in the book, but Sadie defending herself and shooting provided an emotional payoff, which works really well for the screen, since it invests the viewers even more in Sadie and Jake, and their relationship.

T.R. Knight, the actor who was cast as Johnny Clayton, turned out to be a smart casting choice for this character.  Most abusers do not carry around a sign saying “Hey, I am a piece of shit who beats on women” (that would have saved me a lot of heartache, actually).  Instead, they appear as a normal personal.  Maybe the abusers are even charming.  And that is exactly how Johnny Clayton appears:  he is normal.  He is charming (how can that Texas drawl not be charming?)  He was a top salesman at his job (wonder if anyone actually drank that bleach?)  But Johnny is clearly a psychopath.  Anyone who puts a close pin on his junk on his wedding night (of all nights) and then rapes his bride obviously has some issues.  T.R. Knight was able to portray this character and make him scary (I think he belongs in the universe of human King villains.  He would be in good company with Eldred Jonas, Charles Burnside, Norman Daniels and the rest of the crew, actually), but not a caricature, which is too easy to do.  So props on the writing and casting of an important “major minor character.”

Maerlyn's rainbow

And the standoff between Jake, Sadie and Johnny.  Those scenes were done beautifully, and tastefully too.  I had been wondering if the mini series would show the full extent of Sadie’s injuries.  This is not my favorite part of the story (King can indeed horrify even when the book is not a horror story).  It’s gruesome, and it’s also sad.  However, I should not have wondered, as the mini series is not holding back on anything, it seems, and this part of the story is no different.  Sadie’s injuries were shown, but the vibe I got was more sympathetic, as opposed to scary.  And that is a good thing, in terms of the development of Sadie’s character and Jake and Sadie’s relationship.

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I also loved the imagery that was used in the standoff between Jake, Sadie and Johnny.  The bowl of red apples.  The reddish lamp.  And there was that reddish light…again.  I kept hearing, “You shouldn’t be here” in my head.  And the use of red served to remind us that this is a work based on a Stephen King book, and he is the master of modern horror, after all.

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And I have to give out even more props:  Sarah Gadon.  Sadie is one of my favorite female King characters (and just one of my favorite characters in any book, period), and Sarah Gadon has done a perfect job of bringing her to life.  In the book, we mainly see Sadie through the eyes of Jake, since the story is told in the first person.  However, this a screen adaptation, and the interpretation is a bit different.  So far, Gadon is doing a wonderful job of making Sadie…well…Sadie.  That’s the best I can describe it.  I always thought that there was something very sweet about Sadie, yet also a little sad, or maybe even wistful.  Sadie is a woman who is still young, but maybe a bit older than her years would suggest.  And she is strong, as well.  I thought Sadie shooting her ex husband was actually empowering, and works well for the mini series.  Sarah Gadon  is able to bring the sadness, wistfulness, sweetness and the older than her years to this character, and I love her for it, I really do.  I nominate her for some award, but I am not just not sure which.  She does deserve recognition for it, and hopefully she gets it.


 

Well, that’s it for The Truth.  Join me next week as we review and dissect episode 6, titled Happy Birthday, Lee Harvey Oswald. Although I think that this is one celebration that probably does not involve birthday cake in any way…

Tune in next week…same bat time, same bat channel!

batman and robin

 

 

 

 

Out of Egypt: My Review of Rose Madder

Nine years ago (almost to this very date, in fact), I began a journey.

For seven years, I was trapped in a prison.  Sometimes this was only a metaphorical prison.  However, sometimes it was also a literal prison.

I had gotten married at the relatively young age of 22.  I had thought that I was lucky to find love at a  young age, and figured I was set for life.

But I was wrong on that.  Very wrong.

Somehow, I found myself in an abusive relationship.  No, I did not grow up with parents who abused me in any way.  In fact, I had a pretty good family life.  Nor do I consider myself to be stupid.  In fact, I have been told I am quite intelligent.  I also consider myself to be resourceful, even scrappy.  And I consider myself to be strong and independent.

For nearly seven years, I endured abuse.  The abuse was both emotional and physical.  I was choked.  I received black eyes.  I was called “fat”, “worthless,” “stupid,” “bitch,” and probably lots of other names that I now choose to forget.

Ostensibly, I left because my ex had cheated on me.  However, this was finally a way out for me, as I was unable to leave prior to this.  I blamed myself for the abuse, assuming that I had brought this on myself, due to my poor decision making skills.  I also blamed myself for not leaving the situation much sooner than I did.

In short, I did everything but face what had actually happened to me.

Roland 1

When I finally left this awful situation, I felt alone much of the time.  Sure, I had family…700 miles away.  I had a couple of friends help me move into my own apartment, but I felt no one would understand my situation, or even worse, pass more judgment on me.

So I did what I have done my entire life:  I turned to books (like a good nerd).

More specifically, I turned to Stephen King books (don’t forget what blog you are reading).

Stephen King

As I have stated countless times, Stephen King is not just a good horror writer, he is a good writer.  Period.  While he may be known for homicidal clowns, rabid dogs and possessed vehicles, he also writes about “real life” horrors, and those real life horrors are often more frightening than his fantastical monsters.  They are frightening because they are plausible, and we can relate to them.

One theme that is prevalent in King’s work is the theme of abuse.  Many characters in the King universe endure some sort of abuse.  Beverly Marsh, a character in the book It, is abused by her father, and later on by her husband.  Danny Torrance endures abuse at the hands of his alcoholic father, Jack, in the book The Shining.  Abuse is even mentioned in the book Insomnia, a fantasy novel that is closely connected to the world of The Dark Tower series.

Beverly 2

The novel Rose Madder is also a book that deals with domestic abuse.  However, this book does not just mention abuse.  Rather, domestic abuse is the main, underlying theme in the book.  The book can also be considered a fantasy novel, with elements of Greek mythology and perhaps even Christianity, but spousal abuse is still the main theme in the book.  The book is also slightly different from most of King’s other work in that fact that is told from the perspective of the abused woman, Rose McClendon.  However, make no mistake about it:  we are reminded many times that we are reading a novel set squarely in the Stephen King universe.

This is a book that has a lot of personal meaning to me, as it was a guide when I began my journey to get away from my marriage and find myself again.  Unlike Rosie, I did not travel across the country.  But I felt that the journey may as well have been a bus ride across the country, as it was long and even scenic at times.  In fact, this book reminded me that I was not alone, but facing what countless survivors of an abusive relationship face:  a journey to free myself from the demons, and find my true self again.

So, without further ado, here is my recap and review of Rose Madder.

And, as always:

Homer spoiler


Synopsis

The book begins with an introduction to a young woman named Rose, who is married to Norman Daniels, who is a cop.  Norman is also abusive to Rose, both physically and emotionally.  One evening, Norman comes home and finds Rose reading a book.  For some reason, this enrages Rose, and Norman beats her quite badly.  Rose is pregnant with the couple’s first child, and the beating causes her to have a miscarriage.  Rose is heartbroken, but endures another nine years of abuse from Norman.

One day, nine years later, Rose is cleaning the house while Norman is at work, and notices a drop of blood on the sheets.  Something awakens in Rose, and she flees her marriage.  Before she flees, Rose takes Norman’s bank card, and uses it to obtain money so that she can escape.  Rose catches a bus that takes her to a city 800 miles away, and throws the bank card in the trash before she leaves the city for good.  All the while, Rose is terrified that Norman will still find her and hurt her, but decides that if she stays, she will risk at least her sanity and maybe even her life.

Over the next month, Rose works on re-building her life.  When she arrives in her new city, she meets a man named Peter Slowik at the Traveler’s Aid Booth.  Peter directs her to a shelter of sorts for battered women, called Daughters and Sisters.  There, Rose meets a woman named Anna, who tells her that she can stay for at least eight weeks, and also finds Rose a job as a chambermaid at a nearby hotel.  Rose gradually begins to adjust to her new life and form friendships, but still wonders about her future, as she knows that she will need something other than her life than not having Norman in it.

In the meantime, Norman is angered that Rose has left him.  After Rose threw away his bank card, a young man stole it and attempted to use it.  Norman brutally beats the information out of the man, and learns that Rose caught a bus out of town, and what time that bus may have left.  This information is enough for Norman to begin to track Rosie down, and he does just that.

One day, after finishing her shift at the hotel, Rose decides that she wants to sell her engagement ring.  Norman has told her that this ring is valuable, and Rose has believed this statement over the years.  Rose finds a nearby pawnshop, and meets a man named Bill Steiner.  Bill appraises Rose’s ring, and Rose learns that the diamond is not a real diamond.  She is actually not surprised, due to the fact that Norman has deceived her many other times.  Rose nearly leaves the pawnshop, to spare her dignity.  However, she catches a glimpse of a painting and becomes entranced.  The painting depicts a temple, with a woman whose back is turned, but holding her hands out to the sky.  Rose decides that she must have this painting, and trades her engagement ring for it (as the ring itself is real gold).  Right after she obtains the painting, an elderly man named Robbie Lefferts stops her, and requests that she read a paragraph from a book.  Rose is apprehensive, but humors the man.  The man tells Rose that her reading voice is fantastic, and offers Rose a job at his company as a reader of audio books.

In the meantime, Norman is still obsessed with Rose and her whereabouts.  He has obtained a promotion at his job after a large drug bust, but is unable to let Rose go.  He has used some information from the bus station to attempt to find Rose, but his lead did not pan out.  However, Norman’s luck changes when he receives a call from the man who sold Rose the bus ticket.  With this break, Norman is able to deduce what city Rose had fled to and resumes his hunt for her.

Rosie starts her new job the next day.  She is apprehensive, but manages to make it through the day by thinking of her painting and the woman in it.  That night, Bill unexpectedly shows up at her apartment, and takes Rosie out to dinner.  Rosie feels an attraction towards Bill, and also accepts a date with him for the following weekend.

In the meantime, Norman arrives in the city where Rosie now resides.  He is able to track down Peter Slowik, the man who assisted her in finding shelter upon her arrival.  Norman then murders the man, and vows to track Rosie down and do the same to her, along with whoever else who may stand in his way.

Rose impresses the people at her new job, and realizes that her boss will likely offer her a contract.  She begins to feel hopeful for her future and grateful for her new friends.  Rose always dyes her hair blonde, to match the hair of the woman in her painting.  That night, both Rose and Norman go to sleep and remember a woman named Wendy Yarrow, a prostitute who Norman murdered several years ago.  Norman and his partner beat the woman in order to try to extract some information from her, and the woman threatened to sue the police department before she was murdered by Norman in order to keep her quiet.

Rose also comes to realize that the painting she purchased has taken on a life of its own, as she finds crickets in her second floor apartment, along with other items that should not be there.  However, Rose’s investigation of her painting is interrupted when she receives a call from Anna Stevenson, the founder of Daughters and Sisters.  Anna tells Rose of the murder of Peter Slowik, and that Norman is the prime suspect.  Rose becomes upset and even calls Bill, telling him to stay away from her, for his own protection.

The next day, Rosie flounders at her new job.  However, she receives a visit from Bill during her lunch hour, and tells him of the abuse she endured under Norman, and also of the prostitute Wendy Yarrow, who was likely killed by Norman.  Bill tells Rose that he will not run, and that she cannot be held responsible for Norman’s actions, as it is not her fault.

That night, Rose notices more odd behavior from her.  In fact, the painting opens up, and allows her to step into another world.  There, Rose meets the woman in the painting, along with a woman named Dorcas who resembles Wendy Yarrow, the prostitute murdered by Norman.  Rose dubs the woman in the painting Rose Madder.  Rose Madder appears to be Rose’s mirror image, except that she is suffering from a disease that has driven her insane, and also altered her appearance, as she has several red blotches on her skin.

Rose Madder requests that Rose help her by rescuing her baby, which is being held captive by Enryies the bull in The Temple of The Bull.  Rose Madder also tells Rose that she will repay the favor when needed.  Dorcas helps Rose get ready for the quest, telling her not to eat the fruit or drink the water, no matter how tempted she may be.  Dorcas also soaks a piece of of Rose’s nightgown with her blood, as Enryies is blind and relies on his sense of smell, meaning it is possible to trick him.

Rose sets off on her quest, and uses the sound of the babies cries to guide.  She encounters several ruses on her way, but is able to reach the baby (whom she names Caroline).  Rose tricks Enryies with the nightgown, and rescues baby Caroline, bringing her back to Dorcas and Rose Madder.  Reluctantly, Rose surrenders the baby to the two women, and is again reminded by Rose Madder that she “repays.”  Rose exits the world of the painting and returns to her apartment, falling asleep almost immediately.

The next day, Rose awakens.  She is in pain from her previous night’s excursion and notices that the painting has changed again, but still dismisses the experience as a dream.  Rose goes to work, and loses herself in her day’s routine.  She is also offered a contract by her boss, Robbie Lefferts.  When Rose returns home that evening, she finds the missing gold armlet worn by Rose Madder in the painting, along with a piece of her nightgown, and realizes that her experience was not a dream.

Rose and Bill then go on their date the following day.  Bill takes Rose on a motorcycle ride and they have a picnic in a woodsy area.  Bill and Rose also see a mother fox with her babies.  Rose worries about the fox, but Bill tells her they should be fine as long as they are not infected with rabies.  Rose also begins to realize how attracted she is to Bill, and Bill tells her that he loves her.  They then head back to town, to attend the benefit concert for Daughters and Sisters.

While Rose is on her date with Bill, Norman has disguised himself as a veteran in a wheelchair, and managed to slip into the all day fair that will proceed the benefit concert for Daughters and Sisters.  Norman waits for Rose for most of the day, and is uneasy when he can’t find her.

Norman then attacks one of Rose’s friends, Cynthia, in the restroom.  However, he is interrupted by Gert Kinshaw, another member of Daughters and Sisters, who fights off Norman.  Cynthia and Gert are both severely injured in the fight and end up at the hospital.  Norman is able to escape and continues his hunt for Rose.

Rose and Bill meet Gert and Cynthia at the hospital and get a recap of what happened that afternoon.  Rose is upset, and talks to the police, who try to reassure that they want to catch Norman and bring him to justice.  After the interview with the police, Rosie and Bill head back to Rosie’s apartment.

While Rosie speaks to the police, Norman continues on his rampage.  He has found a mask in the shape of a bull that seems to speak to him, although even he understands that he has gone completely insane.  Norman kills Rose’s friend Pam at the hotel where she works, to try to obtain information from her.  He then heads to the shelter owned by Daughters and Sisters, encountering Anna Stevenson and murdering her after he obtains the address to Rose’s apartment.

When Bill and Rosie come back to Rosie’s apartment, the encounter Norman, who has killed the two police officers who were supposed to be the police protection for Rose.  Norman attacks both Rose and Bill, but they escape to her apartment and hide in the close where Rose has stored the painting.  Once again, Rose escapes into the world of the painting, bringing Bill with her.

Rose changes into the same clothes worn by Rose Madder, and tricks Norman into chasing her to the Temple of the Bull.  Rose Madder then attacks Norman and kills him.  Rose and Bill then escape back into their world.  Dorcas gives Rose a small vial of water from the river, and tells her to give it to Bill as necessary.  Rose Madder also gives Rose a cryptic message, telling her to “remember the tree.”

After she and Bill return to their world, Rose speaks to the cops and tells them that Norman has disappeared.  She also gives Bill a bit of the water from the river, in order to retain his sanity. Rose dyes her hair back to its natural color and destroys the painting. Eventually, the questioning in regards to Norman stops, and Rosie is able to obtain a divorce from him.

Bill proposes to Rose and they get married in a simple ceremony.  Rose gives him the last of the water from the river, so that he forgets the experience in the world of the painting entirely.  Shortly after their honeymoon, Rose finds out she is pregnant, and gives birth to a baby girl named Pamela Gertrude Steiner.

Over the years, all appears to be going well for Rose.  However, Rose begins to experience bouts of irrational anger, where she imagines seriously injuring her friends and even her husband.  Eventually, Rose remembers what Rose Madder told her about the tree, and finds the seed that is left.  Rose then plants the tree, praying that her rages will stop and she can live out her life like a normal person.  Her wish is granted, as the rages soon depart.

Every year, Rose returns to the spot where she planted the tree, and gives thanks for her blessings, knowing that she is strong and a survivor.


 

My Thoughts

Here, we have Rose Madder.  And I consider this one to be one of my favorite King books of all time, for a few different reasons.

However, Rose Madder also seems to be bit polarizing.  Well, a lot polarizing, actually.  People are divided (well, at least in Internet-land):  some love the book, some detest the book.

Obviously, I am on #teamlove, but I can understand how this book may be off-putting to some.  Not only is the main character a woman (big departure from most King books), along with the fact that the book is not “traditional horror,” there is also a lot of symbolism that may be difficult to understand.  I have read this book many, many times and I am not sure if I understand all the symbolism, but I will definitely give it my best shot.

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For example, there is the title character.  Rose Madder.  Just who is she, and how does she relate to Rosie Real?  And what does the “madder” part mean?  Anger?  Insanity?  Or maybe both?  And how does all this tie into that weird color that keeps getting mentioned?

Truthfully, I don’t really have the answers to those questions.  What I do believe is that Rose Madder is indeed a reflection of Rosie Real, or perhaps even a Twinner.  Rose Madder is shown to be suffering from sort of disease.  Is this Rosie’s repressed anger towards Norman?  I actually think that I may be on to something with this thought, that Rose Madder is actually Rosie (maybe on another level of the Tower, or something even deeper) but the manifestation of anger, which can eventually lead to insanity, unless something is done.  And the color rose madder somehow ties into all this, I believe.  That color is pretty close to the color of blood (the book alludes to this several times).  And blood is associated with anger, along with madness.  The color could also be associated with simply being female, as blood is associated with menstruation and childbirth (oh, the fun imagery on that one…you are welcome).  So, there may be many ways to interpret Rose Madder.  Are all of them right?  Possibly.  Are all of them wrong?  Could be as well, such is the mind of The Master…

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And the world of the painting…how surreal is that?  Well, a lot.  Enter the fantasy element.  Was the fantasy element necessary to the story?  Probably not, the story of Rosie’s escape from Norman was a good stand alone story.  Did it ruin the book?  Absolutely not, especially since a nod to our friendly neighborhood gunslinger was given by mentioning the city of Lud, along with a possible reference to Randall Flagg and company.  The Temple of the Bull and the river that had water you couldn’t drink unless you wanted your memory wiped clean were also nice touches, and made me think of the days I spent reading Greek mythology, which is also loaded with symbolism.  The hero has to accomplish some task so he (or she in this case) can move forward in his life.  And that is exactly what Rose had to do:  she had to rescue a baby (which possibly symbolizes something too, like Rose’s true self, which is fragile like a baby) so that she could move past the “Norman stage” (or is that bullshit?) of her life and finally grow into her true self.  And that is not a bad metaphor at all.

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Another thing that I loved about this book was the characters.  You had the two main ones:  Rosie and Norman, along with all the minor characters that may not have been a huge part of the book (Peter Slowik aka Thumper-stein is one of many examples).  King can create memorable characters, and it shows.  I was rooting for Rosie right from the beginning. I cried with her, when she lost her baby, thanks to Norman’s actions.  I was nervous for her, when she started over in a new city, with a new job and a new boyfriend.  I was afraid for her, when Norman finally tracked her down.  And I cheered with her, when she was finally rid of Norman for good.  Not only can King write the Every Man character really well (Jack Torrance, Johnny Smith), he can also write the Every Woman character.  And that is just what Rose is:  an Every Woman.  There is nothing special about Rosie, but that is exactly why she is so special:  we can all relate to her, because we could so easily become her at any time.  And most of what Rosie accomplishes is accomplished through hard work, pluckiness and even a little of luck.  Definitely the Every Woman we can all identify with.

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And we have Norman.  Norman is on the list of King bad guys that I love to hate.  Actually, I just hate.  With every fiber of my being, as a matter of fact.  With some of King’s bad guys, I can think of something good to say about them.  Eldred Jonas does have good hair, after all.  But I cannot think of a single good thing to say about Norman Daniels.  He is racist.  He is sexist.  He has no regard for other human beings in the slightest, and will use them and then dispose of them (in grisly ways) when they have served out their purpose.  Oh, and he beats the shit out of his wife.  And kids aren’t safe from him, since he literally beats the baby out of Rosie, causing her to miscarry their only child.  His view of the world is so skewed that it isn’t even funny (well, it is in kind of disturbed way).  Norman makes assumptions about EVERYONE that turn out to have very little, if any, basis in actual fact (makes me wonder if he would be supporting Donald Trump, I am sure Norman would have ideas about making America great again and would fit right in at a Trump rally).  But most frightening of all, guys like Norman Daniels actually exist.  Norman is not a clown from the sewers or an evil wizard.  He is a human being (at least in appearance).  To boot, he is a human being in authority who abuses his power to hurt others.  This is something that occurs quite often in the “real world.”  Once again, King has proven himself to be the master of real life horror, along with made-up horror.  And a character like Norman Daniels is proof that the real world will suffice just fine for horrifying us and giving us a sleepless night or two.

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I was bruised and battered, I couldn’t tell what I felt.
I was unrecognizable to myself.
I saw my reflection in a window, I didn’t know my own face.

Bruce Springsteen, The Streets of Philadelphia

I constantly thought of the above lines when reading Rose Madder.  This book may be a fantasy novel with a tie-in to the world of Roland Deschain himself, but at its heart, it is a book about abuse, and what it takes to overcome the abuse and become a healed, whole person.

Towards the end of the book, Rosie refers to the items she still had left from her life (her purse, a grocery, etc) as the items she brought “out of Egypt.”  And the phrase “out of Egypt” is not a bad description of fleeing from an abusive marriage.  In fact, it is a pretty good description.

Like Rosie, it was a journey fleeing from my own abusive marriage.  Like the lines in the song, I was unrecognizable to myself, and did not recognize the person in the mirror who looked back at me.  And like Rosie, I brought a ton of baggage out of Egypt that I did not know what to do with.  Baggage such as memories of the time he tried to strangle at a hotel in Tennessee.  Baggage such as the black eyes that I had to explain away.  Baggage such as the thought that I would not live to see my 30th birthday.  Baggage such as the humiliation, and feeling about two inches tall, as I was told what a worthless human I was on a regular basis.  Even the strongest of us can only carry so much, and like Rosie, I feared that my anger and pain would poison the new life I had managed to build, unless I could find an outlet for it, where it could be tended and harm no one else.

Eventually, I did find that outlet.  I still have the memories, but to paraphrase a quote in the book, I have become ruthless with the past.  Again, to paraphrase the book, it is better to have bad dreams than bad wakings.  Unlike the wakings, the dreams will fade upon awakening, and I am left with only the blessings that have become my life.


 

So that’s it for Rose Madder.  Join me next month for another sleepless night in Derry, as I review and dissect Insomnia.  Although I am seriously considering taking a detour to a certain “sour ground” in the King universe in the meantime…

Tune in next month…same bat time, same bat channel!

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Connections

All of King’s work is inter-connected in some way, and Rose Madder is no different.  Here are some of the connections I have found:

-Rose reads a book written by Paul Sheldon.  Paul Sheldon is the main character in the novel Misery.

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-Cynthia Smith is a minor character in Rose Madder, but plays a more prominent role in the books Desperation and The Regulators.

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-Rose Madder makes reference to “ka.”  The word “ka” is one used many times in the Dark Tower series.

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-Dorcas speaks of the city of Lud and some other events that have occurred in her world.  The city of Lud is featured in The Wastelands, the third book in the Dark Tower series.

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-There is a picture of Susan Day in Anna Stevenson’s office.  Susan Day is a character in the novel Insomnia.

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11/22/63: Episode 4 Recap and Review

So, I think I need to get my eyes checked again…

Seems like they were a little..well…leaky earlier this week…

Yes, Peyton Manning has retired from football.  That’s a good reason for the old eyes to leak.  Especially after that farewell speech…so thanks, Peyton…I needed a cry and didn’t know it!

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So, I should have learned my lesson, right?  Go watch something on TV that is light hearted and fun, like say…something based on a Stephen King novel?  Sounds like just the ticket…

Well, apparently my eyes didn’t get the memo, since I suffered more leakage after watching The Eyes of Texas, the fourth episode of the mini series 11/22/63.  Nope, not an easy night for the old eyes the other night…

So, thanks, Peyton!

And thanks, Uncle Stevie!

Stephen King

And just for good measure, let’s thank Obama while we are at it, since I am sure he doesn’t get thanked enough…so thanks, Obama!

In all seriousness, The Eyes of Texas is a pivotal episode in the mini series 11/22/63, especially in terms of character development.  Jake was treated to some character development.  We got to know the Big Bad, aka Lee Harvey Oswald, even better.  Sadie is slowly being drawn out of her shell.  Heck, even Cletus er Bill was treated to some character development.

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The show also dealt with some serious issues, such as domestic abuse, rape and a few others, while still reminding us that we are watching a show where a guy travels back in time to change the past, which does not want to be changed and will let you know in various, non-subtle ways that it does not want to be changed.  Just another typical episode, in other words.

So, without further ado, here is my recap and review of The Eyes of Texas, the fourth episode of the mini series .

And, as always:

Homer spoiler


Synopsis

The episode begins with Jake spying on the Oswalds yet again.  Lee poses for a picture with his rifle, although his wife, Marina, tells him that he looks ridiculous.  Bill also sees Marina and waves at her.  Marina waves back, and seems not to be bothered by the fact that Bill has been stalking her.

Jake and Sadie have begun a relationship, although they try to keep it a secret, so they don’t endanger their jobs at the high school.  Jake sings a Beatles song to Sadie, forgetting that the Beatles have not been discovered yet.  However, they are interrupted when Principal Deke Simmons walks in.  Deke gives Jake a lecture on how he and Sadie are role models and must practice discretion.  Deke also gives Jake a card that has the name and address of a hotel that he and Sadie can use to meet and practice discretion.

That night, Ms. Mimi pays Jake a visit at his home.  She has deduced that Jake is not who he says he is, since she was unable to obtain his immunization records.  Jake concocts a cover story that he is in a FBI witness protection program because he testified against some members of the Mafia.  Mimi is skeptical, but agrees to keep Jake’s secret.  Mimi also hints to Jake that he should tell the truth about himself to Sadie, as their relationship has become more serious.

Sadie meets Jake at the hotel room, and the two consummate their relationship.  Jake realizes that he needs to tell Sadie something, but their time is cut short when Jake realizes that someone has been watching them and taking pictures.  Jake is convinced that the CIA is on to him and attempting to blackmail him, so he will drop his plans of preventing the assassination of Kennedy.

Bill and Jake follow Oswald and George de Mohrenschildt to what they believe is a top secret CIA meeting.  However, the meeting spot is actually a brothel.  They attempt to spy on Oswald and de Mohrenschildt, but the cops raid the place, and Bill and Jake are arrested.

Deke bails out Jake and Bill the next morning, and tells Jake that he still must show up to his teaching job the next day, as he has no substitute lined up.  Mimi reprimands Jake for his disheveled look, but is coughing and appears to be ill.  Jake also catches Sadie talking to her ex husband and confronts her about it.  Sadie becomes upset, and tells Jake about her marriage.  She says that Johnny attached a close pin to his penis on their wedding night.  When Sadie laughed at him, he hit her.  He then hit her again and raped her.  She thought that she had escaped Johnny, but he was able to track her down through her mother and has refused to grant her the divorce.  Sadie is then convinced that Jake is repulsed by her past, and tearfully drives away.

Bill arrives at school and tells Jake that de Mohrenschildt will be taking Oswald to what may be an important meeting.  Jake follows Oswald and tries to listen in on the conversation, but is interrupted by a barking dog.  When Jake tries to quiet the dog, he realizes that he is face to face with Johnny Clayton, Sadie’s ex husband.  Clayton tries to intimidate Jake, but Jake turns the tables on him, telling him that he will hurt him if he does not stay away from Sadie.  Jake realizes that Johnny took the pictures of him and Sadie, not the CIA.  Jake also repeats the story of Johnny and Sadie’s wedding night, telling him that he will tell the secret if Johnny does not stay away from Sadie and does not grant Sadie the divorce.  Johnny is afraid and appears to back down.

Jake then pays Sadie a visit, giving her flowers and chocolates.  He tells her that he knows that she is not perfect, but that he still loves her.  They embrace, and someone appears to be watching them.

Back at the house, Jake finds Bill lying on the couch, drunk and angry.  Bill is frustrated because Oswald mistreats his wife, and wants to do something about it.  Jake stops him, telling him he can’t interfere.  Later that night, Bill finds Marina sitting on the steps, beaten and sad.  He offers her a cigarette and a shoulder to cry on.  Jake apologizes to Bill, affirming that he cannot attempt his quest without Bill, and that they are a team.

At school the next day, Mimi is nowhere to be found.  Deke tells Jake that she is out sick, but appears to be angry with him for something.

Later that day, Sadie stops by Jake’s house with baked goods and a nice note.  She cannot find Jake, however, and calls out for him.  A shadowy figure follows her.  Sadie then finds Jake’s surveillance tapes, and listens to Oswald’s conversation in Russian with his friends.  Jake arrives at the house, and a bewildered Sadie wants to know just who he is.


 

My Thoughts

Usually, my feelings about on-screen adaptations of books are mixed, at best.  Some are watchable (It, cough, cough).  Some are instant classics (give one up for Green Mile, yo).  And then there was the abomination otherwise known as Under the Dome that I simply cannot excuse.

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But, here we have 11/22/63.  And my feelings on this one are not mixed.  Well, maybe they are mixed, but it’s a mixture of love and pride.  Maybe like how a parent feels on his/her kid’s first day of school, where he/she “debuts” to the world?  Or that could be hyperbole.  Well, it’s not far off, though.

Yes, there have been changes from the book.  But remember, the book is told in the first person, so changes are necessary.  Again, a book adapted to the screen will have a different face, so to speak, and there is nothing wrong with that.  In fact, changes are necessary, as television is a visual medium, and the story should be able to reflect that.

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I have not talked much about James Franco in prior posts.  And there is a reason for that:  we were only a few episodes in.  But now, we are halfway through, so let’s start talking about James Franco and what he has done with the character of Jake Epping.

Normally, I am hesitant to make such statements about an actor “being born to play a certain character.”  Different actors can bring different takes to a particular role (Heath Ledger and Jack Nicholson, who both played Batsy’s arch-nemesis are great examples) and the finished product can still be good, even if it’s different from the other actor’s interpretation.  And I still believe that.

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But it does seem that Franco fits the role of Jake Epping very well.  Maybe even perfectly, although again, it is early.  Sometimes, low and slow in the way to go (kind of like soul food, actually).  And that’s just what Franco, along with the producers and the writers, are doing with the character of Jake Epping.  Jake comes off as apathetic in the first couple of episodes.  And lost as well, as it seems his life is going nowhere.  But, slowly, that is changing.  Jake is beginning to care about something bigger than himself (stopping the assassination of the leader of the free world).  And he is beginning to care about the people around him.  He stands up against the racism that was accepted in 1961 (and still is in some ways), by helping Ms. Mimi after she has suffered needlessly because some bigot won’t sell her gas.  He helps his present day friend Harry Dunning by preventing the murder of his family.  And he has fallen in love.

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Which brings me to my next point:  the love story.

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While 11/22/63 is a story about time travel, social justice and war written by the master of modern horror, it is also a love story.  The love story between Jake and Sadie is one the main plots of the book, and is one of the greatest in any book I have ever read, let alone a Stephen King book.

And when I watched this episode the other night, I shivered.  Almost uncontrollably, actually.  And no, that’s not because my husband needs to have our house at the temperature of a meat locker in order not to sweat profusely.

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In other words, the mini series is doing a smoking job (see what I did there) with the love story aspect of 11/22/63.  And one of the things that is helping this part is the chemistry between Franco and Sarah Gadon, the actress who plays Sadie.  Every look, every kiss and the overall way that they interact with each other is just so believable.  And sweet.  And tender.  And sexy.  Very sexy, as a matter of fact.  And when Jake makes that speech about how life isn’t all flowers and chocolates, but how he loves everything about the person standing in front of him…I was no longer shivering, but fanning myself instead…woo!

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I also need to give props to the other part of this love triangle:  Johnny Clayton, Sadie’s ex husband.  In the book, this character is not as big a player as he is in the mini series, and he does not have as much interaction with Jake.  However, this has been modified a bit for the mini series, and it works.  In fact, it works really well.  That interaction between Jake and Clayton was just beautiful.  There are no other words to describe it.  I loved how Jake threatened to hurt that bastard if he didn’t grant Sadie the divorce and stay away from her.  I also loved the fact that Jake used a bit of blackmail as well…

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Remember how I was saying that his episode managed to incorporate some serious themes?  Well, the above would be one of them.  In other words, spousal abuse.  Anyone who has read at least some of King’s work (or seen some of his movies) knows that domestic abuse of all kinds is a theme in many of his stories.  11/22/63 is no different.  We saw in the episode The Kill Floor, with the character of Frank Dunning.  And we have seen again this week, with The Eyes of Texas.  The show does not try to hide the fact that Clayton abused his wife, and is still trying to control her, even though she has left him.  To add further insult to injury, no one will acknowledge the abuse.  Even worse, Sadie is blamed for the troubles (a sign of the times then and still true in some ways today).  The mini series even managed to make Sadie’s story more heart-breaking than it was the book, which makes Sadie to be even more of a sympathetic character and makes us root for her (and Jake) even more.

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The portrayal of domestic violence in the mini series has also provided an opportunity for character development from someone else. This character would happen to be Bill.

Now, I have stated that Bill is well…annoying.  I understand the need for this character, in terms of advancing the story.  But I still find him annoying.  However, I have grown a little more tolerant of him after this week’s episode.  His feelings in regards to Marina Oswald and the treatment she endures from Lee (which are likely related to the feelings he has in regards to what Frank Dunning did to his sister) make him a little bit more sympathetic in my eyes.  His interest in the Oswalds has actually gone from creepy to almost sweet.  I still scratch my head over this guy, but at least I can feel something other than annoyance towards him.  So, props, mini series…keep it up!

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Well, that’s it for The Eyes of Texas.  Join me next week for the recap and dissection of episode 5, titled The Truth.

Tune in next week…same bat time, same bat channel!

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11/22/63: Episode 3 Recap and Review

Origin stories.

We all have them, no matter who we are.  We don’t just wake up one day, and do the things that we do (like write this blog), without some kind of reason.  Or maybe several reasons.

And even the worst among us did not become the worst overnight.  Usually, there is something (or several somethings) leading up to becoming the worst.  Not even The Clown Prince of Crime became Batsy’s arch-nemesis overnight, after all.

joker and harley

And the same goes for actual bad guys.  Most serial killers have an “origin story.”  Not that there are excuses for committing acts of evil, but most people have something in their pasts that an outside observer can point to, and correlate that to a person becoming “bad.”  Even incidents that take place when we may be too young to remember them can end up having a huge impact on our lives later on down the line.

Certainly, most people would consider Lee Harvey Oswald to be one of the most evil people in history.  After all, he killed the president!  The assassination of JFK shaped an entire generation.  In fact, my parents were college students when JFK was killed.  I don’t have to talk about it much, but I know that this was a huge part of my parents’ young adulthood, just like the 9/11 tragedy was a huge part of mine.

And obviously, the JFK assassination was a huge part of Stephen King’s young adulthood.  So a huge a part, in fact, that he wrote an entire book about it, aka 11/22/63.  This book gives a fascinating account of the Kennedy assassination, time travel, the Vietnam War and quite a few other topics.

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One of these other topics is Lee Harvey Oswald.  Before I read 11/22/63, Oswald was only real to me in an academic sense.  Sure, I knew he killed the president.  So that made him a bad guy.  A really bad guy.  You have to be really bad to kill a president, after all.

However, I never had any emotional reaction to Lee Harvey Oswald.  He was just another historical figure.  My reaction to him was equivalent to my reaction to, oh say, a piece of tissue paper, perhaps?  A piece of tissue paper, in other words, really doesn’t elicit any reaction.  It is simply there, in much the same way Lee Harvey was there for me.  Nothing to get excited about, in other words.

Well, I then read 11/22/63.  And one of the things that I loved about 11/22/63 was the amount of detail it provided on Lee Harvey Oswald.  Somehow, the guy who writes about scary clowns was able to provide a stunning amount of information on an entire generation’s bad guy and turn him into a fleshed out character.  Suddenly, this guy came alive for me, and I could more easily connect with my parents and others over their generation’s boogeyman.

lee harvey oswald

In other words, we were given a origin story on one of history’s most iconic bad guys.  And this gave a new dimension to one of the events that shaped our nation, turning it from academic to personal.

Last night, I watched the third episode of the mini series 11/22/63, titled Other Voices, Other Rooms.  And I saw the onscreen version of the origin story of Lee Harvey Oswald, one of the most iconic bad guys in history.  And again, I found myself lured in, unable to stop watching.

So, without further ado, here is my recap and review of Other Voices, Other Rooms.

And, as always:

Homer spoiler


Synopsis

Bill joins Jake on his quest to prevent the assassination of Kennedy, after hearing and accepting Jake’s explanation that he is a time traveler from the future.  The two men drive to Dallas, where Jake shows Bill exactly where Kennedy will meet his untimely end.  Bill tells Jake that he stayed in Holden due to Frank Dunning’s murder of his sister, but has nothing keeping him in Holden and would rather help Jake prevent the murder of a president.

Jake concocts a cover story that he and Bill are brothers, and applies for a teaching job in nearby Jodie, Texas.  Somewhat to his surprise, Jake is offered by the job by the principal Deke Simmons, and also meets the school secretary, a black woman referred to as Ms. Mimi.  Later that night, Jake and Bill go out to celebrate, and Bill becomes intoxicated.  The club the men celebrate at is actually owned by a man named Jack Ruby, and Jake’s plan is nearly put in jeopardy when Bill begins to tell of their plans to the club’s owner.  Fortunately, Jake is able to mitigate any damage, but is reminded again that “past pushes back.”

Jake settles into his job as a teacher, and two years pass.  His teaching job becomes a permanent position, and he seems to be enjoying it.  In 1962, Ms. Mimi introduces him to the new school librarian:  Sadie Dunhill.  Jake immediately recognizes her from their encounter in Dallas two years earlier, and learns that she is divorced.  Ms. Mimi persuades Jake into chaperoning a school dance with Sadie, forcing Jake to reschedule his prior commitment, which happens to be bugging Lee Harvey Oswald’s apartment so that he and Bill can listen to Oswald’s conversations.

Bill and Jake rent an apartment next to the one where Oswald will live.  Jake is reminded of what time period he has traveled to when he speaks to the racist, bigot landlord of the building.  He is also reminded again of the racism prevalent in the time period when he encounters Ms. Mimi on his way home at a gas station.  The attendant refuses to assist Mimi because she is black, and Jake is forced to give Mimi a ride himself, as no nearby gas station will help her.

In the meantime, Lee Harvey Oswald has returned to the United States from Russia.  Jake observes Oswald’s reunion with his family at the airport, noting that he has brought his wife Marina and their infant daughter back from Russia as well.  Bill and Jake also install the surveillance equipment at the new apartment.  Jake’s cover story is that he trying to obtain information on his soon to be ex wife.

That night, Jake and Sadie chaperon the dance.  Jake impresses Sadie with his dancing abilities, and explains to her that his ex wife made him take lessons.  However, much to the annoyance of Sadie, the night is cut short when Jake realizes that he must return to the apartment to gain information on Oswald.

The apartment is successfully bugged, but Bill and Jake are nearly caught by Oswald.  They are able to escape Oswald’s apartment, but barely, as the air vents they use to escape are covered in spiders and Bill’s screams nearly give them away.

At school the next day, Sadie expresses her disappointment in Jake, as his premature exit forced her to chaperon the dance on her own.  That night, Bill and Jake attempt to spy on Oswald, as George de Mohrenschildt, who Jake determined earlier to be working for the CIA, pays Oswald a visit.  However, the men speak in Russian.  Jake becomes frustrated, and hurries back to the school find a Russian-English dictionary.

Upon his return to the apartment, Jake finds Bill to be bloody and unconscious.  It turns out that the landlord has tampered with the equipment.  Bill and Jake then take back their ruined equipment, again realizing that the past does not want to be changed.

At school the next day, Sadie speaks to Jake in regards to his actions at the dance.  Jake apologizes, and Sadie kisses him.  Sadie then accepts a dinner date for that weekend.

Jake and Bill follow Oswald to a rally led by General Edwin Walker.  Oswald is accompanied by George de Mohrenschildt.  After the rally, Oswald becomes angered by Walker’s political views and has a physical confrontation with Walker’s guards, and also threatens the life of General Walker, calling him a fascist.


 

My Thoughts

The previous two episodes of this show were more action oriented.  We had the time travel itself, along with the past “pushing back.” And of course, the confrontation with Frank Dunning…how could we forget that?

11/22/63 EPISODE 103a Photo Credit: Sven Frenzel

However, this episode had a different feel to it.  This episode was more about character development.  And most of that character development was not in regards to the central protagonist, Jake Epping.

A lot of the character development focused on this story’s main villain, Lee Harvey Oswald. As I stated before, in the book King managed to draw a convincing villain out of someone who is mainly known through the history books, and possibly some interviews with surviving family members.  However, this is not the same as actually getting into Oswald’s head and actually understanding his motivations.  But King’s portrayal of Oswald as the villain in his book is the next best thing, as he is a character in a story.  Characters in stories have motivations.  They have feelings.  We may not always agree with a character’s motivations, but we can paint a picture in our head of that character, and come to an understanding of him or her, since we have the author to guide us to that understanding.

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And in this case, we have the mini series to paint a picture of that character.  So far, the mini series is doing a fairly decent job of this.  I enjoyed the scene at the end of the episode, where Oswald flipped his shit on General Walker and got in his face.  That would seem to me to be “textbook Oswald,” if there was such a term.  I would like to see more interaction between Oswald and his family, particularly with his wife and mother, as King treated us to in the book.  However, Bill did mention that Oswald was hard on Marina in regards to her clothing choices, so at least there was that.  And there will be another five episodes where we will (hopefully) get to know Oswald even better, so I am keeping my fingers crossed.

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One of my main concerns about this mini series was how it would show Jake’s effect on the past, and the past’s effect on Jake.  This was a really important part of the original story, and should also be important to the mini series as well.

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And so far, the mini series is doing a pretty good job with the past overall.  I don’t even need to talk about the visuals (again) but I will say that they are great (again).  If I were to mute the TV and pretend that I had no knowledge of what I was watching, I could still tell what time period the story was supposed to cover.  The producers have taken care with every single detail, from the cars, to the clothes, to the music, to the dancing and even the store fronts we see on the streets.

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Speaking of the past…yeah…

This particular time period (the late 1950’s and early 1960’s) is often seen as something nostalgic, by both the people who actually lived during that time, and by the younger generation who only has the selective memories of the older generation, along with what is seen in film and television.  And 11/22/63 does give us a sense of nostalgia, with the music, clothing and so forth.

However, both the book and the mini series remind us that this time period was NOT all it was cracked up to be.  One of my concerns was that the mini series would not show this to the degree that the book showed this.

Well, my fears have been put to rest after watching three episodes.  In fact, the mini series seems to actually want to remind us of this fact more than the book does.

Jake’s interaction with Ms. Mimi in this episode is a great example of this.  The fact that Jake unthinkingly commits a serious social gaffe when he offers to pour Mimi a cup of coffee is one example.  The treatment of Mimi by the gas station attendant is another example.  If Mimi had not fortuitously run into Jake, who was the only one willing to help her, she may have had to walk many more miles before she ever got any help at all.   So yes, racism was (and still is), very real, and can have annoying consequences at the least, or the consequences can go from annoying to tragic at a moment’s notice (for example, if Mimi had been mugged or worse).  The past is often something that is not viewed objectively by most, and 11/22/63 serves to remind us of that fact.

Speaking of Jake’s effect on the past…

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The show reminds us that Jake does have an effect on the past quite frequently.  We have seen what appear to be some consequences of Jake’s presence where he “doesn’t belong”, and none of those consequences are good ones.  Jake already lost his surveillance equipment, and Bill got a bit roughed up.  And every time Jake does anything, like take away the alcohol from the jocks, help Ms. Mimi or even treat her like a human when no one else will or even when he turns a student on to English, I can’t help but think that someone somewhere will pay for that, and likely in blood.

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Jake is also being affected by the past.  He is forming relationships.  He has become friends with Bill and they are now co-conspirators.  He appears to be making friends at his job (I love the casting of Nick Searcy as Deke, since I am still mourning the loss of Justified.  Perhaps Deke is Art on the Justified level of the Tower).  However, and this is the big one, he is not just making friends…he has also fallen in love.

Justified meme 2

Not only is this episode an origin story for an iconic villain, it is also the origin stories of one of my favorite love stories in any book, not just a Stephen King book.  We have the beginning of Jake and Sadie.  And if their dance is any indication of what is to come, then I can’t wait!

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Now, I have not said a lot of negative things about this series, because I actually don’t think that there is a lot.  There is actually a lot to love, at least so far.  However, I do have one bone to pick…

And his name happens to be Bill.

Bill is a minor character in the book, and is only there for a few sentences.  I know that movies and TV shows will turn minor characters into major ones when it suits their purposes.  For the most part, I don’t have a problem with it.

But I just can’t stand Bill!

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There, I said it.

I don’t know if it’s because of his horrible accent.  Or because I know so little about him, especially compared to characters that would seem to play less of a role, like Mimi, perhaps.  Or Frank Dunning, who is already dead.  Or maybe it’s because he seems to be a stereotype, who comes off more like a member of Cletus’ clan, as opposed to an actual human being with feelings, motivations, etc.

Cletus 1

I understand the need for this character (see the part about internal Jake not really making for a good movie), but so far, the mini series has not executed very well on this part.  Could my feelings change as I see more episodes?  Possibly.  Could Bill die some kind of horrible death as the past has its way with Jake?  Um, no comment on that one…only time will tell (see what I did there?).


 

So that’s it for Other Voices, Other Rooms.  Join me next week for the recap and dissection of episode four, titled The Eyes of Texas.

Tune in next week…same bat time, same bat channel!

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