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?
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.
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:
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.
Before we move on, let’s pay our respects:
Well, to Bill actually. Although he did look a little slack-jawed, if I do say so myself.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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!