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.

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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!

batman and robin

 

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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.

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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 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!

batman and robin

 

 

The X Files Renewal: Episode 4 Recap and Review

Well, it happened.

It happens to the best of us, but that doesn’t mean it happens to me, right?  Right?  RIGHT?!

But it did happen, and I may as well admit it.  So here goes nothing:

My name is Leah McLaughlin, and I got trolled.

Whew, I feel a little better now.  And I’m among friends, so it’s cool, right?

It’s also cool because of who did the trolling…

internet troll 4

Nope, not him!  He’s a dildo anyway…

Fat-Green-Troll

No, I was trolled by none other than Chris Carter!

Yes, THAT Chris Carter…the creator!  Of one of my favorite shows, anyway.

Mulder and Scully 3

Let me explain, then.  I heard there was an episode titled Home Again, and that it would air as one of the episodes of The X Files renewal this year.

Of course, you can imagine where my mind (and probably a lot of other minds, great minds think alike, I hear) went:

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So I was excited.  Not only was I was to get a reunion with the hottest duo on TV, I was going to get a reunion with those lovable miscreants known as the Peacock family.  Had they managed to continue their family tree?  Well, not actually a family tree, unless maybe we are talking about a tree with no branches and one that is really more of a straight line.  Did they still have it in for Mulder and Scully?  Oh, the suspense!

Well, that dream got killed pretty quickly.  So now when I wake up at 3 AM and need something to wonder about, I can still think about this warm and loving family, along with the origins of the universe and whether or not penguins have knees.

But it’s ok, I ain’t mad, bro!  For one thing, it’s Chris Carter.  So I can easily forgive that.  And what I got instead of a good old fashioned family fun was actually a pretty good stand-in.  An excellent stand-in, as a matter of fact.  So no complaints here!

So, without any further ado, here is my recap and review of Home Again.

And, as always:

Homer spoiler


Synopsis

The episode begins with a man named Joseph Cutler who works for the US Department of Housing and Urban Development instructing the Philadelphia fire department to rid the streets of the city’s homeless population by blasting them with a firehouse.  Cutler literally washes his hands of the deed, and returns to his office.  A garbage truck then pulls up, and a tall shadowy figure climbs out of the truck.  The figure walks into Culter’s office, and Cutler senses its presence right away via his sense of smell.  Cutler attempts to shoot the creature, but the creature is immune to bullets.  The creature rips Cutler’s arms off and also decapitates him.  The creature then returns to the garbage truck with Cutler’s arms, and the truck rolls away from the scene.

Agents Fox Mulder and Dana Scully investigate the crime scene the next day, finding Cutler’s head in a waste paper basket.  However, Scully is forced to take leave, as she receives a call from her brother, William Jr, with the news that her mother has suffered a heart attack which may be fatal.  For a moment, Scully believes the call to be from her and Mulder’s son William, who was placed for adoption as an infant.

Mulder remains at the scene, and notices a graffiti stencil on a building across the street that was not there when he viewed the previous night’s surveillance footage.  A bloody footprint that lacks any identifying skin print and a band aid containing some material that is neither organic nor inorganic are also found on the scene.  The surveillance footage failed to actually record the murder, as the power was out in the building at the time of the murder.  When he walks the streets of the surrounding area, Mulder also meets a man and a woman who are bickering.  The man is named Darryl Landry, and he had been working with Culter to develop a 10 story apartment building in downtown Philadelphia, which would have forced the homeless population to relocate to a hospital turned shelter in nearby Bucks County.  The woman is named Nancy Huff.  She appears to motivated out of genuine concern for the homeless population, but really just does not want them anywhere near the high school that is two blocks away.  A homeless man lurking in a nearby dumpster tells Mulder than the Band-Aid Nose Man is the voice for the homeless (and presumably the killer).

In the meantime, Scully visits her mother, Margaret, in the hospital.  Scully is heart-broken to learn that Margaret has asked for her estranged son Charlie, instead of her or her brother William.  Scully is also devastated to learn that Margaret has changed her living will, indicating that she does not want to be placed on life-support indefinitely.  Scully also takes a look at the possessions her mother had on her when she entered the hospital, and finds out that Margaret was wearing a quarter on a silver chain.  Scully wonders just what secrets that her mother kept from her and the rest of the family.

Mulder arrives at the hospital, interrupting his work on the case, to offer his support to Scully.  Scully’s brother Charlie calls and speaks to Margaret via speaker-phone.  Margaret briefly regains consciousness, and tells Mulder that her son is also named William.  Margaret then slips back in a coma and subsequently passes away.  Scully is devastated, but insists on returning to work with Mulder.

The killer struck again in Mulder’s absence, killing a pair of hustlers who stole the billboard with the stencil.  Margaret Huff is also murdered by the same shadowy figure who murdered Cutler.  Mulder sees a man purchasing the particular brand of spray paint used on the stencil, and follow the man to a basement in a dilapidated tenement.

In the tenement, Mulder and Scully meet the man who claims to be responsible for the creation of The Band-Aid Nose Man.  He tells the agent that he trying to be the voice for the homeless, as no one else cares about their plight, and just ignores the issue, in the hopes that it will go away.  The man believes that his graffiti and wax sculptures have taken on a life of their own, and that if he doesn’t look them in the eye, they will leave him alone.  Scully tells the man that he is responsible, as he is the creator and therefore the problem originates with him.

Mulder and Scully realize that the Band-Aid Nose Man has one last target:  Darryl Landry.  However, they are powerless to stop the killer, who kills Landry and several other employees of the hospital turned shelter in Bucks County.  The artist flees the tenement, replacing his wax sculpture of the Band-Aid Nose Man with a happy face.  However, the stencil of the Band-Aid Nose Man watches him flee, implying that he may not be safe after all.

Mulder and Scully scatter Margaret’s ashes into the ocean.  Scully understands why Margaret wanted to speak to Charlie:  she felt he was her responsibility and wanted to make sure she was safe before she passed away.  Scully also believes that Margaret mentioned her and Mulder’s son William to make sure that he was safe as well.  Scully wonders about William, questioning whether he is secure and happy, even though she feels that she and Mulder treated him like trash, in much the same way that the city of Philadelphia treated its homeless population, and embraces Mulder for comfort.


 

My Thoughts

Well, I will say this much:  The X Files is all over the place.  And this has been evident with this renewal.  One week, I’m crying from laughter.  And the next week, I’m just crying…what a ride!  Never a dull moment when I am in the company of Mulder and Scully!

THE X-FILES: L-R: Mitch Pileggi, David Duchovny, Gillian Anderson and William B. Davis. The next mind-bending chapter of THE X-FILES debuts with a special two-night event beginning Sunday, Jan. 24 (10:00-11:00 PM ET/7:00-8:00 PM PT), following the NFC CHAMPIONSHIP GAME, and continuing with its time period premiere on Monday, Jan. 25 (8:00-9:00 PM ET/PT). ©2015 Fox Broadcasting Co. Cr: Frank Ockenfels/FOX

While Home Again did have a bit of humor, and quite a few Easter eggs, its tone was in sharp contrast to last week’s Mulder and Scully Meet the Were-Monster.  Chris Carter and co. were not fooling around with this one and meant business!

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Now, I am going to classify this episode as a Monster of the Week episode.  Yes, this episode did have a monster, and an intriguing one at (more on this later).  But there was so much more to this episode.  Actually, there was almost too much packed into this episode, but Mr. Carter and co. pulled it off, if barely.

One of my favorite things about this episode was the fact that it was Scully-centric.  Like the monster, Mulder did have his place (again, more on that later), but here’s to Scully power!

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Scully has been seen, and rightfully so at times, as the cold, somewhat calculating scientist, who is able to pick apart things and put them under the microscope, all while keeping Mulder in line.  However, Scully is human just like the rest of us, and this episode did a wonderful of showing that side to her.  I also loved the fact that Scully realizes that she is human as well, and shows her vulnerability to Mulder, all while they are hunting down the monster of the week.

This episode also raised some interesting issues on the right to die with dignity, and making those final choices, along with the effect that those choices may have on those we love (i.e. Scully’s perplexity over her mother’s decision to amend her living will).  I also loved the fact that this episode dealt with someone’s final moments, even right down to his/her possessions that they bring with them on what turns on to be their final hospital visit.  When someone you love passes on, it can be the smallest of things that brings you close to him/her (i.e. the necklace with the quarter worn by Margaret), giving you something to tether you to him/her.  However, those last moments can sometimes come with more questions than the answers we so desperately seek (Margaret’s request to speak to her estranged son), making the grief that much more poignant.

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And the ‘ship made an appearance!  Who knew the words “I’m here” could make me swoon like that?  Well, Mulder uttering those words as he walked into the hospital to be with Scully when she needed him the most…that made me shiver, and in a good way!  And Mulder taking Margaret’s hand…not gonna lie, I wept a little!  The flashback to the episode One Breath, where Mulder is hoping against all hope to literally bring Scully back from the dead was a nice touch as well

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The episode even ended on a ‘shippy note, when Scully leaned into Mulder (after the discussion of their son, William), and he just held her as we faded out to the credits…perfect!

This episode also dealt with Mulder and Scully’s son, William (Scully sees him everywhere, even on her caller ID).  And I am wondering:  is this the last of William?  Or will he make an appearance later?  The show seems to be hinting at the latter, so we will find out soon, I hope.

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Ok, time to talk about the monster…

First of all, The Band-Aid Nose Man.  A unique name for a unique monster.  Or is this monster so unique?

Almost immediately, my mind went here:

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And his creator.  I kind of think of that guy as a cross between Banksy and Dr. Frankenstein, perhaps?

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And this monster is one of the more intriguing monsters that we have seen from this show, for a couple of reasons.

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First of all, this episode explored not only the effect that the artist has on his artist, but also the effect that art has on the artist.  And I may be a little biased (I do a bit of art myself), but I find this to be a fascinating topic.  How much a part of a piece of does the artist actually own?  Is a piece of art a separate entity, or is it an extension of the artist and under the control of the artist at all times?  How much responsibility does an artist have for the effect that his/her artwork may have on others?  It is true that most works of art don’t literally come to life and start killing douchebags (if only!), but art inspires people, and sometimes that inspiration is not good.

THE X-FILES: L-R: David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson in the "Home Again" episode of THE X-FILES airing Monday, Feb. 8 (8:00-9:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. ©2016 Fox Broadcasting Co. Cr: Ed Araquel/FOX

I also loved how the episode managed to tie in the Monster of the Week to the show’s seemingly unrelated theme:  responsibility.  Where does it start and where does it end?  Just who (or what) are we responsible for?  Just because you can’t see someone or something, does your responsibility end?  The creator of the Band-Aid Nose Man tried to absolve himself of responsibility for his creation by shutting his eyes and later fleeing the scene.  Does that mean he is no longer responsible?  I would guess not, and it appeared that his creation would agree with me on that.  Margaret still felt responsible for her youngest son even though she had not seen him for years, and he became a “fifth business” of sorts, leaving Margaret unable to return “home” until that business was sorted out.  The city of Philadelphia refuses to accept any sort of responsibility for its most vulnerable citizens, and they also close their eyes and hope that the “problem” will just disappear, like the hope that the Bank-Aid Nose Man will disappear if ignored.  Mulder and Scully struggle with the responsibility towards their son William and their feelings of guilt and that they treated him like trash, just like the city of Philadelphia did with their homeless population.  Ultimately, none of us can ever escape responsibility, no matter how fast we run or how tightly we shut our eyes.

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So that’s it for Home Again.  Join me next week as we review and dissect the fifth episode of The X Files renewal, Babylon.

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

batman and robin

.

 

 

Don’t Bug Me: My Review of Darkness Falls

I became a fan of horror at quite a young age (trust me, my parents were thrilled).  I started out with Stephen King, and he did me fine, but then I discovered a new method of delivery.

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

Yes, it was the horror comic.

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I quickly became addicted to that method of delivery for my frights, and lost more than a few hours sleep over some of those stories.  After all, these works of art contained pictures, so it was the best of both worlds:  I could read (I spent 25 hours a day doing that back in the day), but I could also get a visual representation (not always a good thing for an overly active imagination, but sleep is for wimps, I thought).  And most of these comics also had a lesson at the end.  The method was usually disgusting and creepy, but in their own weird way, horror comics, like one of my favorite childhood cartoons, did try to impart some sort of lesson at the end, usually along the lines of be a good person…or else (the “else” part was usually the creepy and disgusting part).  After, all knowing is half the battle…well, you know the rest.

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Well, a few later after my discover of the horror comic, it graced us with its presence on television, per my dad, at any rate.

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In other words, the horror comic made its small screen debut via my favorite television show at the time, The X Files.  And it was expansive:  we had guys who ate livers, a mutant parasite, people with PSI abilities, and many, many more.  Finally, the horror comic got the respect it deserved, in the form of a show which many people still continue to associate with “little green men,” although that association would not be wrong.  However, The X Files has many “non-arc” episodes, or episodes that don’t feature UFO’s, aliens or the government conspiracy to cover up the former two.  Instead, these episodes simply featured other supernatural themes, or the “the monster of the week.”  And may of them had an EC Comics feel to them:  they featured some kind of “monster”, often with a campy feel to it, they contained some kind of horror (which was not always campy, and many of them tried to impart a lesson at the end, which was often creepy, or sometimes even a little bit depressing (more on that later)).

And one of these “monster of the week” episodes that sticks out in my mind is the episode “Darkness Falls.”  This episode features a creepy monster, some campy scares and even a sort of lesson at the end. In other words, it is an on-screen horror comic, and it works beautifully.

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With that being said, here is my recap and review of “Darkness Falls.”

And, as always:

Homer spoiler


 

Synopsis

Agents Mulder and Scully are called upon to investigate the disappearance of 30 loggers from a site in Washington state.  Scully feels that the task is better left to local and state authorities, while Mulder feels that there may be a supernatural aspect to the case.

The agents meet up with a forest ranger and a representative from the logging company.  The logging company representative is anxious to find his employees, who have families that are worried about them.  The four travel to the loggers’ cabin, but are forced to abandon their vehicle, as a tire is blown out by an eco-terrorist trap.  An investigation of the loggers’ camp finds no loggers but plenty of sabotage, presumably by an eco-terrorist group.

Scully, Mulder and the forest ranger investigate the surrounding forest, and find a cocoon that contains a human body.  They return to the camp, and find that the logging company representative has captured an eco-terrorist.  The logging company representative demands that the agents arrest and try the man for murder of the logger, but Mulder wants to hear the man’s story.  The man states that some strange bugs have attacked and killed the other loggers.  He tells Scully and Mulder that these bugs only come out at night, and that the only thing that keeps them away is a light source.  The group spends the night in the cabin, but keeps the lights on.  The insects cover the cabin, but do not attack the humans inside.

The group finds a tree stump with a strange green ring at the core when they explore the woods the next day.  The eco-terrorist tells the rest of the group that the disappearances began when the loggers felled that tree, and that the loggers have been cutting down trees that were marked to be preserved.  The logging company representative becomes angry at the perceived lack of action by Mulder and Scully, and returns to the vehicles.  However, he is attacked and killed by the bugs, as he did not heed the warning and had no light source.  The eco-terrorist convinces Mulder to allow him to take the last can of gas along with his vehicle and search for his friends, promising to return for Mulder, Scully and the ranger the next day.  When the rest of the group finds out about this, they are all furious with Mulder, even Scully, as they only have about 15-20 hours worth of light before their protection against the insects runs out.  The generator stops when the sun rises.

Mulder, Scully and the forest ranger make a break the next day for the ranger’s vehicle, and are met by the eco-terrorist, who has stayed true to his word.  The eco-terrorist says that his friends did not make it and succumbed to the bugs.  He takes the rest of the group down the mountain in his vehicle, but his vehicle falls victim to his group’s traps.  The eco-terrorist leaves his vehicle and is swarmed by the insects.  Mulder, Scully and the forest ranger are also swarmed by the bugs and become trapped in cocoons.  However, a bio-hazard team, who seems well aware of the danger, shows up in the nick of time, thanks to an earlier distress signal sent by Mulder.  The three are rescued by the bio-hazard team and air-lifted away from the forest.

The surviving members of the expedition, which includes Mulder and Scully, are forced into quarantine, so that they may recover from their contact with the unknown insects.  In particular, Scully was hit hard by the insects and needs much more time to recover.  Mulder asks one of the doctors what will happen if the insects cannot be eradicated, and is told “that is not an option.”


 

My Thoughts

Mind = blown.

I remember enjoying this episode when I first saw it 20+ years ago (eek, that is a scary), but I don’t think the impact was quite as great as it was when I first watched it.  Sometimes, 20+ years is actually a good thing.

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One of my favorite things about this episode was that Mulder was…well, Mulder was Mulder!  I know that statement isn’t really earth-shattering, but let’s show some appreciation for my show boo!  The episode was unsettling and actually did have a serious undertone, but Mulder managed to lighten things up a bit, in his typical dry, almost deadpan way, like when he told Scully that it would be a nice vacation in the woods…ha!  You kill me, Mulder!  Well, no, I take that back, you are the one with the gun, after all!  But still, props to some appropriately placed humor!

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Another thing I noticed about this episode:  the beginning of the ‘ship.  Yes, we are back there again…

This was a pretty early episode, but even in this episode, you can see the chemistry between Mulder and Scully beginning its slow but still crackling burn.  Even this early on, the show was intent on teasing about Mulder and Scully:  was something going on between these two?  Where would it lead?  Would they or wouldn’t they?  And did we want them to?  This is evident at the end of the episode, when Mulder looks in on Scully as she is recovering from her ordeal after their “nice” vacation in the woods, and is told that Scully has had an especially tough go of it, and may not even survive.  The look of concern and caring on Mulder’s face as he speaks to the doctor about Scully is something that is a little more than platonic, and a great precursor of what was to come, ‘ship wise.  And I loved it!

X Files 4

As I said before, this episode had quite the EC Comic book feel to it, even though it did actually have a serious message.  However, more than a few of the scenes had that almost campy, yet still kind of creepy vibe that those comics also had.

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For example, we have the cocoons that the extremely pissed off bugs used to dispose of those who got on their bad side.

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This was certainly something that I could imagine happening in one of those horror comics I read as a child.  It is a little campy, but kind of icky (aka awesome) at the same time. And when people were being attacked, I could practically see the comic book screams (Aaaahhhh, anyone?) above their heads, even though it was a television show.

And then there were the “bugs” (if that’s what they actually were) themselves.  True, it was the 90’s, and we didn’t have the special effects that we have now.  However, the bugs still managed to be creepy and (you guessed it) campy at the same time.  In other words, even the bugs had that comic book feel.

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As I said before, this particular episode does have a serious message, much like the comic books I remember from my childhood.

One thing that I have noticed in horror comics and even in horror movies is the theme of “just desserts.”  Karma, if you like.

In horror comics, people often did very bad things to other people.  Parents neglected or abused children.  People tried to cheat death in some way (the horror comic Strictly From Hunger was an example of this, and was responsible for many a sleepless night as a child).  Husbands beat up wives.  Wives cheated on husbands.  People would murder other people and try to cover that up.  And this was before any “monster” or anything supernatural came into play.

strictly from hunger 1

And just how did that work out for those committing the wrongs?

Well, not very well.  Not very well at all.  Enter the karma.  And usually, that’s when the supernatural element came in:  after the “human” horror had been committed.

And I noticed that vibe in this episode.  The loggers were cutting down trees that were not supposed to be cut down.  The environmentalists were also not in the right, as they had set up booby-traps to attempt to sabotage the loggers.  As stated above, this did not work for those committing the wrongs.  All of the loggers, including the liaison, were killed by the bugs.  All of the environmentalists, even the “ally”, were also killed by the bugs.  There was even some in-fighting among Mulder, Scully and the federal ranger, and that nearly cost them their lives, if not for the well-timed arrival of a suspiciously well-informed bio-hazard team.  Just desserts, indeed.

darkness falls 1

And the ending to this episode…like, whoa?

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Like, definitely whoa, actually.

Yes, there were survivors at the end of this episode, namely, Mulder and Scully.  But…

So.  Many.  Dead.  People.

The body count to this episode was high, that was for sure.  So many dead loggers.  And quite a few dead environmentalists as well.  And the manner of death was gruesome.

And the “bad guy” appeared to survive.  Sure, the doctor told Mulder that being unable to eradicate those insects was “not an option.”  But then again, a certain governor of Michigan made a big show of publicly drinking the water from Flint, and we know what happened there

flint water 1

So did anyone really believe that those insects had actually been eradicated?  Mulder seemed a little skeptical, in fact.  And he was right to be skeptical.  Often, we are led to believe that those in authority will do the right thing.  But not even those in authority always do the right thing.  Maybe even those in authority are more likely to do the wrong thing, leaving the rest of us to reap the consequences for a long, long time.


 

Well, that’s it for Darkness Falls.  Join me next week for the reunion…the reunion of Mulder, Scully, Skinner and the rest of the gang in the much awaited (well, for me anyway) X Files renewal!

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

batman and robin

All Dolled Up: My Review of Chinga

Oh, Friday nights in high school…

Those were the days, I tell ya…

So fun and carefree!

I got hang out with possessed dolls and try to solve cases which clearly involved alien abduction.  I encountered a few circus freaks, too…

And my partners were just so hot, too…

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We even encountered kinky stuff, like Amish-like people who were able to make people super horny, and even some incest…ewww!

Well, this wasn’t what I actually did on Friday nights when I was in high school…don’t I wish!

Instead, I did what every other kid with a ridiculously full social calendar did:  I watched The X Files.  In fact, I was an X Phile…

And if that is not the coolest fandom name ever, then we are done and we are not friends!

But, I digress.  The X Files may have started out as one of those “cult” shows (but not like a regular cult, it was a cool cult), but it soon became huge.  And people started wanting a piece of the action.  In fact, many famous people either got their start on the show, or simply made guest appearances.

Or in one case, received credit as a guest writer…

Stephen King

Yes, The Master is credited with an episode of The X Files…is there anything he can’t do (wait, more on that later, actually)?

Stephen King and Chris Carter decided to have a baby together  write an episode of The X Files together, and that baby  that episode is known as Chinga.  Chinga is set in a small town in Maine (really, I know) and tells of a mysterious doll that seems to be causing the deaths of people in the town.  Well, at least that was my memory of it, any way.

And I love Stephen King (Captain Obvious strikes again) and I love The X Files.  Even better, The X Files will be renewed again in January 2016, for a paltry six episodes (although I will take what I can get).  But I got to feeling nostalgic, and wanted to jog my memory a bit.  In other words, I wanted to take a trip down memory lane, and watch some of these old monster of the week episodes that I have not been able to forget.

Luckily, we have Netflix, which is either my greatest blessing, or the bane of my existence (anyone who has “binge-watched” something Sons of Anarchy  to the point where he/she neglects everything, like housework and showering, will catch my drift).  So I loaded up the Netflix, employed my trusty friend Google, and…

Side note:  Typing in The X Files into the Netflix search box yields some rather…interesting…results.  And this is the kind of interesting that involves naked women and floppy dildos.  Must have been Netflix evil twin Sexflix at work…

But anyway, I found several seasons of the show, including the specific episode I was was looking for.  And I settled on my couch, with my blankie and kitty, and took a stroll down memory lane.

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So, without any further ado…here is my recap and review of Chinga!


 

Synopsis

The episode begins with a mother and daughter making a trip to the grocery store.  We are told that the events take place in a small town in Maine.  The little girl has a doll, which she appears attached to.  And the mother appears nervous, but makes her way into the store.  The doll speaks, saying it wants to play.  Suddenly, the people in the grocery store begin to scratch their own eyes and make themselves bleed.  They appear to be controlled by something else.  The mother sees an image of a dead man reflected in the glass, and hurriedly exits the store.  In the meantime, the local butcher stabs himself in the eye.   The wound proves fatal, and the local authorities are called.  Before he dies, the butcher sees what appears to be the shadow of an over-sized doll.

Agent Dana Scully is shown exiting her car in the same small town, presumably to pick up supplies.  She receives a call from her partner Agent Fox Mulder on her cell phone, but hangs up on him, telling him that she is on vacation and will not be distracted by “shop talk.”  However, Scully sees the scene unfolding at the local  store, and offers her help to the local authorities.

Scully reviews the footage of the incident at the grocery store with the police chief, John Bonsaint.  She also confers with Mulder, who thinks the incident may actually be witchcraft in some form.  However, Scully notices that woman and little girl, Melissa and Polly Turner, are unaffected by the incident and suggests that the authorities question them.

The sheriff’s deputy, Buddy Riggs, tells Melissa that the authorities may question her and tries to help her.  He buys Polly an ice cream sundae, and tries to convince Melissa to leave town.  Melissa is reluctant, and tells Buddy that she has seen images of violent deaths, including that of her husband, before they occur.  While the adults are talking, Polly asks for more cherries on her sundae.  The ice cream parlor employee tells Polly that she will need to pay for the cherries, which upsets Polly.  The doll again talks, saying it wants to play.  The employees hair becomes caught in one of the machines, and she is nearly decapitated until Buddy rescues her.  Buddy hands Melissa the keys to a remote cabin, and again advises her to leave town.

While reviewing the surveillance footage with the local police, Scully learns that the ancestors of Melissa Turner were accused of witchcraft.  Scully and the local authories visit Ms. Froehlich, the owner of a local daycare formerly attended by Polly Turner.  Ms. Froehlich also accuses Melissa Turner of witchcraft and is not cooperative with the authorities.  Scully speaks to a man who was the partner of Melissa’s deceased husband, a local fisherman.  The man tells Scully that the death of Melissa’s husband may have been a bit unusual, but is convinced that what he saw was a trick of the light.  Scully learns that Melissa’s husband had found the doll in one of his fishing traps, and gave it to Polly as a birthday present.  Scully and the local authorities also drop by Melissa’s house, but find no one home.

Melissa and Polly make their way to the cabin.  They encounter a park ranger, which makes Melissa nervous.  Polly demands to go home, and the doll speaks again.  Melissa sees a vision of a dead Ms. Froehlich, and immediately turns the car around and heads back home.  In the meantime, Ms. Froehlich has killed herself in a gruesome, using pieces of broken records to cut herself.  She has also seen what appears to be the shadow of a large doll before her death.

Melissa and Polly return home, and Polly becomes demanding, making Melissa nervous.  Buddy also visits, and chastises Melissa for returning, and also telling her that she nearly ran over the park ranger.  Melissa sees a vision of a dead Buddy, and the doll forces him to bludgeon himself to death.  Melissa then sees a dead version of herself, and attempts to burn down the house.  However, the doll extinguishes the matches and she is unsuccessful.

Scully and the sheriff return to Melissa’s house and attempt to enter.  The sheriff finally breaks down the door, and they enter and find Melissa involuntarily bludgeoning herself with a hammer.  In an act of quick thinking, Scully seizes the doll from Polly and puts in the microwave, burning it.  This act seems to break the spell, and Melissa does not kill herself.

Scully returns to work, and finds Mulder in his office.  He tells he was productive while she was gone, but it is clear that he missed her.  In the meantime, another fisherman finds the Chinga doll, who is burnt almost beyond recognition but still turns up in a trap.


 

My Thoughts

So…

Let me clear the air…

And I will just come out and say it…

Chinga is just…bad.  There, I said it.  And let me allow a moment for the collective fandom to beat me with the virtual wet noodle.

Whew, ok now that you’re done beating me with that wet noodle (geez, you can go a little easier next time), let’s talk about this episode, and what worked, and what didn’t.

Now, I love The X Files.  I love Christ Carter.  And I LUUUVVVV Stephen King!  So X Files + Stephen King = one blissed out nerd, right?

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Well, not for this nerd.  There are some things I just love…

Like chocolate chip cookies.  Macaroni and cheese.  But a chocolate chip cookie macaroni and cheese casserole?

No, I think I will pass.  Love those two things, but if you put them together, who can swallow that concoction?

And to me, this episode was a concoction that I just couldn’t swallow.  In other words, we put chocolate chip cookies and macaroni and cheese together, and just got something weird and kind of gross too.

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Normally, weird and gross are good, especially when associated with The X Files and Stephen King.  But Chinga was not the good kind weird or gross.  No, it was weird.  And gross, too.

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First of all, the acting.  And I am not talking about the acting of the front runners, Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny.  They were…well, they were Mulder and Scully.  And I can’t really fault them for that.  But they stuck out like sore thumbs in the weird conglomeration of Chris Carter and Stephen King.  And I am not sure that Mulder and Scully belong in the King Universe, as awesome as they are.

The townspeople, in terms of acting, were uneven at best.  The woman who played Melissa sounded like she was reading lines from a cue card, and throwing in some occasional tears, to induce sympathy (note:  didn’t work, better luck next time, perhaps).  The rest of the townspeople were just flat at worst, caricatures at best (especially that scene where the sheriff orders a lobster in the restaurant and tries to convince Scully to try the delicacy…really?!)

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Which brings me to my next point.  In any Stephen King book, the town is just a much a developed character, if not more of a developed character, than the people in the story.  ‘Salem’s Lot, It, Needful Things and several other books immediately come to mind.  However, the town in Chinga does not have the personality of any of King’s other towns.  So Chinga is missing one of the great things about King:  a small town with its own personality and dark secrets.

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Ok, the rant is over for now.  Believe it or not, I did like something about this episode.

Someone, actually…

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Yes, Scully was favorite part of this episode!

Now, I may refer to Mulder as one of my show boos, which he is (sorry Raylan and Jax, hope you don’t get too jealous).  But I think my favorite part of The X Files was (and still is) Scully.  She made science cool.  She was a bad ass who chased down bad guys (and girls) in her heels, and there was rarely a hair out of place.  And a fellow soul eater…er…red head.  She gave hope to me, and if I can ever be half as cool as Scully, I will consider my life to be an unparalleled success.

And this episode was heavy on the Scully.  As stated before, I love Mulder.  But seeing him get hung up on (gotta love those 90’s cell phones, yo) and rebuffed for the umpteenth time was priceless.  Usually, Mulder is spot on, but for this episode, he was an epic fail, which was hilarious!

Who saved the day in this episode, you ask?  Why, Scully of course!  Even though the method was a little lame (the microwave?  Really?  Is this a doll or gremlin?), Scully was the one to defeat the bad guy er doll, and presumably, have everyone live happily ever after (although the vague ending may bring questions to that scenario).  And Scully showed us all just how much of a rock star she really is.

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Now, I may have said that Chinga was bad, which it is.  But bad can also be good.  Like Batman.  And sex.  So Chinga falls into the category of things, like sex and Batman, that are so awesome that even when they are bad they are still good.  And there is nothing wrong in indulging in good bad.  In fact, it even warms the soul.

Join me next week when I review and dissect Home, the episode so terrifying that (supposedly) no network will air it any more…tune in next week:  same bat time, same bat channel!

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