So, I think I need to get my eyes checked again…
Seems like they were a little..well…leaky earlier this week…
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!
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Which brings me to my next point: the love story.
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.
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!
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…
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.
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!
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!