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:

Cletus 1

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

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

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

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

lee harvey oswald

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In fact, I thought of this guy:

Roland and horn 1

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

 

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 5 Recap and Review

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

Jason Aldean, The Truth

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

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

big bad wolf

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

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

Homer spoiler


Synopsis

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


My Thoughts

 

Dear abomination otherwise known as Under the Dome,

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

Sincerely,

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

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

Rennie

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

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

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

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

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

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

Maerlyn's rainbow

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

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

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


 

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

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

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11/22/63: Episode 3 Recap and Review

Origin stories.

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

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

joker and harley

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

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

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

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

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

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

lee harvey oswald

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

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

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

And, as always:

Homer spoiler


Synopsis

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


 

My Thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Speaking of the past…yeah…

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

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

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

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

Speaking of Jake’s effect on the past…

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

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

Justified meme 2

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

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

And his name happens to be Bill.

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

But I just can’t stand Bill!

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There, I said it.

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

Cletus 1

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


 

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

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

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