Sunday, March 20, 2016

"11.22.63" Episode 5: The Truth

My review of this week's episode is going to be a lot briefer than the other ones have been.  I just don't quite have the time for it this week, y'all; sorry about that!
It was another good episode, and I don't have much of anything negative to say about it.  It came to my attention this week that some fans are upset with the degree to which Jake and Sadie's relationship was been relegated to shorthand and suggestion, rather than to fully-dramatized exploration.
I can sympathize with that.  It hadn't occurred to me while watching the episodes, but it's a fair point.  I wish the miniseries was ten or thirteen episodes instead of eight; that would have created room for a lot more exploration.  But maybe Hulu couldn't afford to be that expansive.  In any case, I think the filmmakers have done a good job of changing the story so that their abbreviations of the plot have maximum impact.  Is it perfect?  No.  But it's very good, and so you won't hear many complaints from me.
I will say, though, that this reinforces my gut feeling that when it comes to episodic television, it's often better to go expansive rather than to go brief.  I've had a few mild disagreements with other fans on the subject of a hypothetical Netflix version of The Stand; their assertion is that you could do the whole thing in a single season, and my assertion is that uh-uh, no you couldn't, not without leaving out all sorts of tasty stuff.  Conventional wisdom says you don't need it all, of course, and 11.22.63 on Hulu proves that.  But it also proves that if you leave out some things, some people will miss it.  If you had the option -- budgetarily, etc. -- to leave ALL the good stuff in, you'd be crazy not to, and to also expand on things where you had the ability to do so.  Why have a snack when you can have a meal, y'all?

Anyways, here's some thoughts of mine on this episode:

  • Have we talked about the opening-credits music?  I don't think so.  It's by series producer J.J. Abrams, who previously wrote the themes for both Alias and Lost, though the latter is barely music at all, much less a theme.  I love this one, though, much as I loved the Alias theme before it.
  • I enjoyed the scene of present-day Jake talking to a group of disaffected teens in class.  He's utterly unable to engage with them, and I took the scene to represent Jake's own opinion of himself as a failure.
  • This episode was directed by James Franco, and he did a very good job.  There were several excellent shot compositions, and the acting was customarily good (although I've heard at least one critic say that Franco sucked in the confrontation-with-Johnny scene).
  • I was sad for Bill during the scene where he gets excited about the previously-unconsidered idea of following Jake to 2016.  Jake seemingly has no interest in making that happen, and Bill gets sad-puppy face as a result.  Jake is actually kind of a complete dickhole to Bill in this episode.  I suspect I know why that's happening, in plot terms, and it's bumming me out in advance.
  • Why does Jake run to Sadie's house?  Is he without a car?  If so, why?  None of that made sense to me.
  • Johnny refers to Sadie's "wormy hole."  I don't believe this comes from King's novel, but I could be wrong about that.  If I'm not wrong, then whichever of the show's writers created that euphamism earns this year's Margaret White "Dirtypillows" Award for most horrific sex slang.
  • Doesn't it seem awfully convenient that Johnny's rage is interrupted by the two students coming to Sadie's house and ringing the doorbell?  It sure does.  but let's not write the plot device off, because this is actually an instance -- in my opinion -- of the past pushing back against Jake.  "To save Jake?!?" I can hear you protesting.  Well, yeah, because -- spoilers! -- let's remember that Sadie is likely to end up being the thing that causes Jake to restore the past to its rightful track.  So what's going on here is that the past has thrown Johnny into Jake's path so as to prevent him from being present for the attempt on Walker, but has then counterbalanced itself by tossing the two students at Johnny so as to keep Sadie as an obstacle in Jake's later life.  I can imagine all of this making some people throw their hands up in disgust, but I think it all works quite nicely.
  • Loved the Bill/Marina scene, as well as the Bill/Lee scene.
  • Deke makes a reference to it seeming like just yesterday that Officer Stephens threw a touchdown pass against "the Panthers."  I assume that this is a subtle reference to the Dillon Panthers of Friday Night Lights (which producer Bridget Carpenter worked on), and that Friday Night Lights is canon in this universe.  That show is fucking great.
  • What did you think about Bill "seeing" his sister Clara?  I took it as another instance of the past pushing back, and it worked for me.  I think Bill's instability on this subject has been conveyed very well.  Poor guy!  I wanted to punch Jake in his damn teeth for walking away from the phone while Bill was sobbing on the other end of it.
  • The makeup of Sadie's facial wound was solid.  Not sure I believe she could talk with it, but I'll assume she could and give it a pass.
  • The climactic scene, in which Jake tells Sadie he's from the future, was terrific.  Sarah Gadon has been great in this series, and maybe never better than in this scene, which I have attempted to capture in a series of still images:

I don't know that the subtlety comes through unless you scroll through these in larger format (or, better yet, see them in motion as they are intended to be seen), but it was a highpoint of the series thus far for me.
A few more images:
The episode opens with a disgusted Sadie calling Jake a liar, which he unquestionably is.  Not a good one, either.

I wonder if Deke will be brought into the fold, as he is in the novel?  If not, it seems like a missed opportunity, but I've enjoyed him on the show nonetheless.  Mimi, too.

T.R. Knight as Johnny was pretty terrific.  He comes somewhat from the Craig Toomy school of King villains, but Knight's performance stayed on the right side of the fence for me.  

The device of having Sadie's wound be obscured by a bloody pillowcase was effective.  If you've not read the book and don't know what's going on, it's probably a bit of a shock when the camera pulls back enough to show her sitting there -- out of focus (which makes it even worse) -- that way.

I shouldn't find this hot.  And if anyone asks, I don't.  Lookit them eyes, though.  Dang!

I love the look of sheer WTF that hits both Sadie and Johnny in the face when the doorbell rings.

James Franco, director.  Thumbs up!

This made me laugh for reasons not entirely clear to me.

See you next week, folks!


  1. Nice job on that last one. It's the little things.

    Totally with you on Jake's being a shitheel for dropping the phone and walking away during Bill's confession over the phone. Sure I can understand his disappointment, but come on. I imagine like you say, they're setting us up for something specific with Bill.

    Or they just goofed and gave him a tonally dickhish moment for reasons unclear.

    I thought Bill's seeing his sister was indeed the past pushing back, by the way, and was very effective. I also like General Walker's death stare at Jake at the hospital.

    I really liked the whole deal with the cops trying to question Jake and Deke's taking him to the hospital and the final scene between the cop and Jake. Good on ya, Officer Stephens. I missed the Friday Night Lights reference, but I don't know that show at all. Heard great things - one day I'll get there.

    All in all, Deke has been great. I really have to re-read this book after the show wraps up. Thankfully I have it on the Kindle so I won't have to lug the hardcover on the train.

    The opening credits / theme are good. Still impressing me, 11.22.63 - let's keep it going now!

    Oh and yeah I really enjoyed how she knew Jake wasn't lying at the hospital despite his fantastic suggestion of being from the future. It was a nice way of tying the episode together, and it effectively sold their getting back together. I'm still not sure why/ what the Yellow Card Man is doing, here, but we'll see. I have faith.

    1. The YCM thing intrigues me. I don't think I quite have a handle on why he's in Texas, but the show has earned enough trust from me that I'm intrigued by this rather than annoyed. We'll see in three weeks, I guess.

      I liked the General Walker bit, too.

  2. "It came to my attention this week that some fans are upset with the degree to which Jake and Sadie's relationship was been relegated to shorthand and suggestion, rather than to fully-dramatized exploration."

    Well, I can see what you/the fans(?) mean about expansiveness. Though I'd have to say, the way the show handled these scenes worked just fine for me. Still, now I'm wondering if it wasn't a question of budget. Which makes me wonder if the investors for this series had as much faith in it as the writer and filmmakers did.

    I'm reminded of a quote from Tolkien: "It is a curse having an Epic temperament in an age devoted to "snappy bits".

    As for the confrontation with Johnny, so far, that scene's been the major highlight of the show for me. It's one of those narrative elements in King fiction where everything goes off the wall, and whatever happens is quite literally a spin of the wheel of fortune. All the while, the audience is treated to some of the best insanity ever written. It's the thought that counts.

    As for theme songs, well, here's a list:

    10. Gilligan's Island
    9. All in the Family.
    8. The Love Boat
    7. Law and Order
    6. Alfred Hitchcock Presents
    5. Cheers
    4. Hill Street Blues
    3. The Prisoner
    2. Twin Peaks
    1. The entire soundtrack of Miami Vice.

    The last one may or may not be a cheat, but considering the artists they had on, that show deserved the top spot for that alone.


    1. You could make a hell of a mixtape by compiling a list of the greatest tv themes ever. I have no idea what I'd put at #1, but I won't argue against "Miami Vice." My personal top 10 list would almost certainly have to include "Star Trek," "Sanford & Son," and "The Greatest American Hero." And about forty other shows, including "Game of Thrones," "The Sopranos," "Deadwood," "The A-Team," "The Simpsons," and a few of the ones on your list.

      Brutal, man; brutal.

      I'm with you on the love for the Johnny scene; that one may go down in King-film history.

      Love that Tolkien quote. Man, what would he make of 2016...

    2. All of these theme songs are fine choices. (Happy to see "The Love Boat" and "Sanford and Son". I am often singing or whistling one or the other.) I can add "Peter Gunn," "Airwolf," "Quantum Leap," and perhaps this little gem that never made it to US shores but I have dim memories of seeing on German TV once or twice:

    3. Wow! If anyone ever needed proof that the '80s were the '80s in places other than America, there it is. Kind of perfect.

    4. Good call on "Happy Days", for some reason I missed that one.

      By way of complement, here's a closer from a movie written by a King collaborator (a hint is given in a brief film still at the beginning):


    5. Peter Gunn was my choice, and if you haven't seen it, the theme to "Goliath" on Amazon is great, as is the series! And, "True Detectives" is another winner.

    6. Oh, most definitely. And yes, I agree 100% on "Peter Gunn." I've never seen an episode of the series, but if it's as good as the theme, that's a mistake on my part.

      Did you know that John Williams plays piano on that theme?