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TV Review: 11.22.63 Episode 2 “The Kill Floor”
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Episode 2 “The Kill Floor”
Directed by Fred Toye
Written by Bridget Carpenter
Based on the novel by Stephen King
Starring James Franco, Sarah Gadon, Cherry Jones, Lucy Fry, George MacKay, Daniel Webber, T.R. Knight, Josh Duhamel, Chris Cooper, Jonny Coyne.
Released Monday, February 22nd, 2016

Last week on 11.22.63, we were introduced to Jake Epping (James Franco), an adult education teacher who was passed on the serious task of going back in time to stop the assassination of JFK. Crazy, huh? His friend Al (Chris Cooper) went to the back for 2 minutes and returned severely aged and dying of cancer. “I need you to go in this closet, and then I’ll tell you everything.” He sees and is a believer and tries to go on the journey from 1960 to 1960, but the past tries to get him in Dallas. Jake hightails it out of there, but decides to stop in Holden, Kentucky to fix something – namely the murder of Harry Dunning’s mother, brother, and sister, and the brain damage done to him as a young boy by his father.

Spoilers below.

11.22.63 Episode 2 “The Kill Floor” review: The scene opens with little Harry Dunning, “Harry Fairy,” running from bullies. Run, Harry, run! He doesn’t run fast enough. Pantsless, he runs to the ice cream shop where he always keeps an extra pair of shorts. Jake is in that shop. The entire beginning sequence is both visually striking with vivid acting on the part of the little kid that plays Harry.

He rents a room for $3.00 for the week. More rules – “No girls or food upstairs.”

He goes to the nearest bar, where he sees Frank Dunning (Josh Duhamel), and makes “friends.” Duhamel is really scary as the filled-with-anger Dunning. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him in this kind of role. It’s chilling.

They get this right. The mood is creepy as f***. Dunning brings Jake to the butcher plant, complete with flickering lights and grayish hanging dripping “meat.” He shows him the hide cellar with a zillion flies. How come I’ve never heard of this horrible practice til now? The hide cellar, I mean. Then brings him to the “kill floor.” He wants Jake to smash in the head of a cow. He is understandably hesitant, as Dunning wants him to prove to these big bullies that he is one of them. This scene may make some vegetarians out of people.

Frank: “Maybe it would help if you thought of that bitch ex-wife of yours.” He means Jake. Jake drops the mallet. Dunning does it (reminding me of Jack Torrance) and walks away. Jake sees the imminent violence within.

Epping goes to Mrs. Dunning and gives her a “free weekend away!” in Lexington with the kids, in an effort to steer her away from the horror that awaits.

Frank Dunning comes calling for Jake. Why does he go? “It’s rules that hold the universe together.” Frank thinks Jake wants his wife. Jake says yep, that’s why. Frank throws them both out. Jake runs to buy a gun and thinks about a story that Al told on how the past pushes back – “mysticism and horseshit.”

The past gave Al cancer.

The past gives Jake the vomits.

It’s Halloween night. Jake is watching the house and reciting Harry’s future essay. The young bartender sneaks up and puts a knife to his neck. Dunning killed his sister 12 years ago.

There was a vicious fight, but he did stop Frank from killing his family – permanently. He is both tormented and relieved that he saved that family.

The kid comes back with the future newspaper clipping in his hand.

Some thoughts:

– The NRA probably wishes it was 1960, where you can buy 5 guns looking desperate in the middle of the night – no problem.

-The series is slow and thoughtful thus far. It brings that reading-a-novel feeling to the scree with the side stories inside the main story, like when Arliss explains the Bronze Star in mesmerizing detail.

– I forgot James Franco was James Franco this episode. He was awesomely Jake.

– More Chris Cooper. This episode had him with very limited narration.

– I hope the consequences to the Dunning family remaining alive is the same as the book.

11.22.63 Episode 3 “Other Voices, Other Rooms” airs Monday, February 29th on Hulu.

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