The last episode of 11.22.63 aired a couple weeks ago, and I coincidentally went on vacation the very next day. Since returning, I haven't felt much of an urge to talk about the series, but I think it deserves a full wrap up.
As I said in the previous recap, I just don't like this version of Johnny. He comes across as off in all the wrong ways. James Franco actually directed this episode and I think he did a decent job with keeping the tension high as Johnny keeps Jake and Sadie hostage, but once again the writing fails them. Because the mini-series added Bill to the equation, he gets to go and see if Oswald did in fact shoot at Walker, whereas Sadie being in danger was enough to prevent Jake in the book. Distracting him by making him think he sees his dead sister coming out of the church both makes sense and worked fairly well in execution.
In which the mini-series really goes off the rails. Remember how time is supposed to be really resistant to change of any kind? Because the writers sure didn't remember. Inserting Bill so thoroughly into the Oswalds lives should be problematic not just for Jake but for everything. You can't position him as the potential second shooter because without Jake, Bill would not be in Texas. It's not like the past goes "oh ok, let's course correct and use this dude now." It should be stopping Bill just as much as it's stopping Jake. But they really wanted to play with the idea that Jake could be also causing it all to happen instead, so we get Bill somehow both messing around with a guy's wife and also becoming his new best friend. Sure, that seems logical and something a severely paranoid person like Oswald would allow to happen.
On top of that, the yellow card man arriving and seeming to willingly mess with Sadie's surgery also doesn't make sense. Given what we learn about him later, why does the past need him to do this? Couldn't the mechanics fail regardless? He's there for Jake to have someone to react to and jump in, I guess, but once again it's a poor writing decision that could have been handled better.
This largely feels like a waste of an episode. While there certainly needs to be some time where Jake can't remember his mission, it just feels like it goes on too long. And on top of that, after sentencing poor Bill to a mental asylum now that Sadie knows the truth and Jake has someone else to bounce off of, they decide that's not enough and have him commit suicide. The one thing I did like about this episode is the encounter with Oswald and how Jake is all set to kill him until he sees the baby in his arms.
Having gotten rid of nearly everything that led the mini-series off the rails, we now return to a very close adaptation of the book. I will say though that after the ultra-theatrical elements we got in the first episode, it's a shame that the past wasn't nearly as dramatic here. It's like they spent all their budget on that stuff in the beginning and didn't have enough left for the final confrontation, when it should be the most explosive.
I also really didn't understand what was going on with the yellow card man and how he appears in the car with Jake taking Sadie's place all of the sudden. Was that supposed to be a dream? It's radically different from everything else we've seen so far. Changing him to a man stuck in a loop who has learned he can't fix everything is a fine change, and helps to say out loud some of the things that might otherwise be done by Jake talking to himself. But it also just doesn't seem to click with what happened in episode 6. Why is he spending all this time following Jake and trying to mess up his life rather than helping his daughter or just flat out going home? Why didn't he just tell him all this stuff sooner?
The messed up future is highly simplified, but I largely expected that. I'll admit not being totally brushed up on 60s and 70s American history so some of the stuff in the book flew over my head too. King presented it as plausible, but I didn't know enough about the players to know how realistic he was being. Drilling it down to nuclear bombs being dropped in the midst of the cold war is really all we need to know.
Adding in a moment where Jake seems like he may stay in the past with Sadie makes sense, though having her just happen to be there right in the town at the moment he goes back through the portal feels a little convenient. She also shouldn't be so open to him, but I get the idea they were going for about how the two of them have a connection that seems to stretch across the alternate realities. The final moments when he sees her again as an old lady were also really sweet and similar to how they felt in the book.
So now that it's all said and done, do I recommend this series? I don't think it's any surprise that my answer is no. I find myself baffled to see so many people online, King included, praising it and calling it a good adaptation. The writing is poor and makes the characters come off as stupid far too often. If you're going to use Bill, give him a good reason to follow Jake. Even better, forget Bill and bring Sadie into the equation even sooner, helping to build their relationship and make it that much stronger. Then Jake has someone to bounce off of that you don't have to kill off towards the end.