Wednesday, 23 March 2016

Review - '11.22.63', Episode 6 - 'Happy Birthday, Lee Harvey Oswald'





Taking the opportunity to jump forward in time, once more, the sixth episode of 11.22.63 picks up six months after the attempted murder of Jake and Sadie, and Bill's failure to identify the shooter at the attempted assassination of General Edwin Walker. It also, interestingly enough, allowed the episode to skip over the immediate consequences of Jake's decision to reveal the truth to Sadie - moving ahead to a point in time where Jake has, presumably, managed to convince Sadie that he is actually from the future, and that he isn't simply crazy (while I'm not entirely sure I buy this sudden transition, I do have to admit that there is something endearing about Sadie's constant requests for Jake to tell her something about the future).

While they may have lost their only chance at a clear lead, Jake obviously isn't ready to give up - although, it seems that Bill might be.

Bill hasn't exactly been the most useful partner that Jake could have had - but, in the past, his earnest desire to help and his tragic back-story has, at least, made him a somewhat sympathetic figure. The impression that I have always had, regarding their partnership, is that Jake was motivated as much by this same sympathy as he was by the desire to have some back-up when he agreed to let Bill help. The previous episode ending with Bill's very genuine feelings of guilt and remorse about letting himself be distracted was also a strong moment for the character.

But, of course, that all changed with this episode - as, six months after his failure, Bill now seems to be barely invested in Jake's mission. With Jake spending most of his time off supporting Sadie in her gradual recovery, Bill seems to have taken it upon himself to reach out to the Oswald family - beginning a secret affair with Marina while, at the same time, developing an unexpected friendship with Lee Harvey Oswald, himself. Bill's complete lack of concern for the necessary secrecy of Jake's mission becomes so extreme that he was even willing to attend Lee Harvey Oswald's birthday party, at Marina's invitation.

Regardless of what Bill might have initially intended, it seems that he has become a complete liability to Jake's plan, at this point - even going as far as revealing the existence of one of the bugs they had placed on Oswald's home when he drunkenly knocks over a lamp.

Quite simply, Bill's behaviour throughout this episode was frustrating - both to Jake, and to the audience. Though, I also get the impression that it was intended to be. Jake's new-found belief that Bill could go on to become the mysterious 'second shooter', based on little more than overhearing the two having a conversation about guns, wasn't particularly convincing, though - and, his efforts to have Bill committed to a mental institution did feel like a somewhat unnecessary betrayal (although, with Bill's efforts to tell the truth as he was dragged away obviously making him sound crazy, it was a clever enough plan).

While Bill's arc throughout this episode might be the source of some frustration, there was still room for interesting developments when Jake finally felt compelled to confront George de Mohrenschildt (Jonny Coyne) directly. Rather than uncovering any details of a broader conspiracy, Jake instead finds a man who is deeply confused by the implication that there is any plan to assassinate John F. Kennedy - leaving Jake with the realisation that Lee Harvey Oswald might be working alone, after all.

But, Jake soon encounters further difficulties of his own, when his efforts to win the money he needed to cover the costs of Sadie's plastic surgery backfires on him. After placing a series of bets with a handful of different bookies, Jake is caught off guard when he learns that they all work for the same man - and, that that man isn't too happy to have lost so much money under such suspicious circumstances. It was an entertaining little twist - and, the beating that Jake experienced as a result was particularly brutal. But, the idea that this beating would also leave Jake with temporary amnesia so close to the end of the season felt like the most contrived attempt to inject extra drama that the show's creators could have come up with.

On a similarly note, too, we also had Time's latest efforts to push back against Jake earlier in the episode - when the mysterious figure from the first episode suddenly reappeared just as Sadie was about to enter surgery, leaving him convinced that something was about the go wrong. This entire sequence was suitably unnerving, as it became clear that whatever force it is that is working against Jake was quite willing to arrange Sadie's 'accidental' death - though, these new developments also had me wishing that 11.22.63 could have spent more than exploring these more supernatural aspects over the past few episodes. Who, exactly, is this strange man who keeps appearing to Jake, for example? The conspicuous manner in which he appeared to Jake, here, almost seemed to suggest that he was trying to warn Jake - as though, perhaps, he is actually on Jake's side. But, of course, we have no way of knowing that, at this point.

I am hopeful that there are still interesting developments to come, on this front - because, so far, the nature of this threat still feels frustratingly vague. I can only assume that Time's efforts to stop Jake are about to become much more overt, as we move toward the end.

Overall, this was a somewhat mixed episode. Jake and Sadie's relationship continues to provide a genuine emotional core to the series, which makes the two particularly engaging whenever they are on screen together. The central mystery of JFK's assassination remains interesting enough to hold the audience's attention - with Lee Harvey Oswald proving to be an increasingly complex and interesting figure, as the series progresses. But, Bill's role in this episode was extremely frustrating - both with regard to Bill's behaviour, and Jake's reaction to it. And, the more supernatural aspect of Time's continued (but, frustratingly vaguely defined) efforts to stop Jake really need to be explored in more detail before the season ends.

I am still hopeful that this is all building toward a suitably dramatic climax, though - but, I suppose I'll just have to wait and see, for now.

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