11.22.63 S01E07 “Soldier Boy”
Airing in UK on FOX, Sundays, 9pm
Writer: Bridget Carpenter and Quinton Peeples, based on the novel by Stephen King
Director: James Kent
Essential Plot Points
- It’s 11.05.63 18 days till JFK’s assassination.
- Jake still has memory loss.
- Jake has a vision of Al calling him a disappointment.
- Time jumps to 11.07.63. Still little improvement (by which we may mean in Jake’s condition or we may mean in the quality of the episode)
- Time Jumps to 11.12.63.
- Oswald goes to the FBI offices to leave a document for the agent who has been following him.
- While Jake was in hospital Miss Mimi died.
- Jake finally remembers what he did to Bill. He and Sadie go to discharge him from a mental hospital.
- Bill kills himself by jumping out of a window.
- Sadie and Jake meet Oswald to try and get Jake’s memory back about the mission.
- Jake remembers who Oswald is but doesn’t go through with killing him because he has his baby with him.
- Jake plans to steal Oswald’s gun but he and Sadie can’t find it.
While waiting to ambush Oswald, Jake has a “meeting” with the Yellow Card Man.
- The Yellow Card Man also seems to be a time traveller and he tells Jake to go home.
- Oswald lines up his shot in the book repository.
The penultimate episode of 11.22.63 fails to provide the payoff you want at this point in the narrative and instead relies on a cheap trick to pad out the series by an episode.
Jake lies semi-conscious in hospital where he was left after being beaten up at the end of the previous episode. Again, he is haunted by visions of the future and as if it weren’t obvious from the last episode Jake’s mind is fractured between past and future (though quite what bearing this has on anything is never explored – it just makes you wonder if the series is going off an entire new tangent and turning into Life On Mars). The damage is so severe, in fact, that Jake has a vision of Al who tells him what a disappointment he is.
When he does wake up, Jake has lost his memory, a cheap narrative ploy in any story, but especially so here. It’s clearly supposed to be adding tension as the date of JFK’s assassination nears – will Jake remember what his plan was before Lee pulls the trigger? Instead it just adds irritation.
A potentially interesting scene could have been when Jake and Sadie visit the psychiatric facility where Bill has been moved to. Mentally ill patients, who are suffering the effects of what counted for mental health treatmen in the ’60s, shamble around like the title stars of another tv show that knows all about dragging things out. This scene could have been used to capture some of the same disturbing qualities of the slaughterhouse or Johnny’s hostage taking. Instead it feels all too rushed as we get a very brief glimpse of the near-vegetable Bill has become following electro shock therapy (and – judging by the scar on his head – some kind of lobotomy?). He’s played well by George Mackay, his blank stare showing how zombified he is, yet at the same time he’s clearly horrified by Jake’s betrayal. But there’s no time to explore this because Bill’s out the window and plummeting to his death before he can add any interesting developments to the narrative. Bye Bill.
After a lonely funeral for Bill attended by only Jake and Sadie by an unmarked grave there follows a rather uninspiring sequence of scenes showing Jake struggling with his memory loss. There is one interesting scene when Oswald sees the motorcade route for JFK printed in a newspaper. This is notable because it serves as a reminder that this is still an America free of the heavy security and paranoia that became prevalent in the Nixon years and is even more relevant today.
Jake develops a brief pill addiction, which is quashed with some tough love form Sadie and just like that, Jake’s back on the case. Well, sort of. There’s still that pesky memory loss problem. So like any sensible person who knows their time traveling boyfriend is after a murderer who’s going to kill the president, Sadie decides it’s a good idea to ask around in Fort Worth about Jake. Thanks to a convenient memory resurfacing in Jake’s head they end up at the old apartment and bump into guess who? Why Lee Harvey Oswald of course!
This scene should have the tensest part of the episode but it ends up falling flat despite Jake’s memory returning. Jake goes for a knife in the kitchen but Oswald brings his baby in from the bedroom and Jake cannot carry it through.
Last episode proved that Oswald is acting alone and killing him will save JFK, yet here Jake come all over coy because of a baby? This is a man who has told numerous lies to further his quest and he’s killed two people, why wimp out now? It can’t be guilt about killing a father because he’s already killed one already. Jake’s moral ambiguity is less interesting now; it’s just become confusing and makes it hard to relate to Jake as a character.
Jake makes a new plan to steal Oswald’s gun and Sadie decides to go with him. Oswald and Marina finally hash things out and Mariana finally feels like a three dimensional character and has probably the best line of the episode in reply to Oswald’s declaration of knowing the right thing to do: “You think you do but you’re always wrong”. Meanwhile Jake and Sadie try to stake out the book repository where Oswald works but the past sends a pesky policeman to move them on. This is the dullest curve ball the past has thrown at Jake and almost feels tacked on in an attempt to make proceedings more interesting.
Jake finally admits that there is no one of importance to him in the future. Why does he keep having visions of his ex-wife then? Maybe he’s lying? Does it really matter at this point? Mercifully what follows is the appearance of the Yellow Card Man. This is the one, genuinely interesting part of this episode but this character’s payoff is barely delivered. The Yellow Card Man appears to be a time traveller as he tells a story about how he has been trying to save his daughter from dying but he has been unable to do it. He tells Jake to go home and then disappears or the vision ends, it’s unclear. This is the penultimate episode and the audience is still none the wiser as to who the Yellow Card Man is. So it’s the questions about him and the final shot of Oswald setting up his shot that gives you a reason for tuning in for the final episode.
Other than that, this episode almost calls for a switch off. Loose ends are tied up in an uninteresting ways and in some cases, didn’t need to be tied up at all. There are no stakes in this episode, something that this show has repeatedly relied upon because a lot of the main characters are so boring and difficult to relate to. A short series is no bad thing but this kind of incongruent padding is unforgivable in high-concept show like this that asks a lot of its audience already. The final episode has a lot to do to next week in order to provide give a satisfying conclusion to make putting up this show’s many shortcomings worthwhile.
- Marina finally gets her say.
- Some exposition on the Yellow Card Man
- Waste of Bill’s potential as a character.
- Nothing happened!!
- Memory loss is just a cheap narrative ploy.
- The guy who plays the Yellow Card Man (Kevin J O’Connor) was Benni, the weaselly bad guy in The Mummy (1999)!
- During his memory loss Jake gets Bill’s name wrong and calls him George which is the actor’s real name.
Review By Ned Newberry