Here’s what we learned on this week’s episode of 11.22.63: 1) Jake and Bill are still deep in their investigation of Lee Harvey Oswald, using their bugging equipment to listen in on his private conversations as they try to figure out whether or not he’s the assassin they suspect him of being; 2) Bill is in love with Oswald’s wife, Marguerite, which will probably lead to nothing good; and 3) Jake’s mission and his relationship with Sadie are not peacefully coexisting with one another. The common thread between all three? We knew all of this by the end of last week’s episode, too. And so the central problem with this show is rearing its ugly head: is even a limited, eight-episode run too much time for the story being told? Take away the time travel and other supernatural elements, make this about two guys investigating some random defector agitator and his alleged ties to extremism, and maybe there’d be more tension. As it is, though, we know, historically, that Oswald probably (I have to say probably for the benefit of the insane among us) killed Kennedy; at the very least, he was mentally unhinged and prone to violence. And so all the scenes of Bill and Jake looking on with wide-eyed horror as they hear Lee and his cohort George have yet another conversation about the evils of American Fascism leave the viewer thinking, Yes, and? Because this is going to end one of two ways: either Jake is going to kill Oswald, or he isn’t. And the journey to that final will-he-or-won’t-he is dangerously toeing the line of making it impossible for the viewer to care one way or the other. It brings to mind, in stark juxtaposition, the recent X-Files revival. There, too, was a limited series run (only six episodes in that case). The central mystery? (spoiler alert for the rest of this paragraph, I guess?) Has the American government been impersonating extraterrestrial beings in order to experiment on humans and put in motion their own nefarious world domination plans? The idea was teased in episode one, more fully fleshed out in episode two, and then…abandoned until the finale. And it was great, because with the particulars of our overarching plot established, the show was free to take on a monster-of-the-week format that worked so incredibly well. 11.22.63 would benefit from something similar; and I’m not just the casual critic saying, “Hey guys, here’s how I’d do it!” because the show itself tested the mystery-of-the-week format in episode two, the whole of which consisted of Jake trying to prevent a murder that would forever scar one of his future students. It was self-contained, which allowed the tension to build at a quick clip without any unnecessary filler, yet it also existed within the same universe of the narrative as a whole. It also just so happened to be, by far, the best episode 11.22.63 has aired. The other unfortunate development we’re treated to is how the few female characters present continue to be defined almost solely by their romantic ties to male characters. Sadie has no identity outside her interactions with Jake and her abusive ex-husband, just recently arrived in town to torment her anew, and Oswald’s wife is just that: Oswald’s wife, and (unfortunately) nothing more. How much better it would be to explore these characters to the depth they deserve—to dig deeper into what it’s like for Sadie to be an independent-minded woman in the ‘60s, bravely struggling against the societal norms of the day while trying to make a new life for herself and fighting the stigma of—gasp!—being divorced, or to really allow us to contemplate Marguerite’s life before she married a (very possibly….okay, probably) psychopathic American expat with dreams of homicidal revolution—but instead they are only women with no agency outside their relationships to men. In fact, the only female character this show has given us who isn’t defined by her relationship with men is Miss Mimi, the African-American secretary at Jake’s school. And guess what? Given her own personal agency, she’s also the only compelling female character. I don’t really see that as being coincidence. Perhaps that’s not an entirely fair criticism. Perhaps none of this is. Because, indeed, many, many shows suffer from many of the same problems that are increasingly plaguing 11.22.63. But with the pedigree and the expectations this show has to its benefit, it could have been so much more. Stephen King, author of the source material, is one of the most prolific writers in American history. James Franco, crazy-pants post-modern auteur he is, has become one of the most fascinating actors of our generation. And J.J. Abrams, producer here, is currently in charge of the biggest movie franchise in the world, and also his stamp on the recently released, incredibly well-received, Cloverfield sequel. And yet, with all those great talents together, we get…this? Don’t get me wrong—I am still fully prepared for the possibility that, sometime in the next few weeks, the ship gets righted. But even if that turns out to be the case, even if episodes 5 – 8 turn out to be the most compelling television of the year, these two most recent episodes are going to stand out as supreme disappointments, repetitive, and, worst of all, boring. Share this:TweetShare on TumblrLike this:Like Loading... Related Leave a Reply Cancel ReplyYou must be logged in to post a comment.