Suddenly it’s six months later; it’s 10-16-63… crunch time. Jake Amberson (James Franco) has just over a month (and only two TV episodes) left to prevent the assassination of John F. Kennedy. I’m sure since we saw him last, he’s been busy putting the final touches on his plan. Actually, as we learn in episode six, Happy Birthday, Lee Harvey Oswald, he hasn’t. Instead, he’s been nursing Sadie (Sarah Gadon) back to health following the beating by her ex-husband.
Jake has been the ultimate procrastinator, but at least in this episode he realizes the mistakes he’s made by not focusing on the matter at hand. He learns that perpetual thorn in his side, Bill (George MacKay), has not only fallen in love with Marina Oswald (Lucy Fry), but has also become the best friend of her husband, Lee Harvey Oswald (Daniel Webber). For the first time in the series, though, I sympathize with Bill…
Who can blame the young man for going rogue when he’s been left unsupervised for so long? Why did Jake ever think he could trust him, anyway? Plus, from his naïve perspective, maybe they’ve already changed the future. When Jake confronts him, Bill floats this idea, but it’s quickly denied. Bill asks, “If not, why can’t we kill Lee now?” Jake responds, “That would give George time to recruit another assassin.”
Ultimately, Jake surprises George (Jonny Coyne) from the back seat of his car and asks him point blank who else is involved in the plot to kill Kennedy. George’s denial is strong enough to convince Jake that Lee is going to act alone and all he has to do is kill him. Man, it took a long time getting here! Still, though, as he calls to tell Sadie this news, the one thing on his mind is a marriage proposal.
In between those two events, Jake spies Bill and Lee playing with guns and asks himself if Bill could be the second shooter. Is this one of those fascinating twists that happens in time travel stories? Or does it make sense? Bill would never have been in Dallas had it not been for Jake. Unless Jake is caught in a loop where he has always been there himself, doing this over and over again… there’s the headache that always comes if you think about these things too hard.
It’s best not to think about 11.22.63 too hard. In an 849-page Stephen King book, you can fully contemplate such things, but in an 8-episode miniseries that has chosen to focus more on Jake’s distractions than his mission, you cannot. This is as good an episode as any of them have been, with a seemingly insurmountable cliffhanger. However, strung all together (so far), the series just doesn’t match the page-turning excitement of the original material.