Flip a Coin
Forward: I am a huge fan of the book 11.22.63 on which this series is based. As I review this series, I will be judging the show on it’s own merits, leaving my criticism of the actual adaption to the last paragraph. That being said, you should all read the book because it’s already way better.
There’s a lot to like in this episode, but boy oh boy is there a lot to dislike. It’s always fascinating when you see a show nail one aspect of the story, but fall so flat on another. Jake dominated the screen from start to finish, whereas Bill made you want to jump out of a window.
After an eye-rolling introduction that failed to create a thematic bridge to the events in 1963, we finally see the fallout of Sadie’s discovering Jake’s recordings. She correctly deduces that he really is not just an English teacher, and the two split. This is immediately followed by Jake getting dismissed from Jodie High, as Jake’s personal life is too much of a liability for the school.
Jake is unhappy, but accepts this outcome because, at the end of the day, he’s there for JFK. When moving out some of his old crap, Sadie’s ex-husband Clayton gives him a call, telling him that some terrible things are happening to Sadie. Jake runs over to her house (demonstrating that James Franco looks weird when he runs) and discovers that Clayton has mutilated her face and is going to force him to drink bleach.
Everything about this scene is spot-on. It’s a tense, edge-of-your-seat standoff full of guns, broken glass, and dangerous chemicals. Clayton is unhinged and wants to do harm to these people, so Jake needs to play his cards well. Oh, and the entire standoff is done in one long take. The camera movement and framing is so subtle that you don’t even realize how long the shot is going for (something that makes the take all the more impressive). There is a bombastic conclusion to the scene, and, shocker, Jake and Sadie don’t die.
Jake then accompanies Sadie to the hospital and Deke stands up for him in front of the cops, clearly demonstrating his value and commitment to Sadie. Sadie pulls through the operation (after a really juvenile “We tried everything we could” fake-out) and Jake decides he needs to tell her the truth. Because of all this, Jake misses the assassination attempt on General Walker. This attempt was supposed to be Jake’s way of determining if Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone or was part of a larger conspiracy. Armed with the knowledge of Oswald’s solo activity, the two could take him out that night, rather than waiting for the day of Kennedy’s assassination. But with Jake in Jodie, Bill needs to witness the attempt himself.
Before all this, we are punished with a scene of Bill and Marina Oswald sharing a moment over cigarettes. It was incredibly shallow and didn’t carry too much weight for either of these B-level characters, so it was hard to see it as anything other than a way to pad the run time. When the assassination ultimately rolls around, Bill mistakes a passing woman as his long-dead sister, and he misses the attack. Of course, we know this mistake isn’t random…it’s the past trying to fight back.
The assassination attempt on Walker is, in essence, the subplot to the episode, while the romance in Jodie is the main story. That makes sense for us and for the drama, but it’s backwards in relation to how Jake’s priorities should be stacked. That’s fine, by the way, but worth noting. Jake doesn’t have his head in the game and things are coming to head soon. How will this all play out? Will Jake save America? Tune in next week…or just read the (vastly superior) book. Speaking of which…
As far as fidelity goes in this series, “The Truth” was one of the more faithful episodes so far. While the specifics are a bit hazy (how Clayton mutilated Sadie, how Jake deals with him), the core of the story is intact. Maybe that’s why I like this portion of the episode so much…the story was focused on what was important. That and, of course, the technical competence of the directing.
The Bill/Walker subplot was different by virtue of Bill not existing in this part of the story…everything came down to Jake juggling his responsibilities here and he failed to witness the attempt. In the story, Jake made a decision that protecting Sadie was more important than witnessing the attempt on Walker. That’s a perfectly fine decision for him to make, mind you, but it had a stronger effect in the book than in the series, because in the series he has a back-up to rely on. In the book, this was the beginning of Jake favoring the love of his life over the president’s life...
Alex Russo likes to talk about television. You can read more of his insane ramblings on Twitter.