11.22.63 S01E02 “The Killing Floor” REVIEW

11.22.63 S01E02 “The Killing Floor” review

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stars 4

Airing in UK on FOX, Sundays, 9pm
Writers: Bridget Carpenter, Quinton Peeples, based on novel by Stephen King
Director: Frederic OE Toye)

 

Essential Plot Points

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  • The episode opens with an unsettling scene of young Harry being bullied by other children.
  • Jake stays in a new boarding house in Harry’s home town. He’s here looking for Harry’s father, Frank.
  • Jake meets Frank at the local bar after seeing him bullying the bartender with his friends.
  • Frank takes Jake to the slaughter house owned by his father.
  • Jake tries to rescue Harry, his mother and his siblings from the abusive Frank by telling them they’ve won free tickets to a special event in a competition.
  • Frank turns up at the boarding house and takes Jake to his butcher shop. He beats Jake up because he thinks he’s trying to chat up his wife (he’s found out about the tickets and isn’t happy about it).
  • Jake buys a gun to kill Frank.
  • Jake gets sick because the past is fighting back.
  • Jake tells the bartender that he’s from the future.
  • There’s a brutal fight between Jake and Frank – Jake ends it by killing Frank.
  • Jake flees in his car but stops at the side of the road.
  • The episode ends with the bartender approaching Frank clutching a newspaper clipping depicting JFK’s death, and demanding to know what’s going on.

 

Review:

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The creeping tension established in the first episode of 11.22.63 is carried over here and is the main ingredient that makes the second episode a huge improvement on the first. There are also some standout performances that make it a thoughtful and engaging episode. The action begins with a disturbing scene in which a young Harry (the janitor from the first episode) is being pursued by bullies who spit in his mouth and take away his trousers, forcing him to walk half-dressed down the high street. Notably none of the onlookers ask after him. Immediately the show begins to reflect on how time and social norms have changed; this kind of abuse today would have the perpetrators shamed on social media and given some kind of juvenile criminal order. But this was a different time and this scene foreshadows events later in the episode.

The introduction of Harry’s father Frank (played by Josh Duhamel) at the end of the first episode already set him up as a villain but it is only in this episode where his psychotic and abusive nature is fully explored. Jake meets Frank in the local bar in Harry’s hometown where his entrance is preceded by his gang of brainless bullies tormenting the bartender who we later find out to be one of Frank’s victims. The scene neatly echoes the episode’s opening and sets up a particularly effective tracking shot of the back of Frank’s head as he slowly plods into the scene.

At first Frank is charming and charismatic which definitely adds a level of authenticity to the character but things take a turn for the Stephen King when Frank decides to show Jake his father’s slaughterhouse. The scenes that follow are particularly affecting, as there is something terrifying about the way Frank is excited to an almost child-like degree to be showing a terrified Jake the gruesome innards of the slaughter house. The Hide Room is vintage Stephen King horror and it is shot accordingly, the lingering shots of flies buzzing around piles of bloody cow hides make this a particularly disturbing sequence ending with Frank mercilessly killing a cow with a sledge hammer blow to the head.

Some other stand-out moments involve Jake’s interactions with the Prices, the couple he stays with. His introduction to Edna (played by Annette O’Toole) and her rules as well as their farewell demonstrates the looser social contract of that time and it is shown to be both a good and bad thing. But perhaps more significant is the moment where Arliss Price (played by Michael O’Neill) tells of his time serving in WW2, which has clearly traumatised him, and this serves as a reminder that this is a time where the horrors of war are still fresh in the public consciousness before the discovery of PTST.

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Jake’s character is further explored in this episode in several ways. His appalled reaction to Frank’s behaviour serves to justify his eventual decision to kill Frank despite that decision being a little ridiculous given how much it jeopardises his mission. But this is an aspect of Jake’s development that may become a feature for the series, in that perhaps he is enjoying the freedom time travel has granted him? Jake’s resourcefulness is also demonstrated in the lie he tells to Arliss about serving in the army by referencing the TV show M.A.S.H. and the way he invents a competition to help Frank’s wife and children escape.

Ultimately Jake’s plan fails and following a beating from Frank, Jake buys a gun, which was even easier in 1960s America, But then he contracts food poisoning as the past tries to stop him. Hopefully as the series progresses the past will throw even more at Jake because this aspect of the show really adds tension to the narrative whenever it is introduced.

Before entering Frank’s house for the final confrontation the Bartender tries to stop Jake only for Jake to pull his gun on him and tell him he’s from the future. This is the first time Jake has told this to anyone and it will be interesting to see what effect that has in later episodes. The episode ends with a brutal fight between Jake and Frank, which Jake wins by shooting Frank and fleeing, only for his newspaper clipping of Kennedy’s death to be discovered by the Bartender.

It’s an excellent cliffhanger that plays to the show’s strengths – equal part high stakes and exposition. It certainly make you want to come back for more.

 

The Good:

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  • It’s incredibly tense.
  • There are some great performances, particularly from Josh Duhamel.
  • Time is fighting back again – more of this please.
  • The whole of the Slaughterhouse sequence is so authentically Stephen King and dead creepy.
  • The episode ends on a great cliffhanger.

 

The Bad:

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  • Jake’s decision to kill Frank seems a bit illogical.
  • We still haven’t really seen what motivates Jake yet. Maybe if we did, we’d understand his need to kill Frank, because at the moment it just feels like a detour from the real mission.
  • Some of Frank’s bully mates don’t give the most convincing performances.

 

And The Random:

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  • There’s a pronounced The Flash comic in the background of the drug store. He’s another another time traveller. Easter egg?
  • Plus, all the comics on the rack were DC comics which may have something to do with the fact the Warners Bros who make the show also own DC .
  • The M.A.S.H. reference Jake uses to lie about being in the army is sublime.
  • Was that blood on the doorframe when Jake does survey bit with Frank’s wife? Just out of shot, which is scary but subtle set dressing.

Review by Ned Newberry


 

Read our other reviews of 11.22.63

 

 

 

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