Monday, April 4, 2016

REVIEW: '11.22.63' - Jake Reaches the End of His Mission and Faces Devastating Consequences in 'Part 8: The Day in Question'

Hulu's 11.22.63 - Episode 1.08 "Part 8: The Day in Question"

It is November 22, 1963. Jake and Sadie will have to reckon with history - and the past.

After a long and twisty journey, 11.22.63 has finally reached that fateful day in Dallas where Lee Harvey Oswald assassinates President John F. Kennedy. Jake has had plenty of complications along the way. Some of them have been far more interesting than others. But nevertheless, it's a race against the clock for Jake and Sadie to stop Lee before he can pull the fatal trigger. "The Day in Question" is a very tense conclusion to the mission Jake set out to do. It's a journey that has been very personally rewarding and devastating. He has made many mistakes along the way. He has killed and put many innocent people in harm's way. But he has also found love and a purpose that has made this whole experience very meaningful.

However, Jake traveled to the past on a mission. He took it upon himself to do the one thing that Al couldn't do. He had to uncover the truth about what happened that day in Dallas and stop it from happening. Al wanted to make a better future that would save countless lives. Jake took up the mantel of this mission as a way to honor his fallen friend. Along the way, he has questioned whether or not it was all worth it. The past doesn't want to be changed and is pushing back as hard as it can. It has been a very difficult journey for Jake. And yet, he still got acquainted with this world and made a life for himself that was much more genuine and meaningful than the world he left behind in 2016.

Jake was in a place that he didn't belong for the entire time he stayed in the past. And yet, the world of 1960 was a world that allowed him to have a life, build friendships and find love. He had purpose with the mission. But he also had so much happiness with the life he made for himself in Jodie, Texas. He had a solid job as an English teacher and a fantastic relationship the school librarian, Sadie. He made friends and formed connections that would stay with him for the rest of his life. He was happy in this world. And yet, the demands of the mission forced him to walk away from all of this. At the end of the day, Jake was still in this time for a reason. He was determined to stop the Kennedy assassination and create a future that was better than the one he left.

This entire finale is about the consequences of meddling with the past. Jake is successful in his venture of stopping Lee and keeping JFK alive long enough to make a serious difference in this world. It took him until the very last second to be successful though. So much happened over the three years he spent in the past. He didn't go into action until he was certain about what would happen. And now, he is certain that Lee was working alone. The show hasn't always done a great job of depicting what was happening in Lee's head during the time. He was desperate to have a family and show his potential to the world. But how that manifested into his murderous ways felt more like a recreation of history than any kind of personal motivation. But still it's a meaningful fight when Jake steps in to disrupt history and ultimately pays a very heavy price because of it.

Jake told Sadie the truth about himself. He was honest with her and she continued to love him. Their love story was as meaningful - if not more so - as Jake's main mission to stop Lee. Jake didn't travel to the past hoping to find love. But it's what happened. He opened himself up to Sadie and she was determined to help him follow through with this mission. Jake was willing to give it all up in order to have a perfect life with Sadie. That's something they could have had too. Jake would always be out of place in time. But his love for Sadie trumped any kind of consequences his presence might have in the timeline. And yet, those consequences proved to be quite lethal in the end. As long as Jake pursued this relationship, Sadie would be destined to die. She wanted to be a part of this mission and Jake let her in. She was there during Jake and Lee's big confrontation and gets shot in the crossfire. It's devastating for Jake to stand over her and not be able to do anything to save her.

In the aftermath of the assassination attempt, all Jake wants is to be with Sadie. He doesn't care about what the repercussions of stopping Lee will have on the timeline. All he wants is to continue living a happy life with Sadie. That's what he ultimately cares about with his life in the sixties. He eventually has to go through the process of both blame and praise being thrusted upon him for the shooting. He continues to mystify law enforcement - though the FBI isn't as clean and well-meaning as they might seem either. But again, so much of that is Jake having the knowledge to explain his actions and get out of this mess unharmed. He's successful at it too. He is a hero in this story. And yet, he doesn't feel like one. He may have saved the President and countless other lives but in the process he lost the woman he loved. It's a devastating twist to happen and one that he immediately wants to undo.

It's easy for Jake to make that decision too. He is determined to fix everything. He knows enough now to get everything done in a simpler way the second time around. He wants a life with Sadie so much that he's willing to risk more time consequences just to make it happen. But again, the timeline has more disastrous reveals waiting for Jake. When he returns to 2016, it's not a happy existence he was hoping for. In fact, it's very desolate. The world is not better because Kennedy survived the assassination. A whole new world of problems came forth and destroyed this reality. No matter what happened, the future was always destined to be problematic and chaotic. The show probably overdramatizes things a little bit. But it still makes for quite the image about the pointlessness of this entire mission. Jake succeeded where Al failed. And yet, it didn't make a difference at all. All of Al's hopes and dreams are crushed.

But Jake is still determined to fix all of this by being with Sadie. If anything comes from this mission, it will be having her in his life. He resets the timeline once more and is desperate to make Sadie fall in love with him all over again. And yet, he is still a man out of place in time. He had three wonderful years with Sadie. They were the happiest he has ever been in his life. But they were also years filled with constant peril. In the end, it may not be worth it to try to make this life work. Despite his feelings, Jake needs to let Sadie go and live her life as a woman of her own time. He has the luxury of being able to see what her life ultimately becomes because of that decision. He returns home hoping that Sadie was able to live a happy life. Fortunately, she does. She is still living in Jodie and is being honored with a very prestigious award. She has made a life for herself and has touched so many lives in the process. No one will ever know what Sadie meant to Jake. And yet, his entire life changed because of his decision to travel to the past. He didn't change anything. But his life was changed. He found happiness and love. But he also allowed happiness to be in many other people's lives as well. 

Some more thoughts:
  • "Part 8: The Day in Question" was written by Bridget Carpenter and directed by James Strong.
  • It is interesting to see Jake essentially step into Lee's place in history. Lee still takes that first shot and misses. Jake kills him eventually but law enforcement still wants answers and looks at Jake as a likely suspect. Jake's knowledge of the past helps him in this situation while further building up the mystery of these events.
  • Constance Towers plays Sadie in 2016 and is pretty delightful. This season was about the love story between Jake and Sadie. While this version of Sadie has no knowledge of Jake, it's still so nice to see the two being able to share a nice and lovely moment together in a place in time where they both belong.
  • The past really does pull out all of the stops in trying to keep Jake and Sadie from getting to Lee on time. It's at its most meaningful when the two see figures from the past who they've killed in order to get to this point. It's shocking and further amps up the tension for this sequence.
  • Harry was an important person in Jake's life in 2016. So, it was very nice to get an update on how his life changed because of what Jake did. Jake killed Frank in order to make Harry's life better. But ultimately, Harry's life was still miserable and depressing no matter what happened. It's sad but it's still rewarding to see Jake and Harry share a moment together once Jake completely resets things.
  • This show has had a number of really great performances. But ultimately, so much of it worked because of how great James Franco and Sarah Gadon were as Jake and Sadie. They made that love story work and made every twist involving it in this finale so emotional to watch.