11.22.63 episode 2: I'm Hooked

11.22.63 is quickly becoming one of my favorite Stephen King adaptations.  I’m almost scared to like it as much as I do.  Last time I really fell in love with a Stephen King series, it was Under The Dome – and that went LOST on us.

The required spoiler alert:

Hey, you, before you read this. . .
I talk about stuff on my blog.  Gasp.  So if you haven't seen 11.22.63, you should go watch it before you listen in on me talking about it, because it might "spoil" it for you.  I'm telling you this because some of you are rediculously sensitive about not having the storyline given away.  Hey, I have an idea: Don't read posts about stories you haven't read yet.  Glad I could help.  On with the discussion. .

A few quick observations:

The Trade:
The movie and the book trade slaps.  Track with me. . .
In the book, I was blown away when Jake first sees the “colored” bathroom sign.  You can read about that experience HERE.  But that scene did not have the same impact on me when it happened on screen.  In fact, that scene just kind of flowed by.

However, I still got slapped in the face by the television show.  It’s when the boys pin Harry down and spit on him. Something in me bristled; got angry.  (And anger is what I felt when I first read that scene where Jake encounters colored restrooms.)

Welcome to the 60's:
The CafĂ© Harry goes to is incredible.  I mean, it’s so authentic.  Once again, I feel like I’m there.  The counter, the wall paper, the comic book stand; it feels right.  And, Jake sticks out – it’s obvious he doesn’t belong to this world. It speaks volumes that they could recreate the world of 1960, because that world is gone.  Everyone in these scenes, they’re not really from 1960 – they’re from 2016.  (Well, 15) But all of them drop into character so well, that even as Jake tries to look the part, he still doesn’t fit in.  The very fact that Jake sticks out builds our confidence that we really have been taken back to 1960.

Over Religious:

The lady interviewing Jake for a room is way over the top!  Maybe people were really like that back then – but she’s what Solomon was talking about when he said “do not be overrighteous.” (Eccl 7:16)   Bet-ja didn’t know that was in the Bible!  There seems to be one of these in every Stephen King book.

Does anyone like that picture of Jesus she has on her wall?  Apparently it was paramount to his mugshot for many years.


Jake show quick thinking when asked what unit he served with in Korea.  MASH, 4077.  BRILLIANT!  I really like the old guys comment, “There’s no such thing as a war hero.”  It’s the kind of thing only a war hero can say.  “The last thing you can say about killing a man is that it’s brave.”  I like that line, not because our troops aren’t brave, but because it so perfectly describes how so many of them feel coming home from war.  Conflicted.  They were sent to do a job, and they did it. And they want to be recognized and honored by their nation for serving and doing a difficult thing.

Up Close And Personal:
I think the scenes with Frank – in fact the entire storyline with Harry – is far superior to the book.  There is a new layer of detail here that wasn’t in the book.  We get a lot more up close and personal with Frank.  There’s much greater tension.  And, Jake’‘s a lot dumber! – and that’s good  It feels more real because Jake is making bonehead mistakes any of us would make.

Repost: Stephen King Slapped My Face

(REPOSTED from my 11.22.63 journal, December 8, 2011.)

Stephen King slapped my face a few days ago.  It hurt a lot.

There I was, happily bopping through the late 1950's with Mr. King narrating away at about 80 miles an hour.  I'm loving 11.22.63, and the blast from the past is a joy.  Root beer, short hair, ties -- we'd all want to go back, right?  Even the cars are something to long for.  And about the time King has you totally off guard, thinking sentimentally about a by-gone era. . . WHAM!  King gives a big, open handed slap to the face.  Not a girly slap; a hard, "WAKE UP, FOOL!" slap.

I grew up in the 80's -- in California.  I was a white in a mostly black high school.  Race relations could be tense at times.  My senior year was the Rodney King riots, and it seemed like everything erupted in the Los Angeles area.  But my best friend was black, and somehow we navigated through some rough waters.  There was bad stuff going on around us, but for the most part we came out untouched.  My mom has said she was glad for my friend, because it protected me from bitterness.

Any tension in 1980's California cannot compare to what was happening in 1959.

As we bop happily along through the novel, King describes a stop at a gas station.  There's a men's and women's restroom, and then a sign for blacks with an arrow.  Follow the arrow around the corner, and you'll discover there are no indoor restrooms for blacks.  I'll not share the exact nature of the indignity, King does it better than I can -- but it made me angry.  Partly because it's not the world I come from.  And partly because it IS the world I come from!  Our entire nation has been touched by generations of racism.  When King describes the bathroom situation at the gas station, it evokes a righteous rage.  "That is SO WRONG!"

We exist in boxes; our eyes covered.  Racism is a thing of the past, it doesn't affect us -- right?  But when I felt that sudden anger at someone being forced to go to the bathroom outside, some things started to make sense.  The anger in the students around me as I grew up.  It didn't make sense at the time.  Why were they angry -- things were better for them than they had been for the last generation, right?  But the arm of injustice has a long reach.

Injustice, racism, hate can't be cut off in just one generation.  We live with the scars.

Out culture and teachers have tried to slap us, but usually it didn't sting as bad as it needed to.  Movies like "Driving Miss. Daisy" are painful, but sweet.  King doesn't give any sweet to his open handed smack.  I remember reading Native Son in high school about a black man who accidentally killed a white girl, burned her body, and went to the electric chair.  That novel provoked the desired uncomfortable discussions in English class, but it did not deliver the sudden, unexpected, slap that 11/22/63 gave me. Even movies that drive the point home, like The Help, don't really slap you.  Because you see it coming!  But King doesn't announce he's gong to slap your face.  Of course, everyone should know at some point he's going to edge up on racism -- but when he catches you off guard and causes emotions to rush, it's both painful and a joy.


King sometimes shows us things from our own culture we don't like so much.  The angry, cussing, racist Baptist landlord we encounter in Dallas disgusted me.  That's outside my experience with Baptist (for the most part.  Anyone who has done ministry for long has encountered some pretty angry people).  I go to a racially mixed church (whites, blacks, Hispanics Asians).  Baptist would be quick to point out that Dr. King was a Baptist, as were many civil rights leaders.  Billy Graham, who publicly took a stand against racism by personally removing the ropes that separated whites and blacks  in his meetings was a Baptist.  But that's not the whole story, is it?

I don't like the cussing, angry, nasty racist landlord being a Baptist. I would rather focus on the positives!  The MLK's, the Graham's and so on.  For a moment I found myself frustrated with King's writing.  It seems he often chooses the Baptist to be the racist (Reverend Rose in Needful things is an example -- only he hated Catholics).  And at least with rose, the character is not well developed.  He just hates.  But in 11.22.63, things feel a little more real.  These feel like people you might actually meet somewhere.  Not just a caricature -- but a true step back in history.  And if I could go back in time, I'd like to take a swing at that landlord!

Thank You

So I'd thank King for the slap in the face.  Thank him for making it hurt.  For stirring emotions I've actually never felt; not very deeply.  Because I don't live in a culture where racism is so openly practiced, but we do live with the scars.  But people respond to one another based on their scars, and we don't always understand why they act the way they do.

11.22.63, episode 1 More

Watched episode one again with my kids.  Of course, on second watch, noticed a few things.  I should note that I've not read anything others have said or written about the show.  So people are probably finding Easter eggs all over the place, and they're just whizzing by me.

First, this is just interesting: When Jake went into the closet and stepped into another world, my daughter looks up from the sofa she's laying on and says, "Wow, that's just like Narnia."  Narnia, I question.  "Yeah, you know -- the Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe.  They go through a closet into another world."

I also liked how Jake said he was the presidents number one fan.  Has Jake been reading Misery?

The movie does a nice job making time itself Jakes real enemy.  I don't know how to say it, but it seems time is an unseen shadow always lurking nearby.  Sometimes it takes on physical form to tell him to go away.  It's always there!  Time tries to mess up his plans, burn him or even run him over when he tries to call his dad.  Time protects itself from the time travelers.  Making me all the more curious -- how did the rabbit hole get created.  I really need to know.

Finally, all the work trying to figure out if Oswald is really one who wants JFK dead is pointless.  A lot of running around -- when there's a much easier way to figure it out.  Just kill Oswald in the airport, jump forward in time and see if JFK was still murdered.  If he lived. . . they got their man.  If he still died, then there's more to the mystery.  -- You're welcome.

11.22.63 Takes Off

I got HULU today for one reason: 11.22.63.  And I love it.  The movie, not HULU.

The movie brings the book to life in brilliant color.  There are some things that can’t really be brought to the screen.  Jack can tell us food tastes better, but King made me taste the root-beer float.  I don’t know how; but he touched my senses beyond just seeing it in my minds eye; I tasted it.  All they can do on TV is tell us that food tastes better.

Whit the television show accomplishes is it takes us back to the 1960's with amazing detail.  Like the novel, I “buy” it because it feels right.  This isn’t a plastic version of the 60's; a cheap set to move actors around on – this actually feels like the world of the 60's.  (Well, late 50's.)

What the movie can do that the book couldn’t is more than just visual No doubt, they have done an outstanding job visually.  But a book can’t really have a sound track.

I am still struck by the unimportance of the “HOW” for Stephen King – or this story.  HOW does a closet send you back in time?  King is interested in the “what if” not one bit in the how.  King, and the writers of the script, seem to say to us, “yeah, yeah, yeah, so what if we don’t know anything about how this closet sends you back in time.  Just suppose it did, then what?”

  • But why does it go back to that date?
  • What was in that space previously?
  • What caused that spot to become a time portal?
  • Has it always been a time portal?
  • Did it used to go back to a different date?
  • Are there other time portals?

None of these questions are of any interest to Stephen King.  But shouldn’t . . . someone . . . be asking this?  Maybe Jake?  Before you go diving a time machine, shouldn’t you ask how it works?  Some basic rules are given to us.  For instance, every time you go through again, you re-set everything you previously changed; suggesting that there is a “true” timeline that everything actually adheres to.  There are not endless timelines.  There is standard time – and it is possible to deviate.  However, things always return to standard time.

My favorite line from episode 1: Time pushes back.  (The book used the word obdurate.)  And, "You don't belong here."

Is it worth a HULU subscription?  Well, for me, yeah.  Absolutely.
Episode 1 is titled: The Rabbit Hole
11.22.63 plays every Monday.

11.22.63 Behind The Scenes

I like this line, "It's like the furnishings of your head brought to life."