Contains spoilers for the following episode of 11.22.63
11.22.63 Season 1, Episode 2 "The Kill Floor"
Aired on Monday, February 22
As I stated in last week's article, I had high hopes for Hulu's Stephen King adaptation of 11.22.63. Unfortunately, I was left deflated. I am a huge James Franco fan. I've seen him on Broadway, read his books, etc. (I even own one of his "selfie" sweatshirts), but throughout the entire show I was left wishing that the producers had cast someone else. His performance felt one dimensional.
I don't give up on shows though, so I settled in Monday night for "The Kill Floor" and prayed for no Chris Cooper flashbacks.
In last week's episode, we left Jake Epping (Franco) in 1960s Dallas as time (that bitch of a monster) quickly began to tear Epping's world apart. Cars came careening, chandeliers fell, and houses burnt down all in an attempt to stop Epping's meddling with the past.
Epping says, " F*ck this." He packs his bags and decides to head back to Missouri and 2016. Then he remembers his friend Harry. Do you remember Harry? He was the slow-speaking janitor (Leon Rippy) who graduated from Epping's adult education class in the premiere. Harry gave that chilling opening monologue as he recalled a distant Halloween night in 1960 when his father murdered his mother and sisters. Yeah? Okay, we're on the same page...
"The Killing Floor" opens with a flashback (wait, is it a flashback if it's the year he travels back to?) of a young Harry Dunning being bullied by two boys in the woods. You already feel bad for the kid, especially since you know he is hours away from having his whole family butchered.
Epping decides to stay in Holden, KY for the weekend and put a stop to the impending triple homicide. This is when the magic happened for me. Harry's father, Frank Dunning, is played by the radiant Josh Duhamel, whose performance was nothing short of intense.
Duhamel tiptoed on the border between suave husband that may have a slight drinking problem and savage cow/people killer that definitely has a drinking problem. Aside from his stellar performance, the way that he and Franco played off of each other was outstanding, making me come to the conclusion that Franco's lazy acting last week was due to Chris Cooper.
With episode 2, Stephen King aficionados should be proud. The writing (Bridget Carpenter) was true to King's tragically disturbed voice and the music only echoed this. From the scene in the meat packing house to the bloody standoff the episode ended with, I am left with an utter relief that this show is heading in a great direction and will only get better with each week.
Sadly, the best part thus far of 11.22.63 (Josh Duhamel) was killed off. Here's to hoping a fresh and compelling actor blossoms from Duhamel's death; someone who is able to push Franco's abilities (something we haven't seen since 127 Hours).
I'll leave you with this background shot from "The Kill Floor" of a kid's Halloween costume.