11.22.63: Cow to the slaughter


Whenever I look at Josh Duhamel I see two things: Tad Hamilton and Danny McCoy, two of the actor’s most charma-oozing roles that have made him damn near impossible not to like.

Thanks to 11.22.63, I will now think of sledgehammers, cows and the uncomfortable sense of dread in my stomach watching Duhamel wield one against the other about halfway through “The Kill Floor,” before taking one to his poor family as well. WAY TO RUIN A HANDSOME MAN FOR ME, HULU.

Jake’s detour from his mission to stop JFK’s assassination seemed like such a good idea at the beginning of episode. Jake just wanted to make the timid Harry’s life a little bit easier–one thing he could actually fix by being in the past after fudging up and getting Al’s ledger burned in the series premiere. And after hearing Harry tell the tale of his family’s murder in the season premiere and having it tug at the heartstrings, Jake’s mission to vindicate Harry really did feel like the right thing to do at the time.

And despite those handsome-man looks of Duhamel, wishing ill will on Frank with every fibre of your body wasn’t exactly an unfathomable offence, either . Transitioning from his naturally charismatic self to something sinister, Duhamel did a fantastic job portraying the blue collar, wife-beating southerner, living in an equally backwards town of Holden, where only “good Christians” are welcome to rent rooms but a boy getting jumped by a bully gets laughed at on his shameful, pant-less walk home.

Frank’s constant teetering between fake southern charm and cold-blooded killer made things tense the entire episode. But along with Duhamel’s actual performance, one of the episode’s strongest factors was its ability to build up such an environment where we feel Jake has to kill Frank–that there’s no other right answer. Frank works as a butcher, the job that would most likely win Fast Money on Family Feud when asked what the day job of a serial killer would be. Even worse, Frank takes the utmost joy in slaughtering his animals before chopping them up for his shop. I may not be a vegetarian by any means, but my face was just as horrified as James Franco’s when Frank’s hammer made contact with the poor cow’s skull.

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Jake, generally unimpressed by all things Frank (Credit: Hulu)

So yeah, between that and knowing without Jake’s intervention that Harry would wind up the same lost soul as in present day, Jake’s actions seemed pretty fair.

But then the moral compass of 11.22.63 decided to kick in. In a flashback scene, Al informed Jake (and subsequently the viewers) that the past likes to fight back when you change too many things. If the past is truly what gave Al cancer, I feel as though Jake should have been taking the potential threats to come from time travelling a little more seriously? I mean, it’s not like Al developed a cough. Or even an STD. He got  CANCER from being in the past. He’s DEAD because of his work to change the past. No wonder Jake initially resisted Al’s offer. Then there was Arliss (Michael O’Neill) on hand to remind us that killing a man, no matter your justification, isn’t something you should ever call brave. Frank may be a bastard, but Jake’s good intentions shouldn’t make Frank’s murder okay.

Unfortunately Jake’s moral compass was already set on helping out Harry. And by fighting the past, he did manage to save Harry’s family, killing Frank in a captivating, ultra-violent scene that certainly brought attention to the man from out of town. But in doing so, Frank accidentally picked up a time-travelling sidekick in Bill Turcotte (George MacKay) who found Frank’s news clippings from the future (a plot point that you knew would happen sooner rather than later).

Duhamel’s IMDB credits say he’ll be in more episodes to come, so I’m really curious to see how that’ll come into play. But for now, let’s hope Bill helps get Frank back on track for the mission he was sent to conquer before cancer gets to him too, and that Bill doesn’t completely alter Jake’s future self for the worse in any way.

More Thoughts:

  • “Do it Randy! Do the thing!” I almost laughed at this quip until I saw that the “thing” was the bully spitting into Harry’s mouth. Kids are the worst.
  • That M*A*S*H reference was gold. I hope they pepper more pop culture references throughout the series.
  • Whoever did the lighting of the episode deserves a gold star. The grim mood was perfectly captured, particularly throughout the butcher’s floor.

Are you enjoying the series thus far? Let us know in the comments below.

11.22.63 is released Mondays on Hulu and airs Wednesdays at 9 p.m. ET on Super Channel in Canada.