We’re two weeks into this eight-part mini-series, and I have to say that this week picked things up a little bit. The episode itself has a lot of original content, veering away from the book in several places, but the creators still do a good job with keeping everything “faithful” to the original work.
Most of the interactions between Jake Epping (James Franco) and Frank Dunning (Josh Duhamel) that occur in this episode do not occur in the novel. That’s okay, though, because these interactions create a compelling and entertaining episode that could actually give the book a run for its money in a few places.
Cinematics – 3.5
I can’t really knock off points for the writers and creators taking a slightly different path away from the book. What they decided to do actually works better than watching Jake Epping living in Derry, Maine for two months while he searches for the correct Dunning family and decides how he’s going to save Henry Dunning’s family. Yet, some of the dialogue and obvious exposition are something I cannot just let go. There were a few times, particularly when Jake Epping was talking to himself in the mirror when he was sick, where I kept rolling my eyes and shaking my head. I understand why they did this, revealing the hidden strength that exists deep down in Jake Epping, but some of this was painful.
Regardless of that little tidbit, even though the creators changed things around, they still do a great job of showing Jake trying to figure out ways to save Henry and his family without killing Frank. The episode doesn’t go into as extreme depth as the novel, but enough of it is there so you get the idea that Jake doesn’t want to kill anyone. After he witnesses the wrath of Frank Dunning, though, that’s when Jake fully accepts that murder is the only way to stop the man’s inevitable rampage.
Frank’s wrath in this episode is incredible, thanks to a stellar performance by Josh Duhamel. He does a great job with being a prime example of a “villain.” There’s not too much sympathy you’ll feel for this man, but in the end you don’t want to be feeling sympathy or empathy or any kind of “-thy.” You just want to see how Jake is going to stop this man. I applaud Josh Duhamel for bringing life to this character. I’ve always said he has a lot more talent than his recent projects have made us perceive.
James Franco on the other hand, while he’s grood in this episode, still doesn’t fit the bill as “Jake Epping” for me. Also, I hate how his name in the past is “James Amberson” so he can still be called “Jake.” That’s just sounds like lazy writing to me. In the book, he’s George Amberson in the past and Jake Epping in the present, creating many comical and tension-filled moments when our hero accidentally starts referring to himself in his present-tense instead of his past. That’s just a little thing, but it still irks me.
Overall, this episode did a great job of streamlining Jake Epping’s two-month stay in Derry, Maine to a few-day stop in Holden, Kentucky. The additions of original content keeps things fresh, but some of the same obstacles Epping faces in the novel pop in this episode as well, so thank you for keeping those.
Entertainment Value – 4.5
With the exception to the obvious exposition and on-the-nose dialogue, this episode was an absolute joy to watch. Josh Duhamel as the villain gives the episode a rich underbelly that has you rooting for Jake in the end. The new content they decided to add helped me, someone who is a fan of the novel, stay on the edge of my seat because I actually wanted to see where they were going to go with it. It could’ve crashed and burned, but it didn’t. It was fresh, exciting and a blessing in disguise.
Even though this episode/section of the story takes place in Holden, Kentucky instead of Derry, Maine, I was still hoping for some kind of tie-in to Stephen King’s “IT,” just like the novel does. In this episode, we didn’t get the exact tie-in I was expecting, but we definitely got one. Annette O’Toole plays Edna Price, the woman who owns the house Jake happens to be staying at in Holden. The funny thing about Miss O’Toole is that she played the adult version of Beverly Marsh in the 1990 mini-series adaptation of “IT.” In the book “11/22/63,” Beverly Marsh is one of the children Jake Epping interacts with during his time in Derry, Maine.
This counts in my book as a “spiritual tie-in” to Mr. King’s masterpiece. I’m hoping to catch others throughout the rest of this mini-series, especially the rumored “RedRum” Easter egg that will pop up later on.
The episode ends with a surprising twist. I don’t want to talk about it here because I want you all to go and watch it, but I’ll give a hint about its overall effect: as a lover of the novel, I had no idea this was coming.
Rewatchability – 5
I really want to watch this episode again. It was very well done and so fresh that I want to see if I missed any hidden details that could foreshadow any other changes they have in store. Yes, I’m actually excited for future changes from what occurs in the novel. Why? Because they did a great job with the changes in this episode.
- Entertainment Value
Episode 2 shines a great light on the road ahead for this mini-series. Last week had me a little worried, but I’m totally confident that the mini-series, while changing many aspects from the novel, will be a solid piece of entertainment that can be enjoyed by lovers of the novel and newcomers altogether. I have a feeling that Josh Duhamel’s performance in this episode is only the tip of the iceberg of the greatness that this mini-series will generate, hopefully helping to dissipate my growing skepticism of James Franco portraying Jake Epping.