Do the ends justify the means?
This seems to be the question that this week’s episode of 11.22.63, “The Kill Floor” seems to be asking. If you can recall, the last episode left off with Jake Epping, disheartened after a major setback in Dallas, deciding to go to Holden, Kentucky, where Harry Dunning’s father Jake Dunning murdered his wife and two of his children on Halloween night in 1960. There are, of course, spoilers. Also, I’m going to try and keep from comparing the series to the book so much (since that’s just pedantic at this point).
The question that I asked above, of course, has to do with the actions that Jake has to take in order to stop him.
Now, in my opinion, Frank Dunning (Josh Duhamel) is easily the most despicable character in the story (a story that also features Lee Harvey Oswald, I might add). He embodies basically every toxic masculine stereotype in existence, and I think the scene that best exemplifies this (other than beating his wife and murdering her and two of his children with a sledgehammer) is the scene in the picture above. In this scene, Frank and two of his friends take Jake over to a slaughterhouse, eventually taking him out to the kill floor. His two friends bring a cow out and Frank tries to get Jake to kill it to prove his own masculinity. Jake refuses, and is promptly mocked.
Josh Duhamel does a really, really good job of making the audience hate Frank Dunning. He’s an abusive fuckhead who, as I’m sure you’re aware, murders his wife and two-thirds of his children in the main timeline in a drunken rage. He has basically no redeeming qualities, and there is a sort of cathartic satisfaction that comes from Jake strangling him to death towards the end of the episode.
But, was he right to do so? At first, he tries to find a non-violent solution to the issue, by going to the Dunning residence, where he gives Doris Dunning and the kids tickets to Lexington under the guise of a sweepstakes. The only issue is that Frank finds out about it, beats her, and then tries to humiliate her in front of Jake, saying that Jake is trying to sleep with here. This is where Jake decides that Frank has to die.
This actually also ties into another moment in the episode, where he’s conversing with Mr. Price, one of the owners of the home where he’s staying. In this moment, they are talking about war, and Jake says that sometimes people have to do terrible things for the right reasons. Mr. Price is skeptical about this, and tells Jake a story of his own personal shame: in World War II, Mr. Price had tortured and murdered a young German soldier, drowning him in a river.
By the end of the episode, Jake states that he did a good thing, no matter what it may look like. As he’s driving out of town however, he goes back a bit and washes his hands, standing in the rain, repeating the names of the people he saved as if he’s trying to convince himself he’s done the right thing.
For the most part, I liked this episode more than the first one. It’s about a half hour shorter than the previous episode, but it feels like more things actually happen in it, and it doesn’t drag as much.
11.22.63 airs new episodes on Hulu every Monday.