Jake lies in hospital fading in and out of consciousness, flitting between visions of the present and the future and Al admonishing him for not fulfilling the mission whilst also involving Sadie and Bill. Deke tries to comfort him, saying all he needs is time to heal. But Jake’s time is fast running out, and November 22nd 1963 is hurtling towards him at frightening speed.
Jake finally regains consciousness with a mere fifteen days to go until Kennedy’s assassination, but the attack has left him missing memories, and he’s not even sure why he’s in the past at all. As he’d kept most of his mission a secret, even from Sadie, Jake is left scrambling around in his own head for clues. Meanwhile, Lee Harvey Oswald continues down the path Jake used to know all too well from history and, 10 days before JFK is due to take the fatal drive down Dealey Plaza, visits his local FBI office to make a complaint of harassment. He even fills out a form; are these really the actions of a conspirator assassin?
Jake’s mind drags up what happened to Bill Turcotte and he and Sadie quickly go to the mental asylum where Bill has been ‘treated’ since being committed by his ‘brother’ Jake several weeks before. Unsurprisingly, the electro-shock therapy Bill has been subjected to has rendered him a very changed and paranoid man and Jake’s appearance pushes him over the edge. At the first opportunity, Bill throws himself out of the nearest window and he, and all he knew to help piece Jake’s mission together, is gone.
Oswald’s mother continues to be treat him as a complete Mummy’s Boy, repeatedly saying that he “always had potential”, it’s becoming clear how he’s going to choose the path he will. Pushed away by his wife, feeling a complete failure and still searching for his place and mark in the world, Oswald is a seriously lost little man. Jake has some memory recall of the flat he and Bill shared below the Oswalds and knocking on doors brings both of them face-to-face with Lee Harvey himself. The encounter has a marked effect on Jake and everything comes back to him, an experience that leads him to almost off Oswald there and then with a kitchen knife.
A second plan, with Sadie’s help, to simply get hold of the gun Oswald will use to shoot Kennedy fails and, with only twelve hours to go, they both travel to Dallas and park-up near the Book Depository to await the moment to take Oswald out. Jake knows precisely where he will be come the moment after all. It’s here, with a sleeping Sadie beside him, that Jake again encounters the Yellow Card Man. Is he a hallucination or a fellow time traveller, someone else who’s used the rabbit hole? His ramblings of never being able to save his daughter from drowning years before, of having to watch it over and over and over, would suggest that. He urges Jake to give up his mission, to get on with his life, advice Jake seriously considers taking. Later, Jake and Sadie awake and, realising they only have four hours left, race to Dealey Plaza. At the same time, on the sixth floor of the Texas Book Depository, Lee Harvey Oswald is loading his rifle and preparing to make history.
To be fair, the penultimate episode of a series that has always been building to a set point in time was always going to be a hard ask. The ‘losing one’s memory’ trope is an economical and easy way to compress the time left to Jake, thus meaning we are at the very reason for his mission come the final episode, but a cheap one. It’s hard also not to feel a little cheated at Bill Turcotte’s demise; he could have been rather more interesting but the turn of events does now lead to Jake being the sole protagonist come endgame – or rather it would were Sadie now not fully on board, essentially rendering her Bill #2. Also, playing Bill’s story thorough once he met Jake reveals our hero to be an utter monster, using then discarding Bill at will and leaving him to his mental fate.
These are slight complaints however. “Boy Soldier” was an exciting and fast-paced hour – despite the clichés – before next week’s finale. Jake will either stop Oswald and change history or not and….well, what then?
11.22.63 is released Mondays on Hulu. Episode 8 is available 04.04.16