11.22.63: The Rabbit Hole
February 16, 2016 1:42 PM - Season 1, Episode 1 - Subscribe

High school teacher Jake Epping discovers why the burgers served by his friend Al at his charming diner are so darned cheap and tasty.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich (33 comments total)
 
So far, this is very well done. The writing and acting and production values are all first-class.

I'm a sucker for time-travel stories and for that reason, I read the book. I was ambivalent about the book and I am pretty sure I'm going to be ambivalent about the show for many of the same reasons. Everything about both just drips with the worldview of a baby boomer liberal, particularly and perniciously a rose-tinted glasses view of the fifties and sixties and of JFK. There were nods in the book and in this episode to the reality of racism, and likewise the book included a lot of the sexism, but it never manages to see any of this as anything other than a dark undercurrent to what is otherwise supposedly a wonderful, clean and shiny era when people were mostly nice and honest. Even the crooks are comfortably familiar. This is 1960 as Stephen King and my parents knew it, not as, say, Kerouac knew it -- if we pick another famous straight white male writer -- and certainly nothing like a huge portion of the rest of the population knew it.

And speaking as someone born in 1964 to boomer parents, good god am I sick and tired of the hagiographic view of JFK. I understand and empathize with what it means to people of that generation -- his youth and vitality and optimism only to be killed in a shocking assassination. And, yeah, I also understand why the turbulence of the Vietnam era caused people like this character Al Templeton to feel certain that somehow if JFK hadn't been killed, it all would have been better. But there's not really that much reason to believe this -- I'm as likely to believe that Kennedy would have refused to escalate Vietnam as I am to believe the LBJ would have chosen otherwise in only slightly different circumstances. Kennedy was just as hawkish as LBJ, he was willing to risk the Cuban Missile Crisis and gave the okay to the Bay of Pigs invasion. In my early life, I just assumed that this intense valorization of JFK was perfectly reasonable, later during my adult life it's increasingly just annoyed the shit out of me.

So the idea that the single most important thing that you could do with a time portal to 1960 is to prevent the assassination of JFK just essentially rubs me the wrong way. It speaks to me of the very narrow and self-interested priorities of white people of a certain age, something like the assassination of MLK isn't even on their radar ... assuming that preventing the assassination of an important public figure is high on your list of how to change post-war history for the better. I can think of other things I might do if I had access to a time portal.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 2:07 PM on February 16, 2016 [11 favorites]


I thought it was pretty well-done too. I think I'm actually enjoying it more than the book so far. The show really managed to creep me out with the way the past pushes back (and, of course, the yellow card man).

Looking forward to the rest of the episodes.
posted by MsVader at 3:38 PM on February 16, 2016


Well, I was 8 years old on 11/22/63, and remember the date also as the day my family moved into a new house in the San Fernando Valley, and during my first day in a new school, when a terse announcement came over the school's public address system that "the President has been shot", I was so engrossed in 'unfamiliar school' issues that my first thought was that the school's Student Council President had been the victim and "damn, this is a tough school!" And when I got home (early, they dismissed classes when the news came that JFK was dead), the movers hadn't brought in the living room and its big piece-of-furniture TV so I was left sitting (and 'keeping out of the way') in the kitchen watching on a little black & white portable as Walter Cronkite covered the aftermath. I think the fact that it happened at the same time as personal events that directly affected me actually helped put it in a kind of perspective. It may turn out that the very recent death of Antonin Scalia will actually have more historical effect than JFK, but that's just my opinion and I'm not Stephen King.

(BTW, 12 years later, with me away at college, my parents decided to sell the house and move - and within days after they contacted a Realtor, the two assassination attempts against Gerald Ford happened. I made a tasteless joke to my Lifelong Republican mother that "maybe you should wait until there's a Democrat in the White House".)
posted by oneswellfoop at 4:25 PM on February 16, 2016 [7 favorites]


Doesn't the Al character mention that if they save JFK, it will likely prevent the killings of both MLK and Bobby, along with keeping LBJ from escalating things in Vietnam? Of course, it's naive on its face, but I don't think we're necessarily supposed to assume Al is the most reliable of time portal guides.

I thought it was surprisingly watchable, and can only hope its limited narrative scope will keep it from going the way of the execrable Under the Dome.
posted by Atom Eyes at 8:04 PM on February 16, 2016


"Doesn't the Al character mention that if they save JFK, it will likely prevent the killings of both MLK and Bobby...?"

No, he only mentions Bobby. And the causality is by way of Bobby not running if his brother hadn't been killed. There's no plausible story why MLK wouldn't have been assassinated had JFK lived so I don't see why he would have argued that, anyway. But I do think it's slightly damning that he would mention RFK's assassination and not think much about MLK's of two months before. I mean, again, he was illustrating a point about altering the course of history as a result of changing one event, not preventing the assassination of good people in general. Still, to me thinking about RFK's assassination should bring MLK's assassination to mind, which in turn ought to cause one to consider what it might mean to save MLK, were one to have a time portal in one's closet. And so on.

Also, now that I'm writing this comment, I remember that there's something else that bothered me -- this idea of the necessity of finding out the actual perpetrators and possible conspiracy before one acts is completely nullified by the established fact that when you go through the portal again, it resets everything. Al could have just killed Oswald at the airport, come home, and if it didn't prevent JFK's assassination he could have just stepped out briefly for some hamburger and everything would be reset to the history we all know. That's sort of the ideal conditions for access to variables in a complex system -- you can change one thing, see what effect it has, and then start over until you get the result you want and/or to understand how the parts work together.

I don't recall having this objection when I read the book, so either it just didn't occur to me, or there was something different in the book.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 10:33 PM on February 16, 2016 [6 favorites]


General Important Thoughts:

- James Franco in that suit ooooh lawd
- men, please band together and start wearing suits and hats all the time again ok thanks
- yellow card man is scary as fuck! when he appeared in front of the car I was like nope nope nope nope.
- real life lessons to be learned here like if you are from the future and need to make a quick buck, don't bet a weirdly high amount of money on 35 to 1 odds and then be like welp ok thanks byyyyyeeee
- would totally be ok with eating time traveled hamburger meat from the 1960s if it meant I only had to pay $1.25 for it. al's profit margins had to be $$$$
- speaking of, I'm curious about the statement that everything tastes better in the 1950s/60s. why is this? I can see some things, like how we have our watery ass styrofoam tomatoes now (thanks science) and flavorless seedless watermelons. but like, how can pie taste better? it's pie. it always tastes delicious. is it just less processing? also I bet these people in 1960 haven't tried the Taco Bell Doritos taco so.
posted by kerning at 11:03 PM on February 16, 2016 [5 favorites]


would totally be ok with eating time traveled hamburger meat from the 1960s if it meant I only had to pay $1.25 for it. al's profit margins had to be $$$$

Considering that Al's been visiting the same butcher on the same day in 1960 for god knows how long, I wonder how many times Jake's eaten literally the same 1960 hamburger, ground from the same piece of 1960 meat, taken from the same 1960 cow.
posted by Strange Interlude at 6:20 AM on February 17, 2016 [15 favorites]


speaking of, I'm curious about the statement that everything tastes better in the 1950s/60s. why is this? I can see some things, like how we have our watery ass styrofoam tomatoes now (thanks science) and flavorless seedless watermelons. but like, how can pie taste better? it's pie. it always tastes delicious. is it just less processing?

Lard instead of vegetable shortening. Fruit that has had less of its taste bred out of it in favor of other attributes. Better wheat.

Anyway, I loved the book, except for the ending, which didn't really work for me. That's okay, because the story is more about the journey than the destination, so hopefully this adaptation honors that.
posted by entropicamericana at 7:29 AM on February 17, 2016 [2 favorites]


I wonder how many times Jake's eaten literally the same 1960 hamburger, ground from the same piece of 1960 meat, taken from the same 1960 cow.

It just occurred to me that I might have stumbled upon a way in which two-way time travel could enable a form of semi-guiltless, environmentally-ethical carnivorism. If all hamburgers were to come from an endlessly reiterating fountain-of-meat positioned at the "past" end of a magic time tunnel, that would in turn mean that only one animal had to perish in order to supply the world with burger meat. In turn, that would eliminate the need to slash down the rain forests for grazing land, as well as the greenhouse gas emissions from cattle on that land. The world would be saved by the noble sacrifice of but one humble cow. That's the story Stephen King should've been writing...

(On preview, I think I may have also written a Dinosaur Comics cartoon, apologies to Ryan North if he's already covered this. He probably has.)
posted by Strange Interlude at 11:00 AM on February 17, 2016 [5 favorites]


There were nods in the book

This is not a book included thread. *cough*
posted by phearlez at 11:47 AM on February 17, 2016 [1 favorite]


Yeah, the stuff about food tasting better really jibes with me -- I've had locally grown produce and homemade pies that definitely beat anything I could get from a mass-market store.

What the HELL was he thinking, taking an iPhone back in time? and then THROWING IT AWAY??? Someone's going to find it and when he goes back, the future will be massively different.

I will avoid any book comparisons here, since this isn't a books included thread. But it appears that the storyline is a bit compressed, which is good, though I do wonder how many seasons they're expecting to make for the show.
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 11:50 AM on February 17, 2016 [2 favorites]


What the HELL was he thinking, taking an iPhone back in time? and then THROWING IT AWAY??? Someone's going to find it and when he goes back, the future will be massively different.

If he goes back, the timeline will have reset itself back to how it was prior to him going through, so no worries about accidentally coming back to a weird Skynet/rich Biff future. And if he succeeds in averting the Kennedy assassination, he's going to have to stay in the past forever in order to make the change stick. So any other changes he makes to the timeline will be largely moot, save for the space-time continuum trying to Final Destination his ass.

IANA hardware engineer, but I wonder how easily somebody with an understanding of electronics ca. 1960 would be able to recognize a waterlogged+bricked iPhone as a wondrous device of the future, let alone reverse-engineer anything useful out of it without the benefit of all the other present-day technologies that make an iPhone possible.
posted by Strange Interlude at 12:56 PM on February 17, 2016 [1 favorite]


No, it doesn't reset when he goes back to the future, it resets when he goes back to the future and then to the past again.
posted by entropicamericana at 1:10 PM on February 17, 2016 [4 favorites]


"This is not a book included thread. *cough*"

You may be joking, alluding to a recent discussion, but if you're serious (and for the benefit of anyone else) this is an unmarked thread which means that discussion of books is allowed, but spoilers are not.

"I will avoid any book comparisons here, since this isn't a books included thread."

See above. You can make book comparisons, but you need to be careful to avoid any spoilers.

"No, it doesn't reset when he goes back to the future, it resets when he goes back to the future and then to the past again."

Yeah, if it just resets when he goes back, there's no point in changing anything. The reset stuff is that every trip back is a reset. If it didn't, then you'd have a more conventional time travel story where he could encounter other versions of his time traveling self and all the changes of subsequent trips would add up and interact, which would be very complicated. But that would have been interesting, too, in a different way.

"IANA hardware engineer, but I wonder how easily somebody with an understanding of electronics ca. 1960 would be able to recognize a waterlogged+bricked iPhone as a wondrous device of the future, let alone reverse-engineer anything useful out of it without the benefit of all the other present-day technologies that make an iPhone possible."

I thought about this, too, and mostly came to the same conclusion as you did -- almost no one likely to encounter that phone would be in a position to recognize it for what it is. However, I do think that any EE from 1960 would recognize its importance if they opened it up and then there's a chance that such a person could get even more knowledgeable and powerful people involved.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 1:27 PM on February 17, 2016


Re: the phone.

Sometimes just seeing that something is possible as an end goal is enough to direct a path.

Wild speculation:

- the battery would be easy to exploit, spurring on new tension with China around rare earth minerals.
- they would recognize the antenna and know what frequency it worked on, and recognize it as a communications device.
- they would see that the chip fab and assembly wasn't by hand.
- the titanium in the case would mislead them into thinking it was much more expensive device.
- the apple logo would be very very confusing.
- the piezo touch surface and coating would be novel.
- engineers would guess it's max power consumption based on its size, and how much waste heat it could shed.
- the jack suggests stereo, vs mono.



- Would they ever be able to get the startup voltages right and boot it?
- would they be able to do something with the camera sensor?

(I hope some real engineers will improve my Connections fan boi analysis :) )
posted by gregglind at 1:49 PM on February 17, 2016 [2 favorites]


You may be joking

I was not; I had been mentally assigning things w/o a books included tag to mean show only and did not realize that there was an implicit third way. That's sort of confusing, since it's hard to know only one episode in what might have simply been moved elsewhere in the sequence rather than omitted entirely (and thereby a spoiler not just a side discussion), but I Regret The Error.
posted by phearlez at 1:54 PM on February 17, 2016


Yeah. I think it's most important that people recognize that spoilers are only ever allowed in "Books Included" and "Rewatch" threads and otherwise they need to be careful about them. And people should know it's okay to flag spoilers in all the other kinds of threads, including this kind.

It's possible that someone might post an unmarked thread while intending it to be one of the other kinds -- but absent them realizing it quickly and asking the mods to change it, it makes most sense to me that they or anyone else should just go ahead and post the kind of thread they prefer.

I prefer the unmarked threads for shows that I think won't have a large enough audience to support much discussion in the differentiated threads. No one had even bothered to post this show at all after a few days, which led me to conclude that there weren't going to be very many of us discussing it. But there's nothing wrong with anyone posting the kind of thread they prefer, of course.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 2:03 PM on February 17, 2016


That's a good start on thinking about this, gregglind. I agree with most of your thinking.

"Would they ever be able to get the startup voltages right and boot it?"

I think that's more likely than almost anything. You'd recognize the power supply for what it was and you'd work your way up to an operational voltage. I think they'd immediately recognize the ICs for what they were, and they'd eventually reverse engineer the function, but it would be at least fifteen years before they had a clue as to how they were made. (And I don't even want to think about how the software stack would look to a 1960 era computer scientist -- personally, I think it would be intractable.) I think that this would accelerate Moore's Law and almost certainly cause a couple of skips ahead on some fab technologies, but it would still take decades to get even close. Microprocessor production is one of my favorite examples of pinnacle industrial technology -- they literally require an advanced national manufacturing and distribution base. There's a reason each fab costs many billions of dollars to build.

And while I very much agree about the significance of even knowing something is possible, I think that some of the other technologies in the phone would require a similarly developed industrial/technological infrastructure and so while they might have a pretty good understanding of how the phone was built and how it works by, say, 1985, they would still be very far from being able to replicate it. And by "they", I mean someone like the US government engaged in something like the Manhattan Project. More likely, they'd produce some isolated but powerful advanced technologies as a result of studying the phone, far before their time, and who knows what effect those technologies would have on other technologies and society.

In other, thoughtful and informed science fiction I've read, typically the writer proposes something like I describe above (sometimes advanced technology via time travel, more usually via contact with an advanced civilization). They usually portray some isolated anachronistic advanced technologies being utilized in a society, while much of the rest of the future/alien tech remains a mystery or, at the least, beyond the ability of anyone to reproduce.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 2:21 PM on February 17, 2016 [2 favorites]


Okay, this phone discussion is fascinating. Since Texas Instruments was founded in 1951, and it's based here in Dallas -- specifically, I figured this (our real/current timeline, as depicted in the story) would be altered if the iPhone were to be discovered and brought to TI's attention:
The company produced the first integrated circuit-based computer for the U.S. Air Force in 1961.
Surely if anyone could reverse-engineer some or all of an iPhone's functionality, it would be someone on TI's staff.

And yes, I meant that when Jake went back to his "present," it could be radically altered by throwing away that iPhone in 1960; yeah he can reset it by going back to 1960 again, but what if he goes through all 3 years of living in the past, saves Kennedy from being shot, and then returns to a far bleaker, more horrific future -- not because Kennedy survived, but because he threw his phone into a pond all those years back and that completely outpaced any benefits of JFK's or Robert Kennedy's presumed eventual presidencies?

I'd be very hesitant to do anything in the past, actually, because I might cause myself to accidentally never be born. Do I think throwing an iPhone away in 1960 would erase my existence? Hell, I don't know -- but I'd try to do the least damage to the future as I possibly could. I'd say that what Jake's doing is one hell of a level up from stepping on a butterfly in Ray Bradbury's A Sound of Thunder, and we all know how that turned out.

Yes to everything about betting large sums of money on exceptionally high odds, too. Guys don't like it when they lose money to what looks like a bribed/thrown fight, much less to a stranger in town. Jake's a fucking idiot for telling those guys his name and where he's staying, because you know that is going to come back to bite him in the near-future.
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 3:22 PM on February 17, 2016 [1 favorite]


No, it doesn't reset when he goes back to the future, it resets when he goes back to the future and then to the past again.

That's right, I forgot about the tree. I haven't read the book (and don't mind light spoilers per se) so I'm still sussing out the rules here.
posted by Strange Interlude at 4:24 PM on February 17, 2016


Surely if anyone could reverse-engineer some or all of an iPhone's functionality, it would be someone on TI's staff.

And that means my high-school graphing calculator would have been awesome.
posted by Strange Interlude at 4:25 PM on February 17, 2016


"...but what if he goes through all 3 years of living in the past, saves Kennedy from being shot, and then returns to a far bleaker, more horrific future -- not because Kennedy survived, but because he threw his phone into a pond all those years back and that completely outpaced any benefits of JFK's or Robert Kennedy's presumed eventual presidencies?"

Heh. This was actually a problem I had with the book and the problem I had with King's Dark Tower series. He's not really a science fiction writer nor a fantasy writer. Which has some virtues -- his take on both genres isn't as burdened by all the tropes and expectations and there is a freshness to his approach. On the other hand, this also means that there's some superficiality to his approach, too. Another example is Diana Gabaldon's Outlander books (and the show). It's nominally time travel, but it's really dumb time travel -- the writer and protagonist is as uninterested in the implications of time travel as any I've ever encountered and this is extremely frustrating because in some ways the protagonist has hobbled herself. But it's kind of a plot-required stupidity because Gabaldon isn't actually interested in telling a time travel story per se, but rather a historical romance that happens to have a protagonist that's a (relatively) modern woman.

Likewise, ultimately King isn't that interested in the mechanics and implications of time travel beyond the fundamental issue of a) contrasting the past against the present, and b) considering the mystery of the assassination and the "what if" about preventing it. And the thing is, what I've noticed about more hard-core, very sfnal treatments of time travel is that it's hard for large parts of the audience to understand how it works. Most of the audience doesn't really want to think about paradoxes and such, that's either confusing or interferes with their suspension of disbelief, or both.

In this way, King is pretty smart -- he's writing for a general audience and he establishes some very basic time travel mechanics: the reset, and the "time pushes back". Otherwise, he mostly stays away from worrying about things like the phone (which I don't recall from the book, but not worrying about the discarded phone is kind of in keeping with the spirit of the book). And we shouldn't overstate it -- Jake is careful to throw the phone in the river as opposed to just dropping it in the trash. King's not uninterested in complex causality, that's why we get the butterfly effect lecture and why there's the "time pushes back" mechanic and why we have whatever the hell is going on with the yellow card guy. King is thinking about how things can get weird and he wants the audience to keep this in mind. But, even so, he's established at the outset that we don't need to worry that every tiny thing that Jake (or Al) does in the past causes complex and far-reaching changes to the future. Which, frankly, would be a huge concern of mine were I to find myself in that situation. I don't know how you could ever know what is important and what isn't.

The irony of Al's explanation of the butterfly effect is that his example isn't -- preventing JFK's assassination isn't the flapping of the wings of a butterfly, it's a really big deal. The butterfly effect would be Jake moving to Dallas and that alone somehow causing the assassination to take place in, say, Houston the day before.

Here's an interesting quote from a LA Times interview with the showrunner, Bridget Carpenter:
Q: Time travel is a very tricky thing -- there are rules and consequences to account for on every level

A: We got very lucky with this one because, yes, there are rules to it, but they’re very simple. There are only two, really. Stephen King dealt with it so elegantly, we didn’t get bogged down with “this, if this” and “this, if this.”

We did not examine every fundamental paradox, which is inherent in the nature of an impossible thing. We just went, this is the rabbit hole, here’s how it works, he goes in it, the end. And that, to me, went, well, that’s how we’re going to shoot it. There’s not going to be special effects, there’s not going to be sparkly dust. You’re in and then you’re in. That, as a fundamental thing, drove us. We tried to use it, as King did, as a leaping-off point that triggers the story.

And then the story is the story. Time travel ceases to become the story. It is inherent in Jake and who Jake is as he moves through the world, but we don’t need to worry about it as the logistics of travel. It’s important in the beginning and it’s important in the end. And then in the middle, you’re good. There’s nothing to keep track of—you’re fine.
I also can't resist including this bit:
Q: Did you have preconceived notions of what this was going to be like? [about working with James Franco]

A Yes, and I was very afraid. I was always afraid that he’d be going away. I’d be like, what do you mean you’re going away this weekend? Go home and rest for the show. He’d be like, “Bridget, it’s going to be fine.” I’d be like, “No, no, no, don’t go do a commercial or whatever the 500 million things that you’re doing.” I’d hear, he’s going here, he’s going to New York, he’s writing a musical. It was like, really? But, you know what, that guy always shows up on time and he brought it. It’s funny that it’s a joke, but the joke is also true. He can do a zillion things. It was funny, we were talking about the publicity schedule for the show and he was like, “I don’t know, I’m teaching four classes.” And I was like, “James.”
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 8:59 PM on February 17, 2016 [6 favorites]


There were nods in the book and in this episode to the reality of racism, and likewise the book included a lot of the sexism, but it never manages to see any of this as anything other than a dark undercurrent to what is otherwise supposedly a wonderful, clean and shiny era when people were mostly nice and honest.

I'm not sure I agree with that. I felt - especially in the book, and it's too early to judge the show on this, I think - that the past seemed pretty bleak and sometimes downright evil. It didn't present the story of what life would have really been like for women or minorities, but I'm not sure I trust Stephen King to tell that story anyway (paging Susannah Dean). There are certainly moments where the past has its advantages, but it also has its dark side. I'm thinking particularly of a moment in the book that I am sure they will skip in the series, but I'll be oblique, just in case. There's a section of the book that is an overt reference to another King book, set in Derry, with two prominent characters from that book interacting with Jake. That scene serves as both an example of the appeal the past has for Jake - the innocence and charm of what the pair is doing - and the darkness and evil that dwells there - the events of that other book, which Jake becomes partly aware of. It's also clear that the past is more likely to sweep that evil under the rug, which is an important theme of the book.

He does throw his phone in a pond in the book, but I think it's a dumbphone, not an iPhone, which I guess might attract less attention than a smartphone even if it were ever dredged up.
posted by Rock Steady at 6:22 AM on February 18, 2016 [1 favorite]


Tsk tsk Rock Steady - the industry would like you to call them "feature phones," (the feature being that they have less... features?) lest you insult the touchscreen adverse.

But I think maybe a dumbphone would be worse. It looks like a phone when it's broken/off. It has a level of detail you wouldn't see in a kids toy, inviting more scrutiny. A dark glass slab? Some sort of weird art, perhaps. I think if you had shown me an iphone and a flip phone in 1978 I would have been more interested in the flip. Yes, partly because I was 8, but also because it aproximated my frames of reference better.

As far as the lack of scrutiny of the time travel rules/tropes, I think that's a strength in the story. One of the weaknesses of SF (which I say with a great deal of love of the genre) is that people in the stories often know the way things work way too well. When we look at something more rigorous, like Primer, even the certainty gets undermined and a few things turn out not to matter at all the way they assumed they would.

This sort of issue came up when we talked in fanfare about It Follows, where what we know about how the monster behaves comes entirely from the unreliable input from one character in the very beginning of the film. As I recall, the general consensus was that it was fine that there was some weirdness in the thing's behavior because we didn't know things for sure. That's how I feel about the time travel in this story.

As far as the racial angle, my recall of the book is that Jake is not blind to the flaws of the past here, and struggles somewhat with his 21st century sensibilities when dealing with the more loathsome racism and sexism. But it certainly is from a privileged perspective and I feel like the character wouldn't deny that, though he stomachs these things because he's focused on what he sees as a larger mission. How much that'll play out in the series will be interesting.
posted by phearlez at 7:17 AM on February 18, 2016 [4 favorites]


But I think maybe a dumbphone would be worse. It looks like a phone when it's broken/off. It has a level of detail you wouldn't see in a kids toy, inviting more scrutiny. A dark glass slab? Some sort of weird art, perhaps. I think if you had shown me an iphone and a flip phone in 1978 I would have been more interested in the flip. Yes, partly because I was 8, but also because it aproximated my frames of reference better.

Yeah, it's interesting, and I went back and forth on it myself. I think the featurelessness of a smartphone would make it less interesting, but if you looked at it closely and saw the ports and buttons it might be very interesting. The "feature phone" does look more like a phone, but that might make it easier for you to dismiss it as "just a fancy phone handset" while the smartphone is obviously a ~mysterious device~. Anyway, these beans sure do taste good in 1960.
posted by Rock Steady at 7:40 AM on February 18, 2016 [2 favorites]


My main takeways were that it seemed to veer away from the books, but still ended up doing most of the same things.

And, my, I'm not a car kind of guy, but there's a lot of car porn in this.
posted by Mezentian at 1:12 AM on February 19, 2016 [1 favorite]


Rock Steady, I totally agree with you. In fact, the idea that simply by virtue of being the 1960s the past was a classic Stephen King creepy setting is one of my favorite things about this book. The Derry scene is also one of my favorite allusions in the whole King universe.

Something I found frustrating about the show thus far is how little it shows us about Jake's decision making process. I understand it's difficult in a show that isn't using a VO or even another character to bounce Jake off (though the ghost of Chris Cooper is kind of filling in that role), but most of the things that happened in this episode felt like Jake is playing a video game where he knows he needs to go to the next location to get to the next level, but with no great explanation for why he's playing in the first place.

All in all I'm pleased and happy to keep watching. I wish Hulu would get with the times and let us binge.
posted by telegraph at 4:27 PM on February 19, 2016 [2 favorites]


So the idea that the single most important thing that you could do with a time portal to 1960 is to prevent the assassination of JFK just essentially rubs me the wrong way. It speaks to me of the very narrow and self-interested priorities of white people of a certain age, something like the assassination of MLK isn't even on their radar ... assuming that preventing the assassination of an important public figure is high on your list of how to change post-war history for the better. I can think of other things I might do if I had access to a time portal.

I'm getting ready to watch this now, and I haven't read the book; but I'm holding out hope that the show deals with this in a self-aware way. Like in Saving Private Ryan, where they show up to take Ryan home, but he struggles with the fairness of the benevolent decision made on his behalf, when he's really just a guy like everyone else, and not worthy of saving simply by virtue of his random circumstance.
posted by SpacemanStix at 1:01 PM on February 20, 2016


I'm liking this so far. But I too am a sucker for time travel tales. I love to play around with the what ifs and all the possible discoveries. The burger meat loophole is a perfect example of what I mean — those details are superfun.

But also makes me wonder about matter in time travel. With the burger meat, something is carried forward in time and the 'debt' of it being taken out of 1960 and transported into the future is immediately resolved the moment after the future becomes the present. But it doesn't work the other way around — the things carried into the past are forever gone after the reset (e.g., the phone, research folder). What if the burger meat was going in the other direction, from the present into the past… where does that matter go when the carrier of it returns to the present moment?

I also wish they'd show us how he physically returns to the present. That's annoying me (I've read the book and think I remember the answer; afaiu it doesn't need to go unaddressed in the show. It's another little detail that would be quite fun to play around with.
posted by iamkimiam at 1:27 PM on February 22, 2016


The one thing that bugged me about how they approach time travel is that when the bookie's crew got suspicious Jake didn't head straight for the portal and hit reset. Go to the present, turn around and walk straight back into 1960, he's still got the cash but the local criminal element has never met him and he's only set back by 12 hours. Just don't do anything that'll make anyone check serial numbers.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 6:04 PM on February 28, 2016 [2 favorites]


That bothered me, too. That's in his town where the portal is, right? It seems to me that the one thing you'd not want to do is to start out your whole multi-year project having made enemies of the organized crime folk in that small town that you have to return to in order to go back through the portal. I can understand him being reluctant to start over if he has to travel across the country or if he's already invested months -- but this was at the very beginning, right by the portal. (Or was he in Bangor or something? I can't remember. But he hadn't driven a thousand miles yet.)
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 9:22 PM on February 28, 2016


It was definitely in the same town, because the salesman who sold him the car was the one who told him where to find the bookie.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 3:56 AM on February 29, 2016


Part of the bookie thing is that it has been compressed from the version of events in the book. In the book Al gives Jake a significant amount of cash to start out with, and he doesn't start placing such dramatic bets until later in the story, and even then, the potential for violence from the bookie isn't revealed until later than that. But yeah, in the non-drama word, he could just make a $10 bet and then repeat every "day" a few dozen times and be set for years of 1960s living.
posted by Rock Steady at 5:11 AM on February 29, 2016


« Older Better Call Saul: Switch...   |  The Good Wife: Monday... Newer »

You are not logged in, either login or create an account to post comments