As we continue to follow the exploits of Jake Epping (James Franco) trying to prevent the assassination of John F. Kennedy, there were bound to be other individuals who would discover Epping’s unnatural presence. This is where Bill (George MacKay) steps in, a small town Kentucky local who witnessed Jake change the previous episode’s timeline. Upon discovering a paper in Epping’s car that foretells of Kennedy’s death, Jake has no choice but to include an eager Bill into helping with bugging and surveillance of Lee Harvey Oswald’s (Daniel Webber) residence, and learning whether or not Oswald acted alone in his pursuits.
To put it frankly, “Other Voices, Other Rooms” isn’t the mini series’ best episode, but it still has a lot going for it that showcases the love and attention put behind this period piece. One of the strongest factors in this week’s episode is how well 11.22.63 has begun juggling the racial tensions that occurred in the early 1960s. When Epping begins working at a small town school near Dallas, Texas, he’s introduced to an African-American assistant that plays a large part in his introduction of just how deep resentments still lingered in the day. Whether it be from a small gas pump attendant or the school officials themselves, the bitterness and disdain feels like a harsh reminder that the ’60s weren’t all the glitz and glamour people try to remember them as. There’s even one scene where Oswald attends a politician’s rally, with Jake and Bill in tow, where he proudly declares to his followers how the civil rights movement is “a communist plot.” Despite being a harsh reminder of our American past, it defines how dedicated this team is to keeping things real even in the realm of a fantasy time travel story.
Not to mention, this is also the first episode where we are truly introduced to Daniel Webber’s performance as Lee Harvey Oswald, the documented assassin of Kennedy. Webber should be commended for his devotion to the persona of Oswald, as it feels like a purely powerful and genuine look into the kind of person the real world Harvey could have been. Relating back to the politician’s rally, Webber gives an all out zealous performance into the rage that likely consumed Lee’s mind, as he attempts to attack a wartime general. As interesting as the story already is, Webber’s fulfillment as Kennedy’s killer is just another hook that’ll leave viewers scrambling for more episodes to view.
On the other hand, we also get one of the series’ biggest detractions thus far: the introduction of Jake Epping and Sadie Dunhill’s (Sarah Gadon) future romance. Her character was introduced earlier in the series, but her reintroduction just comes off as quite abrupt from her last appearance. The two try spending time together chaperoning a school dance, and while we are given some time to understand their chemistry a little more, it nevertheless feels a little too forced to be a natural, blooming relationship that might add something to the storyline. Perhaps I should give them the benefit of the doubt, maybe this romance will play an important role later on, but as of now it just comes off as less than stellar filler.
By the end, episode three’s story arc gives regular viewers enough of a grip to keep invested into the characters and the universe, but it also has a few wears and tears that come off as distractions. The performances continue to improve with each new episode’s success, and the time period bears its fascinating quirks without fear, yet we still have five episodes to go before this series is over, and one can only imagine what the producers have in store for the romantic filler. Bill’s character has potential to go somewhere, and he can come off as a great companion for Jake, but we’ve only been able to really explore him for one episode, so his role can just be added up to speculation at this point. Nevertheless, the show’s strengths recover some of this particular episode’s slumps, and I look forward to seeing what J.J. Abrams has in store for us next week.