While the run time for this episode is significantly shorter than the first one, it proves to be just as strong an entry. In fact, in many respects, it could even rank as a stronger one.
As shown before, Jake has decided to table his quest to save Kennedy and set his sights a bit smaller, on saving his student’s family from their father. It makes for a nice, self-contained story while also helping build on things that were established before.
Given what he does, it would have been all too easy to paint Frank Dunning as a one-note character, but both Josh Duhamel and the script elevate him far above that. He isn’t some drunken boor. On the contrary, he does come off as amicable in many scenes, but there is a distubring unease about him. You could chalk part of that up to the musical accompaniment and the dim lighting that follows him around, but even putting that aside, there’s a lot of tension whenever he’s around.
It hits its peak when Frank brings Jake along with his friends on a trip to a slaughterhouse. You’re not really sure where the scene is going to go. It seems like Frank suspects something (Jake’s story is kind of full of holes) but he never makes it clear what he plans to do until they get there. While Jake isn’t the target, his intentions are no less unsettling.
It would have been interesting if Jake’s actions were what led to the events of Harry’s story. It seems like that’s where it’s going and it would have been a way for the past to screw the time traveler back as Al discusses in a flashback monologue. It doesn’t come to pass, though.
Speaking of monologue, it was nice to see Chris Cooper again. He, understandably, takes a more diminished role, but he owns the one scene he gets. From what I’ve read, he’s in 8 episodes, so there’s more to look forward to. Oddly, Josh Duhamel is also listed to appear in that many. It makes you wonder how that’s going to work.
In the book, Jake makes multiple trips as he revises his tactics each time. It might be safe to say that he does so here, as well. Truth be told, seeing Jake in a single effort through the entirety of the series would be an interesting route to go. It would add more tension as Jake doesn’t exploit the reset button and it would be a way to streamline the story, and let the show go on its own path, while not deviating completely from the source material.
The couple that Jake stays with don’t get too much to do, but they serve their roles well. The patriarch gets a speech of his own as he tells a story from his time in the war. It makes the episode slightly monologue heavy, but both work so well that it’s hardly a complaint.
Both he and his wife look incredibly familiar, but I couldn’t place them. Even looking on IMDB didn’t yield any results, which was incredibly peculiar as they list pretty much every other character to appear.
Overall, this was a great hour. It was well paced, the episode balanced tension and humor well, and the status quo is changed as someone stumbled onto Jake’s true nature. It was a worthy follow up to the premiere. This is still looking to be a strong series and I’m looking forward to seeing how the remaining episodes play out.