Hulu’s time-travel thriller 11.22.63 came to its dramatic end on Monday, sending us back through the rabbit hole into the ho-hum present, where everything is so disappointingly normal. In the series, JFK’s America was no Camelot, but instead a 60s-era Dark Carnival, replete with swarming cockroaches, sadistic butchers, and, yes, that clothespin — which, let’s be real, is what kept us coming back past the series’ halfway mark. Here’s a list of some of the series’ most shocking moments.
9. The Car Crash
The series’ most fucked up moments happen in the pilot episode, when Jake’s (James Franco) just starting to understand how meddlesome his presence is. The fact that he’s there is enough to piss off Time; then he goes and pulls shit like calling up his dad on a payphone years before he’s even supposed to be born. Bad move, Jake! Just to drive home how dumb that was, the past sends a car careening into the phone booth. A bloodied woman flops out, echoing the words of the wheezing Yellow Card Man (Kevin J. O’Connor): “You don’t belong here.”
8. The Cockroaches
Later in the pilot episode, Jake’s making a run for it at a JFK pep rally after he’s caught sneaking into the party VIP lounge. Ducking into a darkened storage room, he hears the clattering before he sees it: a swarm of maniacal cockroaches, streaking across the floor and up his pants within seconds. Big price to pay for a couple of seconds with ol’ Jack.
7. The Slaughter of the Lambs
In”The Kill Floor,” the series’ second episode, we meet Frank Dunning (Josh Duhamel), a walking penis with a slim-fit shirt and a penchant for animal cruelty. Testing to see whether his new pal’s got what it takes to hang with him and his boys, Frank hands Jake a sledgehammer and tells him to smash a lamb between the eyes. When the gentle Yank refuses, Dunning shows him how it’s done with a single blow.
6. The Rampage of Frank Dunning
Dunning, the bad butcher, attempts to take his sheep-slaughtering skills to his own little lambs when he comes home drunk on Halloween night in episode two. Recalling the details Harry chronicled about his savage dad in his personal story, Jake does everything he can to intervene. By the time Jake reaches him, Dunning has already stuck an axe in his wife and terrorized his kids; it takes multiple gunshots in the chest to finally take him down.
5. The Racist
The sad thing about 11.22.63 is that many of its most darkest moments are accurate depictions of life in the ‘60s, particularly the culture’s take on race. In “Other Voices, Other Rooms,” Miz Mimi is refused service at a gas station by a violent white attendant after she’s walked a mile to get there; Jake saves the day by beating him down, but Miz Mimi’s subsequent surprise — she’s simply not used to being stood up for — shows the problem isn’t one that woke white chivalry alone can fix.
The real crux of this show is not what happens on the titular date itself but what comes after. Turns out JFK’s survival doesn’t extend America’s Golden Age; instead, it brings about the country’s collapse after it buckles under the bombs, riots, and concentration camps sanctioned by his regime.
3. The Psych Ward
Jake is no hero. He pulls what is arguably one of the most fucked up moves in the entire series in episode six: Fearing his increasingly antsy BFF Bill will endanger his mission, he tricks him into coming to a mental institution, using his beloved Marina’s pregnancy as bait. By the time he realizes he’s been betrayed by his “brother,” he’s pinned to the floor by an army of shrinks, bound for a brain-frying series of electroshock sessions.
2. The Bleach: Johnny Clayton, Part 1
The cockroaches, the bloodied lambs, and the axe-wielding dad were all just mental lubrication for the star freak of the series, Johnny Clayton, Sadie’s insane ex-husband. He’s a southern gentleman with the twisted proclivities of the best Stephen King-ian villains. In episode six, after carving a long gash into Sadie’s face, he calmly sits down with Jake, pouring him a tall glass of — wait for it — bleach.
1. The Clothespin: Johnny Clayton, Part 2
It’s rare that a show — especially one set in the past — delivers something so delightfully deranged and unexpected that we don’t know what to do with ourselves. 11.22.63 delivered, by way of — who else? — epic sicko Johnny Clayton, whose bedroom habits shocked even the most depraved TV audiences. Telling Jake about her wedding night, Sadie recounts this story to Jake with sweet 1960s restraint, making the most WTF moment in the whole series all the more deliciously fucked up:
“And then he took my hand, and he put it on himself, and I screamed.”
“….‘Cause he had a clothespin on him.”
It doesn’t get much better than this.