Star Rating: 5 out of 5
11.22.63 is the first Original Series from Hulu that I had the desire to watch. It looked serious, and high budget. Plus it was based on a book by Stephen King and produced by J.J. Abrams, creator of one of the greatest shows in TV history. Being only 8 episodes long, how could I resist?
The show stars James Franco as Jake Epping, a man from Lisbon Maine who is tasked with preventing the assassination of John F. Kennedy after his friend Al Templeton (played by Chris Cooper) attempts to complete the same mission but dies before he can complete it. As Jake steps into the rabbit hole (which is located hilariously inside of the broom closet of Al’s diner), he is transported back in time to 1960, three years before the assassination of JFK. From there, Jake must navigate his way through any obstacles the past will throw at him to prove Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone and to stop Kennedy’s assassination.
Any story involving time travel is incredibly difficult to pull off. There are rules that have to be established and then followed consistently throughout the entire work. The Terminator series is riddled with inconsistencies and time travel paradoxes that are hard to ignore after multiple viewings. Even the amazing Back to the Future trilogy breaks its own rules for the sake of story. Essentially, the more complex the story, the more rules required for the time traveling. Not only does 11.22.63 follow its own rules, it also has the simplest time travel I’ve ever seen. In order for Jake to go back in time he only needs to step through the rabbit hole. In order for him to come back, he just needs to step back through the rabbit hole. Any changes Jake makes in the past effect the future he goes back to, but if he goes back to the past, all of those changes are reset. He can never go to any other time in the past except for the same day in 1960, and he can only go back to his most present moment. This essentially allows Jake to go into the past and make any changes he wants, go back to the future, see how the changes effect the future, and then reset those changes if the future is not better.
As for the show itself, the entire story is riveting. I was on the edge of my seat by the end of every episode, yelling at my television. I only have two minor complaints about the story itself. First, there are times when James Franco comes across like he is trying too hard in his acting. It’s as if his emotions in some of the scenes seem forced, especially when it comes to his relationship with Bill (played by George Mackay) or when he is trying to convey how important his mission is. Second, the pacing of series is good up until episodes 6 and 7 when you can tell that they needed to cram a lot of events/information into a short amount of time. This isn’t a huge issue since it all came together in the final episode and it allowed each episode to end on a cliff hanger which drew you into the next one. But, I don’t think I would have complained if there was an extra 30 minutes added to the final episode or even an extra episode entirely.
If you enjoy history or time travel stories, I’d highly recommend 11.22.63. If you love stories, I’d highly recommend 11.22.63. If you are a living, breathing, human being, I’d highly recommend 11.22.63.