11/22/63 is a Hulu original sci-fi series based on the novel by noted author Stephen King. It follows the journey of Jake Epping (James Franco), a disgruntled English teacher and recent divorcee as he is transported through time and sent on a mission to save President Kennedy from assassination.
After a particularly hard day, Jake heads to his favorite diner to grab dinner. The owner, Al, makes him his regular burger and as Jake is having dinner his ex-wife comes in with divorce paperwork for him to sign and Al leaves the room for a few moments. His wife leaves but when Al returns he is coughing and sick and looks grizzled and much older.
Jake rushes him to the hospital and they are told Al is dying of cancer, a fact that astounds him considering one moment Al had been in perfect health and in the next he was dying. After pushing Al for answers, he promises Jake that if he returns the next day he will tell him everything.
The next day Jake meets him at the diner and Al insists that he enter a closet near the rear of the building. Feeling like he is being played with, Jake hesitantly enters, and suddenly falls through momentary darkness. When he stands up he finds that he is outside and transported to another time, the 60’s specifically. This is where the sci-fi really starts to kick in.
Terrified and taken aback, Jake runs and is brought back to present time, an eager Al ready to gauge his reaction. After a length of questioning Al admits to Jake that he has spent the last several years (a mere two minutes in present time) in the 1960’s, working on a mad man’s plan to save JFK from assassination. He then, after some resistance, conscripts Epping to take up his cause and travel to the past to try to save the President.
This sci-fi story is sad but riveting as Jake does everything he can over the next three years to covertly position himself to stop the assassination from happening. With a plot full of real life drama and intrigue and a cast of solid performances, I found the story of Jake Epping spell binding.
Also, as a fan of Victorian literature, there is something to be said in the very Faustian way that the show is presented. The main character is certain he knows what the right thing is, he is certain he is doing the best thing for humanity, but he also doesn’t realize that it is that feigned selflessness that will cost him dearly in the end.
In a not so serious critique I also couldn’t help but notice that the entire idea, the book, the show, it’s all kinda sort of just like an old Red Dwarf episode where the group finds a device that can transport them through time and Lister accidently saves JFK from assassination in attempts to find a curry, only to have to go back and ask JFK himself to stand on the grassy knoll and be the second shooter because of the consequences of his surviving the attempt on his life. Not really much of a critique, but it did make me wonder if King is maybe fan of the classic sci-fi series.
Overall, I would definitely recommend this sci-fi miniseries if you’re looking for a good hulu original to sink your teeth into. Franco’s performance is strong and the story delves semi-deep into the many, many conspiracies, particularly the CIA theory surrounding the JFK assassination, and an interesting take on how this sci-fi world handles paradoxes.
Have you seen this unique show yet? What did you think? Let us know in the comments below!
Also, if you’re a fan of Franco’s other work, check out this awesome review of ‘The Interview’!