How often do we wish we could go back in time and do things differently or make different decisions? Based on the bestselling novel by Stephen King, the eight-episode series 11.22.63, which originally aired on Hulu, takes on this idea and the resulting repercussions.
Jake Epping (James Franco) is a high-school English teacher in the process of getting divorced. He also teaches adult-education classes in an effort to try and help people improve their lives, but learns with one of his students who he tries to assist with a promotion that he is powerless to make a real difference. His longtime friend Al (Chris Cooper) presents him with an opportunity to do something truly meaningful by traveling back in time to stop the assignation of President John F. Kennedy. Al believes that stopping the assassination will prevent the death of Bobby Kennedy and stop the Vietnam War which claimed the lives of his fellow soldiers.
Al's diner is a rabbit hole to October 21, 1960. It only allows travel to this specific moment in time. Once the traveler returns to the present, no matter how long they stay, if they go back again it is to that same date. Al convinces Jake to go back and stay over three years until the assassination in order to prevent it. Jake initially bets to make money, but when that causes trouble, he gets a teaching job where he meets and falls in love with Sadie (Sarah Gadon), the school librarian. He also goes on a side mission to try and prevent a murder. Al warned him about getting too involved with people, and also, that if the past doesn't want to be changed, it will push back. By ignoring the first warning, Frank faces many challenges in achieving his objective and puts others lives in danger when the past starts punching back.
There is only one special feature included on Blu-ray/DVD release. "When the Future Fights Back" is a 15-minute featurette that provides insights on the making of the series from King, Franco, and executive producers J.J Abrams and Bridget Carpenter. This is worth watching especially having enjoyed the series as much as I did.
11.22.63 was not at all what I was expecting. Being a big Stephen King fan, I was extremely interested in the series when I first heard about it. I have also always been fascinated by the Kennedy assassination so bringing these two things together had me all in. This is not your typical King tale. There is nothing scary or even creepy so people looking for that should be aware. Instead, it is a thoughtful story about relationships, making choices, and the ramifications of those choices. The time-travel element plays out in a very interesting way and it is fun to see what life was like in the '60s. However, this really isn't as much about time travel as it is about Frank's journey. My only complaint is that Cooper isn't in the series nearly enough. He is very believable as this tortured man trying to change the world. Franco and Gadon are terrific as well and they have real tangible chemistry. This series has a lot to offer and would appeal to many types of viewers.