Stephen King fans and history buffs alike will be delighted with 11.22.63. The miniseries, produced by J.J. Abrams (Star Wars–the Force Awakens), is based upon the novel of the same name by Stephen King. Although the overall story concept is best explained and understood in written format, Abrams did a respectable job with this project. The overall storyline: Jake Epping, the protagonist, is convinced to go back in time to prevent the assassination of John F. Kennedy.
The premise: a portal in the back of a diner offers the ability to travel back in time. There are a few catches: it only leads back to a specific date in 1960. You can change things in the past and return to the present to see the impact, but when the portal is subsequently used, said changes will be “reset.” It also isn’t easy to change the past–it is “obdurate” as we quickly learn. There are other catches as well, which become apparent throughout the series. In these aspects, the series mirrors the book closely.
As is often the case, the series differs somewhat from the book. Having read the book first, I found some of these differences annoying but got used to them. (James Franco’s brilliantly-portrayed “Epping” character partners up with a young man who assists him until late in the series; this did not happen in the book, but it was a decent vehicle for the writers to explain various parts of the plot to us.) By mid-series, I began to appreciate the differences between the book and the show, because I was no longer certain how the story would turn out. Going into the final episode, I was fervently hoping that certain parts would play out differently than the written version. Some did, and some didn’t.
This is an enjoyable and well-done series which I recommend. You can also read the book by Stephen King, and if you do so, you’ll be able to enjoy both without one dampering the other.
But I’m not quite finished. One other really cool part of this series is that it’s cleverly crafted to almost guarantee that you’ll go back and watch it a second time. Approximately seventeen minutes from the end, you’ll see something that will have you exclaiming “wait, WHAT?” and clamoring back to the first episode. (“We just missed each other…”)
And then there are the easter eggs. Little hidden props to many of Stephen King’s other works appear throughout the series. I first began to take heavy notice of this in the final episode, when the protagonists first enter the book suppository–note the graffiti on the stairwell wall at the ground level. Gradually I realized that there were other easter eggs in the episode, and now I almost have to go back to the beginning and watch again to look for everything. Some of the obvious ones are references to Misery, The Stand and It (Annette O’Toole, who played grown-up Beverly Marsh in the 1990 It miniseries, has a part in 11.22.63.) If you watch closely, there are many others.
So, if you’ve got nothing to do this weekend, or a few hours per evening to kill, set aside some time, get on Hulu and check this series out. Leave yourself time to watch the whole thing twice, because once you’re done, you’ll want to go back to the beginning and check it again. The past, as they say, harmonizes.