11.22.63 Spoiler Free Review: A ‘Timeless’ Thriller
James Franco stars as Jake Epping in 11.22.63, a series based off the 2011 Stephen King novel of the same name.
The story focuses on the adventure of a high school english teacher exploring the world of the 1960s, tasked by his dying friend with preventing the assassination of then U.S President, John F. Kennedy. This assignment becomes more complicated, however, once he learns about the pasts ability to “fight back”.
Filled with action, thriller, drama, with a touch of fantasy and mystery, 11.22.63 delivers on its promise to be an engaging series that offers its viewers insight into the past. It brings along with it a unique perspective on history and promises to be a captivating experience for history buffs and casual audiences alike.
This review will examine every aspect of the show, labeling each with a 5 point rating system. This is of course my personal opinion. As stated in the title, you can expect this overview to be spoiler free!
While the show does play around with the concept of time travel in an inventive way, it doesn’t introduce any new concepts. You will not find a story that will change your mindset or give you a new perspective here either. That being said, the show never aims to do any of this. It is meant to be an engaging but simple-to-follow series with likeable characters and an interesting environment. Like all Stephen King novels, the story is a thriller that will keep you on the edge of your seat, waiting to see what resolution will be reached.
The setting remains the strength of the show (and central to the plot) which without it would make the series less enjoyable. In addition, important social commentary is made that highlights the struggles of minorities in America of the 1960s. This not only allows viwers to appreciate their struggles, but also offers the opportunity to reflect on what hardships they have to deal with today. It is made clear several times that, while much has changed since then, the implications of the past affect people of the future and discriminatory actions are no exception.
I was a bit disappointed with the mystery aspect, however. While there was the single running question for most of the series (did Lee Harvey Oswald act alone in the assassination?), the show failed to entice me with any critical or analytical thinking. While the thriller aspect may have been engaging enough, more food for thought would have truly lifted this above many others.
Furthermore, the conclusion lacks a cohesive ending, one that would tie everything together. I have found that many Stephen King novels will do an amazing job at building up, but will often produce an average or sometimes predictable ending (such as From a Buick 8). Still, the storyline was nothing short of brilliant and deserves credit for its execution.
As mentioned before, the characters are simple but likeable enough to empathize with. I would not say they have great depth or that one would harbour a deepening connection with them, but their personalities somewhat affect the narrative and drive the story to its conclusion. I am of the belief that a show is only as strong as its characters. Because the story takes place in an unfamiliar environment, it might have been worthwhile further exploring their perspective to gain a stronger understanding of their actions. I could not help but feel certain characters were wasted (such as Miss Mimi) who, while not change the story, could have allowed for a stronger grasp of the setting.
With all that said, as a science-fiction miniseries the show still did an excellent job of displaying what depth it could in only 8 episodes. I cannot say how true to the novel the characters remained, or if details were left out, but I enjoyed following along with them.
Nothing revolutionary but, like the characters, did not take away from its quality.
I can always appreciate when a movie or show dives right into the story and this series did exactly that. It did not tip-toe around introducing the concept of time travel, nor did it dwindle too long on the specifics of it (though I did have a few questions). 11.22.63 managed to stay consistent almost the entire 8 episodes. It was this quality that added to its strength in keeping the viewer hooked. Too fast and it risked confusing the audience; too slow and it bored them. The pacing was perfect and deserves praise for it.
While it may lack that special something which would make it truly timeless, 11.22.63 is still a show I would highly recommend to any viewer. It is especially good for those of you who wish to become more accustomed to the fantasy thriller style of storytelling as this is textbook Stephen King.
All 8 episodes can be watched on Hulu.
All 8 episodes can be watched on Hulu.