‘11.22.63’ Review: You Shouldn’t Be Here—Really, Get Out

11.22.63 hulu

The Hulu adaptation of Stephen King’s 11.22.63 has a premise as ridiculous as ABC’s cult-classic Pushing Daisies but without the charm.

Just as Ned could magically bring people back to life with a touch of his finger, Al (Chris Cooper) can use a time portal in the closet of his diner to go back to October 1960. And just as Ned could only bring people back to life for a minute before another person dies, those who return from the “rabbit hole” in 11.22.63 only lose two minutes of time in the present, no matter how long they were in the past. And yet Pushing Daisies, the story of a piemaker solving crimes with his dead childhood friend, makes more sense than this Hulu series.

There are many things Al could use the portal for, but he insists on forcing his favorite customer Jake (James Franco) to go back to 1960 and chill out for three years to figure out who shot JFK. Al believes that if they prevented the assassination of JFK, the world would be a better place. Robert Kennedy would never be shot. No one would ever go to Vietnam. (Although poor Lyndon B. Johnson never gets to become president, so it’s not necessarily great for EVERYONE.)

But here’s where his theory derails in human logic: According to Al, the only way you can change the past is if you stay in the past. How does Al know this? Clearly he didn’t stay in the past, and he tells Jake that there are the only two people that know about this passage to Narnia. But even so, if Jake would kill Lee Harvey Oswald or whomever, he’d have to stay in the past to see it through. Even though Jake is going through a divorce and is frustrated as a teacher, it’s not worth going back in time over. . .and never coming back.

Plus, according to Al, “if you do something that really fucks with the past, the past fucks with you.” Jake learns this is true when he tries calling his father on the phone in the past and a car tries to hit his phone booth. So if Jake would even succeed in preventing something as huge as, say, THE ASSASSINATION OF JFK, he’d probably die shortly after.

I speculate that this whole show is a conspiracy of Al wanting to kill Jake, but in the most interesting way possible (death by. . .time?). Eat unhealthy burgers at the diner. Go in the portal. Never come back. As far as conspiracy theories go, it’s not the craziest thing you’ve heard, right?

While the plot holes are plentiful, the acting is still pretty good, especially from Chris Cooper and Leon Rippy, who’s heartbreaking in his opening monologue. According to the cast in future episodes, which includes Cherry Jones and T.R. Knight, there’s should be interesting stuff to come. I just hope I haven’t fallen down a rabbit hole of frustration by then.

Editor’s Update: Megan takes a look at the finale and considers the success of the overall series.

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  • AC

    Actually, you’re wrong. You state “According to Al, the only way you can change the past is if you stay in the past.”. That’s not the case. What Al says is “If you want to change something forever, you can’t ever go back. Going back erases what you did before.”. So you don’t have to STAY in the past. You just can’t go back again, or what you changed will be undone.

    I will say that one thing I had a problem with is when Jake asked Al why he didn’t shoot Oswald when he encountered him in 1962. Al said, “I don’t know whether Oswald was the man that did it. I still don’t know. I’m not going to shoot someone because of a maybe.”. If that’s the case, why not kill Oswald, return to the present to determine if JFK lived. If JFK was assassinated in this timeline, then clearly Oswald wasn’t JFK’s killer. So go back through the rabbit hole which will undo the fact that you killed Oswald, and find JFK’s real killer.

    • Mego

      Ohhh got it! I was confused by that! Thanks for clearing that up!

      And that’s a great theory! I like that idea.

    • Justin Wade

      My answer to that theory, is if Al shot Oswald when he got back from Russia (especially there in the open public where he saw Oswald) he could have very easily been caught and detained by authorities and thrown in the slammer, thus not being able to return back to the present. If Oswald WAS the killer, then I guess Al could possibly be ok with that..but if it wasn’t Oswald, then how could Al get back to the diner to try again?

      • Martin

        That would make sense except that Jake repeats the same statement to bill while at their apartment, where they could’ve quite easily killed him and evaded capture for a day or so to return back to the future and see if anything changed, if not, return back and Oswald is alive again; no harm no foul. I think the only logical reason for not doing this is A, because that’s not the plot of the book, and B, it wouldn’t be much of a show, and certainly not at all the same type of show if every episode they just went back and killed a different character then run to the portal for the rest of the episode, only to realize it was the wrong person, then rinse and repeat. It’d get boring quick.

  • Mark Cox

    Don’t post a review if you didn’t pay proper attention, also the show is based on a novel so they can’t stray too far away from the story. Just write an article about how much you miss Pushing Daisies.

    • Mego

      I misinterpreted the one caveat. But if you’d like, I can totally write an article about how much I miss Pushing Daisies. 🙂

      • Clarence Moye

        Lol.

      • Mark Cox

        I say go for it, maybe it will get people who missed it first time round to have a look at what was a potentially classic show. That got axed before its time because it was either too smart for people to handle, or the network were playing ping pong with its TV schedule so it didn’t get an audience

  • Graham Banzer

    you misinterpreted the instructions about keeping the past changed in it’s entirety. the past only resets if you leave the past and then go back to the past, as you would re-enter the past at the time before you made all the changes. When Jake went back and carved in the tree, the carving was there in the present. Jake going back again erased the carving.

    In other words, once Jake prevents the assassination, he can never go back to 1960 again after returning to the present or he will undo the entire operation, however if he stays in the future, JFK would remain alive.

  • Jason Roark

    Rescinded “plot holes” set aside, I have a suspicion of a side plot in the making…. His favorite student, the janitor, said in his essay his family was killed on Oct. 31st 1960. Franco’s character will undoubtedly try to stop this horrible slaughter from taking place.

  • Ah the first episode, when I thought it might be good.

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