Megan takes a look at the 11.22.63 finale. Does Jake save JFK? Or, more importantly, what happens to Sadie?
Before watching the finale, if someone would have asked me what the plot of Hulu’s 11.22.63 was, I would have said for Jake Epping (James Franco) to prevent the assassination of JFK in order to make diner owner Al Templeton’s (Chris Cooper) life a little better. That was the goal, after all, at the onset of the series. Granted, it was a lofty goal, assuming that preventing just one moment in history would make everything better.
But the final episode, titled “The Day in Question,” takes a vastly different direction and barely addresses this aim, instead resolving itself as a time-traveling love story between Jake and Sadie (Sarah Gadon).
Let’s get the big spoilers out of the way first: Jake DOES prevent Lee Harvey Oswald (the terrific Daniel Webber) from killing JFK in Dallas. But in his struggle to thwart Oswald, both Oswald and Sadie die, leaving Jake as the No. 1 suspect in the attempted assassination of JFK (for a very brief time period). Eventually he’s let go (and congratulated by President Kennedy and the First Lady) and returns to the Rabbit Hole in Maine.
Here’s where things get really weird, and one can’t tell whether there’s some sort of conservative political statement in play.
When Jake returns to 2016 Lisbon, Maine, it looks like something out of Mad Max: Fury Road. Buildings are collapsed, there’s no diner. However, Jake does run into his former student Harry Dunning (Leon Rippy) who’s fighting off a pack of hobos. Harry recognizes Jake from 1960 and recalls how he, you know, murdered his father. As it turns out, Harry’s life didn’t get better. His family was put into “Kennedy camps,” which one assumes are a little like concentration camps, and they, too, died. When Harry talks about his dead father, he breaks down and cries. Like the viewers, Jake is left scratching his head. He was just trying to help, after all. How could so much go wrong? Jake asks questions about what happened after Kennedy wasn’t shot, but Harry’s hazy on the details, although “bombs” indicate that there may have been a nuclear event.
Well, CLEARLY Jake needs to go back through the hole and reset everything because this future is even worse than the current 2016 (even if there is no Trump). And this is where I have some issues. While I couldn’t wait for him to go back through the Rabbit Hole and reset everything, it was only because it was the last episode, and I wanted to see some resolution. Otherwise, it would have made more sense for Jake to explore more of the 2016 future where Kennedy lives, to see how Al Templeton’s life turned out. Wouldn’t it have taken more than one conversation with Harry to decide whether to undo everything? Granted, the world is a post-apocalyptic wasteland, but maybe Al Templeton was king of this wasteland and happy as a New England clam.
Either way, Jake HAD to go back through the Rabbit Hole. There was nothing left for him in this future. Not even Sadie.
When he goes back to reset the timeline, he returns to 1960 and encounters Sadie visiting her cousins in Lisbon. For a brief second, he considers staying and being with her. But the man who continuously warns him to get out of the past tells him that each time he stays, she dies—no matter what he does. The only way for her to live is for him to go back to the original 2016.
When he resets the timeline and returns to the original 2016, Al Templeton is dead, and Jake’s life just sucks. He’s depressed. It’s like returning from vacation and going back to work (only your vacation lasted three years in length and was in another decade).
He decides to Google (or copyright-free equivalent) Sadie’s name and discovers she’s won an award back in Jodie. He shows up for the event, like a stalker, and asks for a dance with the now septuagenarian to Sam Cooke’s “Nothing Can Change This Love.”
This is an absolutely heartbreaking scene and was very well done. However, it didn’t jive with the rest of the story. If Jake had always been looking for love, from the very first scene of the series, then this would have made sense. But the relationship between him and Al was what drove him to go into the past in the first place. This felt like a scene from a completely different series.
Will 11.22.63 be remembered come Emmy time? Hopefully for the main titles sequence and maybe for Daniel Webber as Oswald. I haven’t read the book, so I can’t say that it ended the same way, but it felt like there were two different stories, two different timelines, competing throughout the miniseries. One, a love story. Another, a political sci-fi mystery. Both of these series could have been amazing. But in this case, not at the same time.
James Franco, Lead Actor
Chris Cooper, Upporting Actor
Main Title Design