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.