(4 / 5)
“Pleasantly excited for what’s to come next” is how I would describe the first episode, “The Rabbit Hole” of Hulu’s eight-part miniseries 11.22.63. 11.22.63 is an adaptation of Stephen King’s 2011 novel of the same name. The series is executively produced by J.J. Abrams and stars James Franco in the title role of Jake Epping. The novel tells the story of a time traveler, who attempts to prevent the assassination of John F. Kennedy. No matter how long Jake stays in the past only 2 minutes have passed in our world and he always arrives on the same day in 1960 when he travels back. Jake is convinced by his friend, Al Templeton (Chris Cooper) to go back and stop the assassination before it happens. Al has been traveling back in time for quite some time, but has never been able to stop the killing. Al is dying from cancer which is why he recruits Jake.
Having never read the novel, 11.22.63, my review is based solely on the merits of the episode and the portrayal of the 1960s. From the beginning the episode draws you in, especially the gruesome tale of his family’s murder told by Leon Rippy’s character, Harry Dunning. It takes a while to really build the suspense as parts of the episode simply provide background on Al’s journeys and how he is able to travel to the past. As the novel is set in the 1960s, I give praise to the series developers for their accuracy of the era; from the cars to the clothes to racial segregation and the overall theme of Americana. I am sure others will find fault, but from simply a viewer standpoint it seems to be on par. It follows much of what we have seen in other films and shows, Mad Men, when showing the 1960s.
There are definitely characters that stand out, but Jake and Al are the focal point of the episode. I imagine many characters will have a larger part in the series as the episodes continue, mainly The Yellow Card Man. Obviously, if you’ve read the novel you understand the role he plays as the story progresses, but having not read the book, I wait with anticipation to see what his character is truly about. He seems to be the only one that notices Jake’s presence as he is constantly saying, “You don’t belong here.” He appears at the most decisive moments and you watch wondering when is he going to appear next. From an overall storytelling standpoint, the episode was clean and consistent as everything fit together. There were suspenseful moments and much guessing of, “What’s going to happen next” as the episode progressed. James’ performance was very enjoyable as many times his acting is simply hit or miss. The episode ended very much where it began; at Harry’s house where his family is murdered, only this time Jake is there in 1960 before it happens. I look forward to the continuation of the series in the coming weeks. It was brilliant on Hulu’s part to release the series on a weekly basis as opposed to doing it all at one time.