English teacher Jake Epping is shown a portal to the year 1960 and is thrust into a mission to prevent the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.
There are certain conventions almost every time travel plot contains. Usually, the time traveller is at first much happier in the past, but finds, in the end, they much prefer the present. Usually, if they change anything, there’s a huge catastrophe. All of these conventions are ever present in 11.22.63. How? Let’s find out.
I get why Stephen King wrote about the ‘60s like it was better than modern day in the novel the series is based on, as that was when he came of age. But the creator of this show didn’t bother to leave out all of the parts where the 1960s is heavily romanticized. For whatever reason, the writers made this decade a place where no one was staring on those awful phone screens or not paying attention in school. Somehow, everyone acted like English Class was the greatest thing ever, and were never distracted by anything at all. Granted, I’ve never lived in this era so I don’t know, but I’ve heard enough stories about people pulling pranks on their teachers and running away from home to know it’s not as the show made it out to be.
Another big issue is a lot of the social issues the United States faced in the 1960s are almost entirely swept under the rug. There are points where the show addresses them, but they are far and few between. The series makes it seem like it’s completely normal for a black woman to hold any power in a Southern state. A woman wanting to work a job is described as a “new type of woman”, not a “ball buster”. I get that the series didn’t want to focus on the racism and sexism of the 1960s, but trying to ignore it is frustrating, especially given it was a large part of that experience.
Although not horrible, it’s important to note that rarely is a fantastical element explained in the book. This is fine for the concept of time travel as we don’t need to know why time travel occurs, but it does get irritating during the ending. This next part is a spoiler, so if you don’t like spoilers, skip to the next paragraph. In the end, Jake Epping kills Lee Harvey Oswald, saving John F. Kennedy’s life. The result is that the apocalypse happens. We’re never told how John F. Kennedy not being killed led to an apocalypse, so we’re left confused. I get the butterfly effect, but when not explained I can only see it as unrealistic and stupid.
There are a few characters that aren’t necessarily bad, but are problematic. For example, there’s Epping’s love interest, Sadie. She’s beautiful, loves to read, and has a fun, bubbly personality. Sound familiar? Sadie’s a manic pixie dream girl. For those of you who don’t know what that is, it’s a female character, usually a love interest, whose sole purpose is to excite the life of the main character. Although there is another female character who’s not a manic pixie dream girl, it still isn’t great that the character is included at all.
The character of Jake Epping isn’t wonderful either. He does terrible things even though the stakes are relatively low. He’s a liar and manipulator, which would be fine if he had to be, but he really doesn’t. If he wants to start all over again he can. He, for whatever reason, chooses not to. He goes to extreme lengths to get what he wants for no reason whatsoever, and as a result, I had a hard time rooting for him.
One interesting thing to note is that Epping is played by James Franco, known for his many comedic roles. I think he definitely tried his best as Epping, though it was hard to like him as a character. Franco’s acting is impressive. His biggest mistake in this role was in taking it. The one overwhelmingly good thing about this series was we were able to see him play this kind of character. It would be interesting to see him do more dramatic roles in the future. Just a thought.
Now for the positives. Although I’ve criticized several aspects of the show, the writing isn’t that bad. Sure, there are plenty of flaws, but it’s not terrible. I wouldn’t say there’s any noteworthy pieces of dialogue, but it does it’s job. As far as the storyline is concerned, while not groundbreaking, it was able to keep me invested throughout the eight episodes, even if barely at times. The special effects are also pretty good. You could tell they really tried, and succeeded, to make the show look like it came out of the 1960s. However, that doesn’t make it worth watching. With so many TV series coming out, 11.22.63 isn’t the first one I’d get started on.
11.22.63, while not being horrible, is oftentimes subject to problematic cliches, making it not worth the watch.
It’s about time: 11.22.63
Writing - 8/108/10
Storyline - 8.8/108.8/10
Acting - 9.3/109.3/10
Music - 9.6/109.6/10
Production - 10/1010/10
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