11.22.63 is a Hulu miniseries based on Stephen King's science fiction thriller “11/22/63”. The eight episodes it spans encompasses the mission of one English teacher Jack Epping (James Franco) from present times who tries to prevent the assassination of John F. Kennedy via a time portal that takes him back to the sixties.
Before I start reviewing, know that there will be no such comparison with King's book because 1. It'll probably end with a comment we're all too familiar with: “The book was better” and 2. I didn't read the book.
Now, seeing how James Franco stars as the lead we can all presume he goes back in time after getting stoned. But the show quickly crushes that misconception by providing a high tech time machine engineered by the bright minds of the present that travels through time and space maintaining all the laws of classical and quantum mechanics. I'm just kidding. Jack discovers a time portal in his neighbourhood diner's closet which takes him back to the exact location on October 21, 1960 every time he walks in. He can return to the present time by stepping back into the closet and only 2 minutes would have passed in present regardless of how long he stayed in the past. However, he will return to a time that will have been affected by the changes he made in the past. The changes reset once he goes back again. Why? How? What? The show doesn't answer. So right off the bat we're told not to care about the technical side of the story but enjoy the drama. I obeyed and in the end actually enjoyed the show.
So ignoring the technical plot holes regarding all the time travel stuff, the story is actually compelling. After being convinced, trained and equipped by the diner's owner Al (Chris Cooper), Jack goes back to 1960 to save JFK from being assassinated which would eventually bring world peace since he was such a good leader. Doing so is tricky because JFK's killer was never confirmed and in the three years he gets, Jack must do thorough research and tracking to find the real killer and well, stop him. There's also the “past” ominously keeping an eye on him and preventing him from changing the ordinary course of events. As Al puts it, “If you do something that really *%$#s with the past, the past *%$#s with you.”
In the midst of all that, Jack has to maintain a fake identity, keep a low profile and also not get entangled in the lives of the people he acquaints with for three years. Each hour-long episode is packed with the thrill and mystery and later on the romance you expect from a series with names like J. J. Abrams and Stephen King in production. The acting was top notch as well from Franco and the rest of the cast. Apart from that the cinematographers and costume designers' emphasis on maintaining both aesthetics and historical accuracy was praiseworthy.
I was a bit afraid about how they'd end it without making it too obvious or clichéd and I was quite satisfied with how it all came full circle.