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This Underrated Stephen King Miniseries About JFK Is Worth Revisiting


This Underrated Stephen King Miniseries About JFK Is Worth Revisiting


Summary

  • Stephen King’s “11.22.63” offers a thrilling blend of science fiction, history, and moral dilemmas worth revisiting.
  • The miniseries dives deep into the ethical stakes of altering history, showcasing exceptional performances by the cast.
  • Underrated and overlooked, “11.22.63” delivers gripping storytelling that explores themes of love, redemption, and fate.



Although Stephen King will always reign supreme among horror scribes, the celebrated author’s most underrated stories often expand beyond the grave. Stand by Me and The Green Mile are excellent big-screen examples of King’s storytelling range, but there are also overlooked small-screen adaptations fans should check out. For example, the 2016 Hulu miniseries 11.22.63 is a riveting time-travel revisionist history tale that melds science fiction with romance and mystery.


Based on the Stephen King novel 11/22/63, the miniseries follows Jake Epping (James Franco), a time traveler who is given a chance to alter the course of history by going back to prevent the assassination of U.S. President John F. Kennedy in Dallas, Texas. The 8-part miniseries aired between February and April 2016, and despite garnering positive reviews, the show remains underrated among die-hard King fans. With a U.S. Presidential election upcoming, it’s time to go back in time and assess the merits of 11.22.63 and explain why King fans should revisit the show.

11.22.63

11.22.63

Release Date
February 15, 2016

Main Genre
History

Seasons
1

Studio
Hulu


11.22.63’s Genre-Blending Plot

Bill and Jake sit in a car in 11.22.63
Hulu


Adapted from Stephen King’s 2011 novel11/22/63, the Hulu miniseries, 11.22.63, begins in modern-day Maine (unsurprisingly). The story concerns English teacher Jake Epping, who is approached by his cancer-stricken friend Al Templeton (Chris Cooper). Al reveals a time portal that takes people back to 1960 and asks Jake to time travel to Dallas, Texas, to avert the assassination of U.S. President John F. Kennedy. Al also reveals that he is dying of cancer and that his terminal illness has prevented him from staying in the past for long durations. As such, Al couldn’t stop President Kennedy’s killer and needed Jake to finish the job.


Assuming the alias James Amberson, Jake travels to 1960 Dallas and becomes embroiled in a mysterious controversy. He begins spying on Lee Harvey Oswald’s (Daniel Webber) handler, but when he returns to his quarters and finds Al’s notes burned and his superintendent’s son dead, Jake knows he’s in danger and that someone is deliberately hiding the truth. Despite the peril, Jake settles in Fort Worth, becomes a school teacher, and befriends a Kentuckian in 1960 named Bill Turcotte (George Mackay) who helps him abort the presidential assassination. The more time Jake spends in 1960 Texas in the Hulu Original series, the more comfortable he becomes in his new life, which threatens to undermine his mission and life.

Why 11.22.63 Is so Underrated

Jake and Sadie run by a car in 11.22.63
Hulu

Beyond the expert storytelling acumen of Stephen King, 11.23.63 remains underrated in its ambitious and well-executed blend of science fiction and revisionist historical drama. The dichotomy between modern-day Maine and 1960 Texas is stark, yet through Jake’s time travels, King convinces viewers that the more things change, the more they stay the same. If the past is a prologue, King makes a profound cautionary statement in the guise of a fun, moody time-travel thriller with high dramatic stakes.


Produced by J.J. Abrams and his Bad Robot production company with top-notch production values, fans may be turned off by the slow, unclear beginning that gradually picks up steam and becomes more compelling as it progresses, fusing fantasy and history in exciting ways. At first, viewers identify with Jake, an ordinary citizen caught in extraordinary circumstances as he navigates a fish-out-of-water past. Although Franco has courted controversy, he strikes a believable balance between anxiety and earnestness that keeps viewers on their toes as he unravels a grand conspiracy.

Unless they read the novel beforehand, viewers tuning into 11.22.63 during its initial run expected the assassination date to play a larger role in the story. One of the most unheralded aspects of the show is how it uses President Kennedy’s assassination as a backdrop to tell Jake’s redemption tale. For instance, Jake tests his ability to alter the past by attempting to stop the murder of one of his future students at the hands of his murderous father.


Jake grapples with his moral compass, weighing the options to lash out violently or idly watch his student die. Jake’s dark and violent turn is tempered by his romance with Sadie Dunhill (Sarah Gadon), which pulls him further from his contemporary reality as a divorcee. By the end of the journey, King’s thesis that humanity must accept the things they cannot change rings loud and clear, using President Kennedy’s death as an apt metaphor.

Is 11.22.63 Worth Revisiting?

Jake and Sadie dance in 11.22.63
Hulu


With Robert F. Kennedy Jr. running for the U.S. President in 2024, the Stephen King miniseries, 11.22.63, is even more timely and topical now than during its release in early 2016. However, the real reason why it’s worth rewatching nowadays comes down to the compelling ethical bind Jake finds himself in during the finale. Torn between his love for Sadie and devotion to his country, Jake faces a moral dilemma that arises with the dramatic stakes of a TV finale. The personal and the historical converge with tension, suspense, and a deeply satisfying conclusion. As such, it’s no surprise that 11.22.63 won a Saturn Award for Best Television Presentation.

11.22.63 is also worth revisiting for its excellent performances by Franco, Gadon, and Cooper. While some have criticized Franco’s turn as uneven, he does a terrific job serving as a conduit for viewers, guiding them through a bizarre political environment in 1960 Texas that feels familiar and otherworldly. Franco also embodies an air of menacing intrigue that keeps viewers guessing what will happen next, avoiding predictable plotting and formulaic storytelling tropes. Apart from the convincing performances, 11.22.63 proves that Stephen King is often at his best and most overlooked when penning non-horror stories.


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