James Franco’s eight-part miniseries 11.22.63 is about Jake Epping (Franco), a man who is sent back in time to stop John F. Kennedy’s assassination by his friend Al Templeton (Chris Cooper), the owner of his local diner.
The first question that popped into my mind when I previewed the first episode (besides “How am I ever going to remember the title of this show?!”) was “Why is JFK’s assassination so important?” I’m not saying it wasn’t a significant event in history, and it’s tragic that a man died in such a violent way. Certainly the mystery surrounding the circumstances of his death is fascinating in and of itself, and I’m a sucker for conspiracy theories, so bring it on! But what I don’t get is Al’s insistence that stopping JFK’s assassination will ultimately lead to a better world?
Correct me if I’m wrong American history buffs, but if Kennedy had lived would it really have made a significant difference in the lives of present-day Americans, much less the world in general? I think that’s a pretty U.S.-centric assumption, not to mention a bit arrogant. Would JFK have kept the U.S. out of the Vietnam War? Maybe, but what are the chances they would have become embroiled in an equally problematic conflict, say–oh I don’t know–THE WAR ON TERROR?
And what about other significant events that changed history, like Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination for instance? Anyways, let me not get all political. My point is, I didn’t get why Al was getting all worked up when Jake resisted going back in time, like he’d just refused to go fight for his country or something. Calm down Al, you crazy geezer!
As we should all know by now, time travel ain’t no joke! Here are some things I think Al should have appraised Jake (James Franco) of before he sent him tripping back through the magic portal:
You Won’t Fit In
Blending in in a different time is more than getting a haircut and buying period-appropriate clothes. Attitudes and morals and language was vastly different in the 1960’s compared to today. Jake may look the part but there is no way people in the past won’t pick up on the fact that he ain’t from around these here parts. He’s going to have to study the people around him very carefully.
It’s a thing, trust me! You can’t just travel back and forth through time willy-nilly and expect to come away without a scratch. I hypothesize that this is why Al got sick and/or seems to have fixated on past events and lost any interest in living in his present-day world. I predict that Jake will start to feel the effects of time travel-itis the longer he stays in the past.
Beware The Butterfly Effect
Obviously Al is so focused on stopping this one event in history that he doesn’t stop to consider all the little ways he is affecting his present-day time period. What if he changes something in the past and some significant person isn’t born because of it, and that sets off a series of catastrophic events? What if an insignificant person is never born? That’s kind of unfair to them, don’t you think? It’s kind of like playing God.
Should the Past Be Changed?
Speaking of playing God, should changing the past even be attempted? The world isn’t perfect by any means, but stopping the assassination of one man won’t necessarily make it any better. What about climate change? What about poverty? What about the conflicts in the Middle East? If JFK had lived, what would he have done with the rest of that life?
All of this makes for a very interesting show, though. What will Jake find out about JFK’s assassination in the past? How will he survive while he’s unraveling that mystery? What will the consequences of time travelling be for him? Only time will tell (pun intended).
Let us know in the comments whether you’ll be tuning in to the 11.22.63!
11.22.63 premieres with a two-hour episode on Monday, Feb. 15 on Hulu and Wednesday, Feb. 17 at 9 p.m. ET on Super Channel in Canada.
Hermione Wilson is a Junkie when it comes to all things Orphan Black, Game of Thrones and Supernatural, the show that introduced her to classic rock. She is a graduate of Humber College's journalism program, a current staff writer at Dovetail Communications, and an avid reader of sci-fi novels.