Review: 11.22.63 (Season 1, Episode 4)

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Overall, 11.22.63 is an excellent series and has proven itself to be a worthy adaptation of Stephen King's novel.

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Being a fan of the novel 11.22.63 for a few years before its adaptation was even announced, my attitude towards the show was arguably always going to be a little bias. The Stephen King story centres around Jake Epping, who uses a time portal with very specific rules in order to travel back to the 1960s, in order to prevent the assassination of JFK. The novel itself contains so much research and accuracy, combined with an incredible ability for imagination.

Yet my feelings towards the TV show are beginning to become mixed. The casting for the characters is overall pretty spot on, I think most effective being Al, the terminally ill diner owner. Equally, the choice of the relatively unknown actor Daniel Webber to play Lee Harvey Oswald is an excellent one, as their resemblance is uncanny, and Webber’s frustrated and angry performance is extremely close to the book. Yet the choice of actor for Sadie Dunhill is a puzzling one, and doesn’t seem to fit amongst the other choice of actors. Sadie is described in the book as awkward, self-conscious, and quite a lanky individual, someone who doesn’t fit in her own skin, a quality which Jake immediately recognises and loves. The choice for Sadie’s role was Sarah Gadon, who is absolutely radiant, and arguably someone who could not look more comfortable in her own skin. So far, in every moment of screen time she has looked incredible, and whilst I extend kudos to her for this, it is wrong for the character, and seems a very strange choice. It feels as if they didn’t want a woman who was punching above her weight with James Franco, who is probably a bit too good looking himself for the role of Epping.

Meanwhile, the set design in 11.22.63 is flawless and it is easy to take it for granted when watching it. Stephen King paid close attention to details like haircuts, clothes, cars and food in his book, which thankfully has been just as focused on in the series. King also in many ways looks at the past through rose-tinted glasses in the source, and many parts of the show reflect his nostalgia. However, to avoid the naïve idea that ‘everything was better in the 60s’, 11.22.63 highlights the era’s appalling treatment of women and ethnic minorities, as well as the societal norms that Jake has to adjust to.

One aspect that has irritated me slightly is the changing of plot. Arguably this stems from my love of the novel, but in many ways it seems unnecessary. The narrative changes that have been made are only minor, yet are frequent enough to make me concerned about the episodes to come, and as this is a story about time travel, where every action has repercussions, it seems dangerous to go around tweaking the story. 11.22.63 also introduced the element of the past “fighting back”, essentially trying to stop itself from being changed by creating random events in order to stop Jake. In the book this was done incredibly subtly, with the “random” events actually being extremely plausible and likely. Yet the series has started to go a little Final Destination on itself, with one scene having Jake walk through a restaurant as all varieties of flaming drinks and dangerous pieces of scenery hurl themselves at him. In another scene we see a car launch itself through a phone box when he tries to call his dad. It seems as if the series has misunderstood the idea of the past fighting back. A dead line would have been enough for the book, yet on screen it’s as if they feel the need to kick it up a notch, and have chandeliers flinging themselves at Jake. I would not be surprised if his shower tried to garrotte him next.

While 11.22.63 certainty has its drawbacks, these are probably more due to my worship of the source, as arguably no screen adaptation of your favourite book is ever going to be good enough. Yet this is still the best adaptation I could have asked for, and my judgement is perhaps best reserved until the epic conclusion.

11.22.63 airs on FOX UK on Sundays at 9pm.

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