11.22.63 – Episode 8 – Hulu Review
Well, it’s over. The eight-week extravaganza that was “11.22.63” has finally come to an end. I’ll have my “Final Thoughts” about the entirety of the mini-series at the end of this article, but for now we’re going to be talking about the eighth and final episode. Was it as bad and disappointing and pointless as last week’s episode? No, it was not, but it still wasn’t all that great.
As a lover of the novel, I’m disappointed with how the show ended, but I still kind of admire the creators for attempting to dig deep for the same heart that exists within the pages of the novel. It didn’t work out in the end, for me, and I’ve spoken with a few people that haven’t read the book and they say they’re disappointed as well. Not every show will hit home, and not every adaptation will be great. Yet, this is art we’re talking about, so nothing will ever be perfect. If it works for you, then the artist did their job correctly, which is why art is so wonderful.
Cinematics – 2
There’s not much to talk about that I haven’t already talked about during the course of these eight weeks, but this is the final episode and contains the moments we’ve all been waiting for. One particular moment is the answer to Jake Epping’s (James Franco) plot-driving question: Can I stop the assassination of JFK? If you haven’t watched the show yet or read the book, then I’m going to ruin the climatic ending within the next sentence, so watch out. Yes, Jake Epping does stop Lee Harvey Oswald from assassinating JFK, but as a result Sadie, Jake’s fiancé, loses her life to a stray bullet. The climatic scene pretty much happens the same way that it does in the book, which is great, but just like the rest of the series, there doesn’t seem to be a heart beating within any of the characters’ actions or the scene in general. I’ll touch more on this in my “Final Thoughts” section, but James Franco’s performance when he realizes Sadie has been shot and is about to die is a prime example of the missing heart within the scene (and the show).
Something that was nice to see throughout this episode was the great antagonist “The Past” pushing against Jake and Sadie’s plans. The problem I have with this element is that there was almost too much of a presence of The Past. If The Past were as present in the early episodes, or maybe not as much but definitely a little more, then maybe I wouldn’t have had as much of a problem with it. Yet, when The Past halts every single one of Jake and Sadie’s actions during this episode, then it gets kind of redundant and boring by the time they reach Lee Harvey Oswald… which is supposed to be the most important scene of the show. Maybe if the creators better personified The Past instead using random appearances by The Yellow Card Man, Billy, and other characters from earlier episodes, then I’d be more on-board with the increase of The Past’s presence.
After the climax, there’s always a resolution. Jake Epping is arrested and must prove his innocence in the attempted assassination of the president, and I have to say that I actually enjoyed James Franco’s performance during the interrogation scene. After that, Jake goes back to the present and sees the repercussions of his actions. The country has gone through a nuclear war and everything is absolutely terrible, making Jake go back to the past and reset everything. He doesn’t want to save JFK, but he does want to find Sadie and be with her, claiming that she was his true reason for going back in the past in the first place. As he gets close to wooing Sadie, The Yellow Card man appears again and says that no matter what Jake does Sadie will always die. So, making the most heartbreaking decision (not acted well by Franco), Jake lets go of Sadie and heads back to the present.
Okay, so what I just stated in the paragraph above does occur in the book, but it’s only the superficial layer of what actually occurs. This isn’t me saying I’m angry with the creators of the show not following the book 100%. No, no, no, I’m angry that they ripped the heart that existed within the story (not the book) and just gave the audience of the Hulu mini-series a bland, superficial, and lazily written piece of entertainment. (More on this later)
Entertainment Value – 1
Not much entertainment for me this week. There was more disappointment than anything else, but Stephen King did start a rumor that “Redrum” would make a special cameo appearance at some point during the show. Well, it makes its appearance during the finale, and it plus Franco’s performance during the interrogation scene are really the only rewarding moments during this entire episode.
I’m happy to see the show completed, and I do respect the attempt of adapting one of my favorite books, but the lackluster finale is just another layer of whipped cream on top of a very nasty sundae. I wish I had more fun with seeing the climax and the resolution of “11.22.63,” but there wasn’t enough of a heart for me to even crack a smile or feel a real emotion… other than fatigue from having emotions forced on me during eight weeks of lazy writing.
Re-Watchability – 0
At week two, I thought the road to the finale was looking good, and I even remember stating that I was looking forward to re-watching the entire series. Now, I could honestly care less. Actually, I want to thank the overall disappointment I received from the show because it has inspired me to go back and read the book/listen to the audio book.
Final Thoughts of Series
The show is a bad adaptation. That’s it — plain and simple. Sometimes adaptations work out and most of the times they don’t. That’s okay though, because I know some people will adore the show and find it entertaining, which is the goal of all art.
Where the show really fell short was the lazy writing and characterization of Jake Epping. I don’t know why the creators veered away from the character that was already created for them in the book, but their bland character mixed with an unsubstantial performance by James Franco leaves you wondering why THIS was considered a “leading” character for a mini-series. Any kind of heart or emotional core that drove Jake Epping or any part of the plot died as soon as Jake cried for the first time early on in the series. If you read the novel, you’ll know what I’m talking about.
Eight episodes really weren’t enough for this story. Yes, the book is long and you can argue that every page of it cannot fit into a visual medium. It’s just literally impossible. I do agree, but there’s still a good story and a good heart within those pages that can be transferred to a visual medium. The story isn’t about a guy trying to save JFK, but that’s what the creators took hold of and ran with it. The show is literally about a guy trying to save JFK, that’s it. Where was Jake’s wonderful inner character arc that forces him to challenge and defeat the emotional demons that plague his psyche? It was non-existent during the show, and we only get the superficial storyline of an epic emotional journey.
I believe when this show was first pitched, or when the idea of doing the show was first pitched, it went something like this, “Hey, Stephen King just wrote a book about a guy that goes back in time and tries to save JFK.” The executive probably looked at the guy and said, “Great! A guy trying to save JFK will sell!” So, the first drafts started coming in, and the creators kept it to the very basics/bare minimum, making sure that “SAVING JFK” was the selling point of the show. This is smart, because that same selling point got me to read the book, but after I started reading the book I understood that the story was about much more than saving JFK’s life. I never felt like the show went deeper than the minimal layer that covers the flat, disconnected core beneath. If the show had 10 or 12 episodes, then maybe more of an emotional foundation could’ve been created, bringing life the characters and universe around them. Sadly, everything felt forced, particularly with the time jumps that come later in the series.
Every week I came away feeling like I was being told what to feel, but I still didn’t feel anything, hence why I started not caring about characters I fell in love with years ago. When an adaptation starts making you feel like that, then it’s definitely safe to say that they completely missed the nail on the head. And that’s my final consensus for this show. It completely missed what the story was about and just made it about a guy trying to save JFK.
Well, it’s all over. This week wasn’t the worst of the bunch, but it definitely wasn’t a memorable finale of any kind. When friends that haven’t read the book come up to you and say, “I was upset with this episode and didn’t even read the book,” then you must take my word for it and understand that this week was pretty dismal. A lot of ground and information is covered in a short amount of time, creating something that doesn’t feel rushed but it definitely doesn’t have enough of a core or a life to feel like anything substantial to you. I said last week that I didn’t care about the show or any of the characters anymore. I knew this week wasn’t going to change my mind about that, but I was hoping for a “good” episode (like week two). That didn’t happen, so unless you’re dying to see if Jake Epping saves JFK or not, then go ahead and watch it. If you’re feeling disappointed and unfulfilled by the end of this episode, then go ahead and read the book. I promise you won’t be disappointed with it.