Wee bit late to the party, but let's check out the Hulu series made from Sai King's great book 11.22.63!
11.22.63 S1:E1 The Rabbit Hole starts now!
We begin with Harry Dunning (Leon Rippy) reading aloud his short story in Jake's Epping's (James Franco) adult learner's class. He's telling his own story, and what happened when his father came home drunk one Halloween night. Frank Dunning took to Harry's mother, brother and sister with a hammer, killing them all. Harry was also attacked, but lived to tell the tale, albeit slightly broken.
Jake and the class are stunned by the story, and the way in which Harry told it. Jake gives Harry a A+, his very first ever. As class finishes up, Harry tells Jake that he would like to move on from his current position as the school's janitor and will be applying for a promotion. He asks if Jake will write him a letter, and Jake agrees but only if Harry gives him a raise when he ends up running the place.
Later, Jake goes to Al's Diner for a burger, and he and Al (Chris Cooper) chat about his writing class. Jake's wife Christine arrives to get him sign their divorce papers, and Al goes out the back to give them some privacy. They part amicably, and Al comes back in to the diner, wearing different clothes, looking older and obviously unwell. Coughing up blood, he tells Jake to go home, and promptly collapses on the floor.
Jake takes him home, and demands to know what the f*ck is going on. Al tells him it's cancer, "You got cancer in five minutes?" asks Jake. Al excuses himself and goes to bed, but before he goes he tells Jake to come over tomorrow and he'll explain everything.
The next day, Al takes Jake out the back of the diner and asks him if he trusts him. He says he's going to tell him something crazy, but before he does he needs Jake to go into the closet. Just go in and have a look around, stay as long as he likes, come back and he'll tell him everything. Jake can't believe his ears, but decides to humour Al and steps into the closet. He walks to the back, and disappears into the darkness.
Jake falls flat on his face, onto a gravel road. He's surrounded by vintage cars, kids playing stick ball, and watches a milkman drop bottles of milk on the road, while loading up his basket. A whistle blows, and factory workers start to emerge, a group of girls drive past in a pink Cadillac, Maurice Williams and the Zodiacs blasting. "You shouldn't be here" says an old man with a yellow card in his hat. Jake turns around, and runs at the place he landed.
Jake emerges back in the diner, through the closet. "What the f*ck was that?!" he yells at Al. He tells him that was October 21st, 1960, and that he calls it a rabbit hole. Al tells him it's been there since he got the diner, and the two of them are the only ones who know about it. Al tells Jake that he needs him to do what he couldn't, go back there and prevent the assassination of John F.Kennedy Jr.
Al explains that if JFK lived, Robert Kennedy wouldn't have run for President and he also wouldn't have been shot. The Vietnam War would maybe not have happened, Lyndon Johnson was the one who escalated that situation, "Those boys would have lived." Al says. Jake tells him there is no way of knowing whether saving JFK would change anything, that he doesn't know if doing something in the past is going to change anything here. Al gives him his pocketknife, and tells him to go back through and carve something into the big tree out near the parking lot.
Jake goes back through and sees the exact same series of events he saw before, the milkman drops his bottles, the pink car drives by. This time he goes to a small tree and begins to carve. He goes back through, and he and Al go out into the parking lot. On the much larger tree is carved JFK.
Al tells him that next time he goes through, the carving won't be there. Coming back resets the time to 11.58am on October 21st 1960. No matter how long you stay, three weeks or three years, when you come back only two minutes have passed. If you want to change something forever, you can't come back. Al tells him that the last time he went through was when Jake and Christine were signing their papers, and he stayed about two years. "It doesn't make any sense!" says Jake. Al asks him to just think about it.
Jake goes to see Harry receive his high school diploma in a ceremony at the school. He is seated next to the Principal and he tells her that Harry asked him for a recommendation. She tells him there is no way, no how that Harry would ever get a job in management. As soon as the certificates have finished being presented, she is off the clock and out of there. Jake stays and gives Harry the old double thumbs up.
Jake goes back to see Al, and he shows him his situation room. It's filled with news articles, timelines, scale models. The kind of thing that'll see you on Criminal Minds quick smart. They discuss Lee Harvey Oswald, mafia connections, the FBI and CIA and the Russians. Al is not convinced that Oswald acted alone, or even 100% sure that he did the deed. All the research ever done has been after the fact, but Al has been able to study Oswald in the years leading up to the assassination.
There was an Army General shot at 6 months prior to JFK, the same type of gun was used. Al wants Jake to make it to April 1963, and if it's Oswald, he wants Jake to take him down. "You want me to hang out for three years?" says Jake, incredulous. Al gives him a box of identification made out in the name of James Amberson, credit cards, social security number. Everything he needs to get a job, blend in, and there is one more very important thing. A journal filled with sports results, for wagering. Calling Biff Tannen? Al spends his time over there gambling, oh and he did find a good butcher there too.
Jake tells him he's not sure he's the right guy for the job, and Al reassures him that he is. He wants Jake to get started right away, but Jake tells him he needs to think. Al cracks it and says he'll never do it, and just to forget it. He kicks him out, and Jake leaves. He tosses and turns all night and goes back to see Al in the morning. But Al has passed away during the night, and Jake makes his decision. He takes Al's pocketknife and the box and heads over to the diner. He puts everything in his leather satchel and steps through the rabbit hole.
Same scene in 1960, and the yellow carded man tells he he shouldn't be here. He makes his way down the street, drawing a few strange looks due to his clothes and possibly that godawful goatee. He gets to the town centre and it's all well dressed ladies shopping, and men in suits and hats. He passes a barber and stops and goes back for a haircut and a shave, thank bob. Next stop, suit and hat.
Following Al's advice, the next step is to find a boring, reliable car. He tells him where there is a good car lot, and Jake heads over. The first car he lays eyes on wins his heart, a lemon yellow 1958 Ford Fairlane 500 Sunliner convertible. Totally inconspicuous. It's $750, but he negotiates it down to $700 cash. Barry bargain! This cleans out his cash, and he asks the car salesman where he might find somewhere to make a wager.
He head to a seedy looking house, and studies his wagering book. He locks his satchel in the trunk and goes into the men's only bar inside. He asks the bartender if he can make a wager on a boxing match taking place that night. He wants Joffrey to win in the 6th round, and the bartender offers him odds of 35-1. "Hell, I'll make that bet!" says Jake. Bartender introduces him to the bookie and he puts down a hundred, being all inconspicuous again. The bookie Little Eddie takes the bet and buys him a drink.
It's not sounding great for Joffrey, until the 6th round and he turns it around and knocks out Sanchez. The atmosphere in the bar cools immediately, but Little Eddie hands over his winnings. One of his goons follows him out to the car and watches him leave. Jake heads for a motel and parks his totally not obvious car outside his room. Peering through his curtains he sees the goon arrive, and frantically packs up his things. The goon approaches the room, and enters. Jake has set his iPhone to play a video of a dancing bird, and this distracts goon long enough for Jake to crack him over the head, grab the phone, make it to his car and peel outta there. Almost knocking down the yellow carded man on the way out.
He makes his way out of town, throwing his phone off a bridge. He hits the highway, passing though picturesque small towns on his way down to Dallas, Texas. He drives into the city and into Dealey Plaza, passing the grassy knoll and the Texas School Book Depository. He meets a pretty young lady sitting on a bench reading, and they strike up a conversation when she leaves her purse behind. They talk books and movies, and Jake puts his foot in it when he asks if she liked the film version of the Manchurian Candidate. She introduces herself as Sadie Clayton (Sarah Gadon), and her husband George from Grey's Anatomy (TR Knight) beeps the horn of his car to get her attention. She takes her leave, and heads to the car.
Jake finds a boarding house to stay in, he introduces himself as a writer doing research for a book. He settles in to his spartan room and begins to study the files that Al has spent the last few years working on. He thinks back on some advise that Al gave him, to not get close to anyone and to keep to himself. The past doesn't want to be changed, there will be times that you can feel it push back. When you're close to changing something, something that really f*cks with the past, the past f*cks with you right back.
Jake walks the suburbs at night, and finds a public telephone. He tries to call his father but there is too much static on the line. He gives up, hangs up the phone and walks away. Just as he decides to try the call again and heads back to the booth, an out of control car smashes through the phone booth. He runs over, and a badly injured lady is on the ground, "You shouldn't be here." she says.
Jake makes it back to the boarding house, passing the landlady and her son watching JFK making a speech on television, before spewing his guts up in his room. The next day he thinks over the first mission Al gave him, follow George De Mohrenschildt and see where he goes. George is a Russian ex-pat, educated, rich and part of the Dallas petroleum club. He eventually becomes Lee Harvey Oswald's best friend in 1962, and Al thought that he could possibly have been his handler. And if Oswald was set up, George was the only one who could have done it.
Jake stakes out George's house and follows him to an auditorium where JFK himself is holding a rally to support his bid for Presidency. Jake is thrilled to witness JFK speak in person, and sits to listen to the speech. He spots George in the crowd, and follows him when he gets up to leave at the end of the rally. George heads upstairs to a VIP function, and Jake talks his way past the guard on the stairs and heads up. He gets himself a drink and a badge, and watches him. JFK and Jackie enter the party, and George rushes to greet them. The security guard approaches Jake and says "You shouldn't be here."
Jake bolts, and the Secret Service chases him. He heads down into the basement, running and hiding amongst the pipes and boilers. He stops, and spot the yellow carded man, even more spooked he heads further down and locks himself in a room. As he hides, thousands of cockroaches emerge and start to climb over him. He rushes through the door to escape, running straight into the agents who knock him out cold. The past is a creepy f*cker.
He wakes in another room, and the agents begin their interrogation. They think he had intentions of harming Senator Kennedy and want to know why he gave a fake ID and then ran. He manages to convince them that he is just a devoted fan, crazy eyes and spit flying everywhere, and was just so desperate to get close to the man. They write him off as loopy, and let him go. Security in the 1960's was lax, man.
Jake goes back and does some more research into George de Mohrenschildt. He told a reporter in 1977 that the CIA had originally hooked him up with Oswald's address. He was then asked to testify in front of the House Committee on assassinations, the next day he committed suicide, supposedly. Al tried to follow him one night, and he knew it was important because the past pushed back. Al thinks it was the night that the CIA first approached him about Oswald.
Jake follows George to El Conejo, the most happening place in Dallas, where he is meeting his wife. Jake follows them in, and sees the wife head for the bar, and George into the restaurant. He greases the palm of the Maitre D, and gets a table near George. A waitress appears to guide him to his table, and Jake takes heed of a warning from Al. This is where the past pushed back, and he got burnt by an accidental fire as he got close, and was taken to the hospital and lost George. Jake manages to avoid the exact same thing, and helps to put out the fire. Almost at the table, and the chandelier falls, narrowly missing him.
He nervously takes his seat at the table beside George, and tries to listen in to the conversation he is having with two unknown men. The waitress interrupts with this drink, and then a blender starts up, the table next to him is loud and he has no hope of hearing anything. He catches "Lee Harvey Oswald", then a waiter drops a tray of glasses behind him and he misses any further part of the conversation and the mystery men leave. Jake follows George up a back staircase, but loses him and decides it's time to leave.
Driving home, he can't believe what he might have just witnessed."That was the goddamn CIA, you were right Al." He is almost at the boarding house when he sees the flames. The whole house is alight, and the fire brigade are dragging the lifeless body of the landlady's son out. Past, you goddamn son of a bitch.
Jake heads upstairs after the fire is put out, to see what he can salvage out of what Al had given him. The files and the sports wagering book are ruined, there is nothing left that he can use. He's interrupted by a firefighter saying "Sir, you shouldn't be here." Jake tells him he's right. It's time to head back to Lisbon, Maine. He can't do this anymore.
He hits the highway, and gets lost trying to find his way back to Maine. He pulls up to a farmhouse in Kentucky and gets out his map, trying to get his bearings. He spots a town on the map, Holden. When Harry Dunning was telling the story of his father murdering his family, Holden was where they lived. A boy approaches, and gives him directions to the town, and Jake heads off thinking that he might be able to do one thing.
In Holden, he parks outside the Dunning house and watches the kids, including Harry, play. Frank Dunning (well, hello Josh Duhamel) drives up to pick up the kids for ice cream, he and Harry's mom Doris being separated. The kids are pleased to see him, and there's not a hint of fear from any of them. The look he gives Doris before he gets in the car is pure menace though, and Jake sees it.
I'm a massive Stephen King fan, and particularly loved this book. I was born long after this happened, and in a different country, so I'm learning so much about JFK and the events leading up to his assassination. James Franco never bothered me much one way or the other, but I'm enjoying his crinkly eyed emotion, and think he's a great choice for Jake Epping. I'm also scared and excited to see what Josh Duhamel can do with the role of Frank Dunning. This was a great first episode, so much to get through from the book, they've done a fantastic job of getting all the important bits in. And the sets, cars, costumes and music are just DIVINE.