Review: 11.22.63 Episode 1 “The Rabbit Hole”

I just watched the first episode of 11.22.63. Though I was annoyed by a few aspects I will explain below, it held my interest the entire way through. I should point out that I have not yet read the Stephen King novel it’s based on, so I will be judging the show purely on its own merit.

“Only two minutes pass in the present, no matter how much time goes by in the past.”
“Two minutes? Who makes up these rules?”

Good question. Of course we know the answer is Stephen King, but to poor James Franco it’s apparently “the Universe” or “Time.” It really stacks the odds against him when he’s trying to stop the Kennedy assassination conspiracy and he finds out Time itself is part of that conspiracy.

11.22.63 is a mix of mutable and immutable time, just like Doctor Who. Some things are changeable but some events are fixed. The Spacetime Continuum will do all it can to avoid being disrupted. James Franco finds that out the hard way when random fires and falling chandeliers nearly kill him.

Now I’m not a big fan of some unknown, powerful force trying to stop a time traveler from changing history. In my opinion the time traveler should do what he wants and then deal with whatever consequences there are. If the powerful force were introduced as its own character with its own personality, then that would be a different story and my tune may change. Until then, it feels cheap and arbitrary. Who decides what events are “fixed”? If the butterfly effect and Grampa Simpson are right, even the smallest changes can have the biggest consequences.

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Like I said, if it’s a character deciding these things, I’m happier with the plot device. Doctor Who gets a pass because it’s the Doctor and other Time Lords deciding what events are fixed. The Time Lords are often described as pretentious people who don’t really know what they’re doing. That conveniently makes it not worth trying to see the logic behind their decisions. They either are secretly incompetent or secretly all-powerful. My money’s on a bit of both, depending on which better suits the occasion.

I don’t know if there will be a Time Lord character introduced later. I would assume that he spends all his life making up rules about “two minutes” and keeping a check list of what events cannot be changed and setting up Home Alone style traps to prevent time travelers from getting close to those events. The character probably doesn’t exist though.

Despite my objections, 11.22.63 is a thrilling show. Its seemingly random rules lock you into a roller coaster. You actually want to see if James Franco will be able to beat Time itself and save Kennedy. You’re rooting for him to win, but in your heart you know he’s in a lose-lose scenario and will not like how saving Kennedy changes the present.

Most Cliche Moment: Franco dropped some papers, knelt down to pick them up, and then saw a pretty girl. How many times has that been done? TVTropes has over 100 examples.

Best Part: James Franco was overjoyed to eat a pie in 1960. It was almost exactly the same as his pie scene in Spider-Man 3. That actor sure loves pie.

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