11.22.63 Series Talkback (Spoilers)

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Matt Zimmer
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11.22.63 "The Rabbit Hole"

I loved the Stephen King book this show was based on, and so far it's pretty faithful to it. The novel was told by a first person perspective as a memoir, and here the viewer can more easily see the mistakes Jake makes when he travels to the past when we see them onscreen, including buying a too-flashy car, and making a too large sports wager on long odds that are sure to be noticed when he wins.

The book asked the question of what you would do if you found a hole in time and had an opportunity to stop the JFK assassination. It then asks the more provocative question of whether or not a person even should. I'm sure the show will have it's own questions and themes but it seems on the right track if you ask me.

Notable differences in the first episode is that Al dies quicker here than in the book, and his and Jake's last meeting was contentious here, where is wasn't at all in the book. The part where Jake travels to familiar King haunt Derry Maine and meets up with Richie Tozier and Beverly Marsh from "It" also appears to have been omitted.

Jake is allowed to keep his first name on the series (he goes by George in the book). Not sure why that needed to be changed.

But the series is off to a good start. ****.

11.22.63 "The Kill Floor"

It looks like Bill is going to have a very different and significant role going forward than what he had in the book. Might be a good idea. Without the reader present, Jake is going to need somebody to bounce ideas off of for the audience, at least until Sadie is a thing.

Still no Beverly Marsh, but Annette O'Toole played an adult Beverly in the TV Miniseries.

That was a really good episode. The show has had a solid start. ****.

11.22.63 "Other Voices, Other Rooms"

A few differences in the book: In the book Jake makes a couple of extra trips back through the rabbit hole. He goes back immediately after killing Frankie, and THAT is the thing that tests for him whether or not the past can be changed for the better, not just initials on a tree. Being able to change the past doesn't matter if you can't actually change it for the better, which is what Jake needed to know in the book before committing to his mission to save Kennedy. Also Oswald doesn't go off on General Walker this way in the book, and the bugs in Oswald's apartment weren't ever stolen. The show improves on the book in one way: Jake saying he should have spent the past two years learning Russian. It's weird that never occurred to him in the book.

Jake and Sadie are SO cute together, and James Franco rocks dancing to swing music in a sharp suit. Those two were my favorite part of the book and I love them here too.

I didn't like this as much as the first two episodes, but it was still good. ***1/2.

11.22.63 "The Eyes Of Texas"

I actually like the way Sadie's suspicions are triggered at the end here better than in the book. It's funny in the book, because she realizes something is off with Jake because he's singing a dirty song from the future he clearly didn't hear on the radio in 1963. This is much better and more personal.

I also like that if what happens to Sadie in the book happens next episode, Jake will be culpable for it. He was not in the book at all. It could be argued he egged her ex on here. One way the book being superior for making it an inevitability her husband attacked her is that it makes the uncertainty of Jake not going through another reset to "fix" things a much bigger and costlier risk on his end. He has no way of knowing if hubby'll get her in the new timeline if he isn't there for her, or if him not being there will cause her to bleed out and die after the attack (if it happens). Just based on this, it's less of a risk for Mike to simply decide to let things be after he resets saving Kennedy (once that goes sideways).

I don't like that Bill is in love with Marina Oswald. One of the things I adored about the book is that the real life events with real people seemed to be compartmentalized with the stuff with the fictional characters. That made the real elements feel realer, and harder for Jake to change. Another thing I don't like about Bill's presence is Jake telling him he couldn't do this mission without him. The book says he clearly could and that Bill is simply there for the audience's sake. He's giving Bill more credit than he is due by saying that.

One thing I miss from the book is the relationships Jake and Sadie build with the students at the high school. Jake becomes a beloved teacher and casts a memorable school play of Of Mice And Men, and basically makes one of the jocks with amazing acting talent be brave enough to share it. It makes the school rallying to Sadie's defense to fund her operation so amazing. Couldn't the show have been two episodes longer to include that stuff? And even if it didn't add two extra episodes, that stuff surely could have taken the place of Bill's lame melodrama with Marina. I think the show does a pretty good job of sticking with the book and its main ideas. But it's the little things it skips that bum me out.

It's still hard for me to believe Lee Harvey Oswald is Darius from the Doctor Who spin-off K-9. What a weird career path for Daniel Webber. He was also on The Punisher.

Interesting episode. ****.

11.22.63 "The Truth"

Yeah, that was pretty great, and got the best parts of the book.

The play wasn't shown, but it's hinted it happened, and the kids rallying for Sadie at the hospital, while perhaps not being quite as rewarding without that backstory, is still there.

I found it interesting when Bill asks Jake if it's weird that on some level he's hoping Oswald doesn't miss his shot at Walker. That's an interesting thing to say out loud, because as horrible as it is, just based on what I've seen of Walker, it's a sound opinion. Just sayin'.

Love that Deke approves of the fact that Jake killed Sadie's psycho ex. I do too.

I loved that. *****.

11.22.63 "Happy Birthday, Lee Harvey Oswald"

The portion of the story the book covered was much better there than here.

The stuff with Bill is an unneeded complication, and while I appreciate putting him in the mental hospital to take him off the board, the show having to do that is why it was probably ill-advised to change and expand his role to begin with.

Also, one of the things I loved about the bookies catching and beating Jake in the book is that it's entirely due to Jake himself's stupidity. I don't like the show being able to blame the mission going this badly this late in the game entirely on Bill.

But even WITH Bill in the picture and the supposed second gunmen, Jake's still kind of dumb for all that happening entirely under his nose. They are trying to make him seem less responsible for things going badly right now, but instead I think he's less observant.

Not great. But it was still watchable. ***.

11.22.63 "Soldier Boy"

Bill was the series' clumsiest loose end, and they tied him up in the sloppiest and most inelegant way possible, which was inevitable. I don't blame them for his lousy ending, but I DO blame them for expanding his role in the first place. Voice-over narration from Jake probably would have handled the problem of no-one to bounce ideas off of nicely.

The Yellow Card Man has a MUCH bigger role on the series than in the book. Here they give him a solid motivation and a potential backstory. It doesn't strike me as necessary for him to show up now, but it does do a good thing: It gives Jake a darn good reason to suggest to Sadie to call off the mission and simply settle down somewhere. She of course refuses, but I like the idea that the happy ending was in reach, but refused. It makes the actual ending more bittersweet.

There is another thing the series improves upon the book: It gives Jake an opportunity to kill Oswald two days early, but he changes his mind once he sees the baby. I prefer how unconnected King kept Jake and his allies from the Oswald stuff. But this is the one thing the show did with that that I actually liked.

I'm a little concerned about the last episode, but we'll see how they do with it presently. ****.

11.22.63 "The Day In Question"

I loved most of it. Some of the changes from the book didn't wow me, but they were understandable. I understand the logic of giving Jake and young Sadie a last scene in Lisbon, as well as substituting her younger actress for her older one in the last dance. As far as television goes, she's the female lead on the show, and her actress deserves a fair amount of wrap-up. But I prefer the way the book did it.

I loved Sadie's death very much. The definition of a rare GOOD hurt. My favorite kind.

I like that Jake trips up the FBI guy with secret information back then that is common public knowledge now. If any of us told an FBI guy all of the dirty secrets we learned about Kennedy and Hoover in hindsight we'd be considered master spies and threats to national security. Basically any regular lazy viewer of The Simpsons or any other modern pop culture TV show or movie, would be considered a national threat if they were transported back to 1963. We KNOW stuff, man.

I prefer the Yellow Card Man's role as a time policeman in the book. While that role there makes it so he isn't the cautionary tale he is here, I dunno, I reject the notion that Jake has to give up Sadie or she'll die tragically. That makes him leaving her in his and her own self-interest. In the book he has to do it for the safety of the Universe, which strikes me as a far grander sacrifice. The color carded man being a victim of a time loop is much less interesting than being a time cop who is slowly going insane due to Al (and then Jake's) actions. But that might just be me.

I also miss the fact that the color card actually MEANT something, and was measuring temporal distortions. The idea loses value if it's just a fashion accessory.

But my biggest concern of the finale (based on the episode title) is that it would make most of the episode focused on the assassination, when a large part of the climax of the book deals with both the real-world and time travel fall-out from actually saving JFK. It's impressive to me the President is saved early in the episode, and the drama involves fixing the now broken world, and Jake making the sacrifice to give up Sadie for her own good. I like the ending to the book better. But this is close enough to it that I can't complain.

I do have to admit I like the idea that Sadie was always one of those laughing girls in the pink car at the beginning of the loop. That had more to do with honoring her actress rather than the character, but it's actually kind of cool in hindsight.

It's interesting old Sadie doesn't have a faded scar on her face. She did in the book.

A good, bittersweet ending, to an adaptation of a great, bittersweet book. I enjoyed the last episode and the series very much. ****1/2.
 
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