An Original HULU Series
“The Rabbit Hole”
What’s it About?
High school teacher Jake Epping travels back in time to prevent the assassination of President John F. Kennedy – but his mission is threatened by Lee Harvey Oswald, falling in love, and the past itself, which doesn’t want to be changed and shouldn’t be changed.
Directed by Kevin MacDonald
Based on the Novel by Stephen King
“11.22.63” is a new original series available on the immensely popular streaming platform HULU Plus. This 8 episode limited series is executive produced by J.J. Abrams (LOST, Alias, Person of Interest) and bestselling horror and mystery author Stephen King (IT, Under the Dome, Christine, Doctor Sleep). With one new episode airing on HULU every Monday, the Pilot, “The Rabbit Hole” is now up for viewing.
King’s adapted tome was a while in the making and HULU has hit a gold mine with the highly anticipated “11.22.63.” The series in indeed on the verge of making a lasting impression much like “House of Cards” did with Netflix and “Transparent” for Amazon, even though for a limited time. Some HULU shows have trickled through-out but many feel that the slightest offerings may lead to something much more on the horizon. “11.22.63” just may be that show.
High School and Adult Education teacher, Jake Epping, Played by James Franco (Spider-man 2, OZ) is in the final stages of a divorce with his wife, and also encouraging an older and impending writer / graduate to pursue his dreams of success. Epping is a down to earth guy. Passionate but logical. Restrained, yet curious. He frequents a Diner in his hometown in Maine (duh, it’s a King story, remember?), owned by his crusty and amiable friend, named Al, played by the ever cool Chris Cooper. Al, it appears, has a secret passage in a closet in the back of the Diner that leads, well…elsewhere. After noticing that Al returns from the back of the Diner looking completely ill, unshaven and pale, Jake attempts to find out how, in just a couple of minutes, Al manages to wind up with a bad cough, claiming he has cancer, and looking like shit.
Al sees an opportunity in all of this and shows Jake his “portal” into what is the past. As one goes through, the traveller ends up appearing at the same time and same day in 1960. Yep, 1960. Jake, at first, reluctantly steps through and after he takes in a normal 1960 street scene, returns pretty freaked out. Al convinces Jake to return to his house in order to tell him everything he knows about the portal and everything he has done in the past to avoid the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. And also, to pass on his many papers, photographs and documents that he has been acquiring over time during his investigation into Lee Harvey Oswald. Al tells him he can no longer continue because he became ill while in the past. Apparently, no matter how long one stays, and Al stayed 3 years the last time, only 2 minutes pass in the Diner, in the present.
Bridget Carpenter’s understated and dynamic story places Jake in the position of a time travelling everyman in a fish out of water narrative as he decides to fullfill Al’s last dying wish. Once jake goes back through to 1960, we experience everything first hand as Jake does and much of Al’s warnings, leads, advice and omens of danger come dangerously close to fruition. Director Kevin MacDonald flashes back to Cooper on several occassions whenever we find Jake experiencing what Al called, “the past pushing back.” Carpenter’s take finds Jake as a willing participant in the past despite Al’s warning. He loves the era, (grinning at a campaign sign that states “they can’t lick our dick,” is particularly funny to him) even though he has to be quite careful of any verbal and social slip ups (his ability to win bets on the horses , say, and mentioning books and films that hadn’t been created yet in 1960), He tries valiantly to look inconspicuous in the past and finds room and board and begins his journey to use Al’s numerous techniques and information to track down shadowy figures attached, or going to be attached, to Oswald and Kennedy.
Franco is a blast to watch, no doubt having fun and projecting wonder, excitement along with doubt, hesitation and fear as he tries to make his way around this maze of parallels and conundrums. The El Conejo sequence is a very cool example of Jake stepping around the past pushing back and Jake’s foray into the Dallas Democratic Convention is another highlight. MacDonald keeps the first entry brisk and tight and leaves no stone unturned for Jake while deftly adding layer upon layer of intrigue, collusion and maipulation. Carpenter also leaves us wanting more as Jake heads further into the rabbit hole as he desperately manages despair and seeks out someone from the future, in the past. Of note, also, is King’s little peeks into some total creepiness. There is the always present figure of The Yellow Card Man, played by Kevin J. O’Conner (The Mummy, Van Helsing) who, along with some others, are consistently repeating: “You don’t belong here” and then there are roaches, near misses and the occassional weird electrical anomalies whenever Jake is near phone booths and light switches. Hopefully, all to be addressed somewhere down the line.
I really enjoyed “The Rabbit Hole” and will most definitely keep watching on HULU Plus. There is good work here done by all involved. King’s source novel being the first thing to applaud. Franco, Carpenter and director MacDonald excel as the creative forces, that inject the show with plenty of unique twists and turns and it repeatedly keeps the audience engaged and on the edge of their seats without having to resort to tricky sci fi manipulations that can lose the viewer or increase the doubt that something this important to King fans can actually work. I think it can and with the show’s Rod Serling and Richard Matheson vibe (along with the showy, confusing and heady themes that time travelling can whip up) it kicks up the tension and nostaligia practically through the roof.
Plus, I have to get the bad taste of the last season of “Under the Dome” out of my mouth and I can do it with “11.22.63” – Recommended!