Jake Epping (James Franco, 127 Hours, This is the End, The Spider-Man Trilogy) finds himself with a rather unique opportunity. Long-time friend and diner owner, Al Templeton (Chris Cooper, American Beauty, The Bourne Identity, The Muppets) has let Jake in on a secret. A closet in his diner is a portal to October of 1960. You go through and it is the exact same day and time. You can stay as long as you like, but when you come back out, only two minutes in the present have transpired. While Al has been using this portal to keep the price of his burgers at a ridiculously low price, he has something else in mind, something big.
Al wants Jake to travel back to 1960 and stop the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Al's already done a lot of the legwork for the younger man. He's lived in the past for several years, gathering everything he could on Lee Harvey Oswald (Daniel Webber), but when he realizes that he won't survive to the actual date, he goes back to the present and charges Jake with the mission.
Jake, a simple English teacher, goes to the past and is determined to do what he can to stop the assassination, but first, he needs to find out if Lee Harvey Oswald is the actual killer and whether he was working alone. If Oswald was just a patsy and he takes out the assassin too early, then the conspiracy that plots against the President could choose another shooter, but if he is just a lone gunman, then taking Oswald out as soon as possible is the best option.
Three years is a long time and, in that time, Jake starts to settle into an actual life. While he doesn't need to work, especially armed with sporting event outcomes to bet on, he does end up getting a job as an English teacher in Jodie, a small suburb outside of Dallas, TX. It is there that he gets to know the school librarian, Sadie Dunhill (Sarah Gadon, A Dangerous Method), but it seems Sadie's past has its own problems and Jake will have to deal with those before everything plays out.
On his trip down to Texas, Jake ended up on a side adventure in the hopes of helping someone he knew in the present. What he didn't expect was to pick up a companion to help in his mission. Bill Turcotte (George MacKay) learns of Jake's mission and, strangely enough, believes him. Posing as brothers, Bill and Jake take up residence near Oswald and start to put the sniper under surveillance, but they have to be careful; they can't interfere in Oswald's life at all. This becomes a big problem for Bill when he starts to fall for Lee's Russian wife, Marina (Lucy Fry).
Jake's time in the 60's is not an easy one. While trying to make it appear like he is a simple English teacher who is falling for a pretty young lady, he is constantly worried about finding out the truth behind the JFK assassination so that he knows what he needs to do. Meanwhile, it seems The Past doesn't want to change. A phrase used often in the book, but not ever uttered in the series is "The Obdurate Past," meaning it is stubborn and will do whatever it needs to in order to keep things going the way they should. For the most part, this is shown by accidents happening around Jake when he is close to learning something vital or actually changing something that is important. This is everything from cars careening into phone booths, chandeliers falling, fires starting, or even the appearance of Sadie's estranged husband, Johnny (T.R. Knight, Grey's Anatomy). Jake starts to realize that some of the changes he's introduced into the past might not turn out all that well, and he will have to make some seriously tough decisions for the good of the mission.
The only special feature with this 8-episode miniseries is an interview with King and Executive Producers J.J. Abrams and Bridget Carpenter. While this featurette isn't long, it does provide some insight for those interested in what it took to bring the book to film, as well as have some of the Easter eggs pointed out that many of King's Constant Readers should recognize easily.
11.22.63 pulls you into the world from the start. Not only does the show give off an authentic feel of the early 60's, but seeing Jake go from a person who doesn't fit in, to someone who feels at home in the era, is subtle and well-executed. There are a good number of differences between the miniseries and the book, but it's clear that a lot of those are to accommodate the timing and the need to push forward with the main story. The expansion of Bill's part is also well done, as it gives Jake a way to tell the viewers what his plans are without having to add narration, and how Bill affects the story makes it just different enough that those of us who know how the book plays out will still get a few surprises along the way. 11.22.63 is a must-see, and if you don't have Hulu, then this Blu-ray release is a great way to experience it. Tip: Don't skip the intro... it changes every episode, and besides, it's fantastically well-done.