Season 1, Episode 1 "The Rabbit Hole"
Aired February 15, 2016
Stephen King & J.J. Abrams teamed up with Hulu to bring King's novel [11/22/63](tag:938358) (a #1 best-seller) to all of our instant-streaming devices this week. A massive fan of horror, King, & Abrams I was hopeful this 8-part mini series would be nothing short of spectacular.
11.22.63 (the backslashes retired) is about a time traveler who goes back to the 1960s in an attempt to stop the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Unfortunately, when you mess with the past, the past messes back. The novel was astounding, yet it is very rare when one of King's stories are adapted well to film.
With "The Rabbit Hole" I had two worries:
The main character, Jake Epping, is played by none other than the very eccentric James Franco. Had Franco been cast as Epping nearly five years ago, I may have been hopeful, excited even, but after a lackluster series of roles I am left hesitant.
Epping goes to visit his friend, Al (Chris Cooper), who owns a local diner only to discover that Al is dying from cancer and needs Epping take over his mission by time travelling using the portal in his diner's pantry. I had a difficult time getting past the fact that Franco and Cooper would ever even be friends to begin with, let alone trust each other enough to conspire on such a heavy time travelling scheme. Franco and Cooper just didn't work well off each other.
The acting got slightly better once Epping (Franco) went back to 1960, yet I still felt I was getting only one facet of Franco's abilities.
And while Chris Cooper is literally in everything, maybe they should have passed. He grunted his way threw his lines leaving me relieved when his character finally died.
The Plot is Rushed
With the pilot episode, the entire thing felt rushed. We learn that Epping is a divorced teacher living in Maine, but nothing more. There is truly no character development or backstory (maybe this will come later?) Epping is thrown back in time so rapidly that we don't even get the chance to know him. How is this time travel going to affect him? Why does he bond with the blonde outside at Dealey Plaza? Does she remind him of someone? Is he just that lonely from his divorce?
Aside from the characters, the whole time travel idea was rushed as well. The entirety of the time portal- how Al discovered it, how it works, how often he has been accessing it- is all vaguely explained in a ten minute scene. Why does Al believe that travelling back in time to save JFK will help save the world? And why does Epping so readily accept this mission?
Hopefully, some of these things will be explained in the following seven episodes. The story itself is completely riveting, just wish a more engaging actor had been cast as the lead (Sorry Franco!) Too bad there isn't a time machine to fix that.