Over the past several weeks, I have been traveling.
Well, not literally. More like vicariously, through Stephen King and JJ Abrams.
And I have met some of the friendly folks in Jodie, Texas…
And had the privilege of seeing a particular time period that I only know from old photographs, my parents’ memories and history books. I have viewed this time period from the eyes of a character born in 1978, the same year I was born.
Last night, it came to a conclusion. And that conclusion was satisfying, but I am feeling a little melancholy. I had something to looks forward to on Monday: one of my favorite Stephen King novels, brought to life on the screen by the talents of James Franco, Sarah Gadon and many others. But now, that has concluded, and like Jake Epping, I am only left with the memories. But it is better to have experienced the journey and to be left with memories, than to have not experienced anything at all.
So, without further ado, here is my recap and review of the series finale of 11/22/63, titled The Day in Question.
And, as always:
The episode begins with Jake and Sadie rushing to get to Oswald, before his attempt on Kennedy’s life becomes successful. Jake realizes that the past is pushing back, when he and Sadie encounter a police barricade and a car that hits the bus they have boarded. Time is now out of joint, and Jake and Sadie see visions of those who have died during Jake’s time in the past, including Mimi, Johnny Clayton and and Frank Dunning. They rush up to the abandoned sixth story in the book depository where Oswald is waiting for the presidential motorcade. Oswald fires his first shot, and misses. Oswald fires a second shot and also misses. The presidential motorcade is able to escape Oswald and his rifle. The door shuts, trapping Jake and Sadie inside the room with Oswald.
Jake scuffles with Oswald, and shots are fired. After a brief scuffle, Jake is able to shoot Oswald dead. However, Sadie is also shot in the crossfire.
It becomes clear that Sadie’s wounds are mortal. She asks Jake to stay with her, instead of getting help. The police then burst in and arrest Jake. Jake screams at the police to help Sadie, but it is too late as she has already succumbed to her wounds.
The authorities arrest Jake and interrogate him. FBI agent Hosty tells Jake that the country loves Kennedy and is looking for someone to pin the assassination attempt on. Jake counters, telling Hosty that if he is forced to testify, he will reveal that the FBI failed to stop Oswald and is also spying on the Kennedys.
Hosty is still determined to pin the crime on Jake, but a call from the president himself comes through. Kennedy thanks Jake for saving his life. Jake also speaks to the First Lady, who expresses her sympathies over the death of Sadie.
Jake wants no publicity, and Hosty drops him off at the bus station, so that he can head back to Lisbon, Maine and return to his own timeline. While waiting for the bus, Jake has a vision of Sadie as he first met her: she is reading a book. However, Sadie disappears, confirming that this was only a vision. Jake then returns to Lisbon, and travels through the rabbit hole back to his own time.
The world has changed drastically when Jake returns to his own time. Al’s Diner is no longer, and Lisbon is a pile of rubble, the likely aftermath of a nuclear war.
Jake gets into an altercation with some bandits, and is rescued by his friend Harry Dunning. Harry recognizes Jake as the man who saved his family from his father’s murderous rampage. Jake quizzes Harry on the history of the world, and learns that Kennedy was president for two terms, and was then succeeded by George Wallace. There was indeed a nuclear war, and Kennedy had founded a series of refugee camps. Harry tells Jake that the camps for unpleasant, especially for him and his family, as his mother passed away from influenza. Jake decides that he needs to reset the timeline, and travels back into the past.
When Jake travels back to 1960, everything is as it was before he prevented the assassination of Kennedy. However, Jake notices that Sadie is a passenger in car that is driving by, and follows her to a nearby diner.
At the diner, Jake speaks to Sadie, telling her that they know each other. However, he is interrupted by the appearance of the Yellow Card Man. The Yellow Card Man tells Jake that trying to be with Sadie will only result in her death, and that he needs to return to his own time. Jake reluctantly agrees, and tells Sadie that he was in fact mistaken.
After returning to his own time, Jake has become a bit traumatized. He also learns that Harry Dunning did not in fact receive the promotion that he applied for. Jake then breaks down in front of Harry. Harry comforts Jake, telling him that he is in fact a good man and that his actions have made a difference.
Jake does some research on the internet and finds out what Sadie has been up to over the years. He learns that she is going to receive an award from the governor of Texas, and travels to Texas so that he can attend the ceremony. At the ceremony, Jake learns what an impact Sadie has had on the lives of her students. Sadie also makes mention of Deke Simmons, and recites a poem that Deke was fond of.
After the ceremony, Jake approaches Sadie and asks her for a dance. Sadie is charmed by Jake, and agrees. Jake asks Sadie if she has had a good life. Sadie responds by telling him that it hasn’t always been easy for her, but that she is in fact happy with her life. The two dance in the same gymnasium, where, in another lifetime, they fell in love.
Whew, what a ride! The onscreen journey with Jake Epping was almost as enjoyable as the literary one. And these are not words that I utter often, especially in regards to anything claiming to be based on something written by The Master.
Mostly, my feelings on screen adaptations are mixed, at best. I am talking to you, It mini series!
And then there is that abomination known as Under the Dome. Still having to bleach my corneas after watching a couple of episodes of that.
And in the mix, there are couple of pretty good adaptations. Dolores Claiborne is one. The Stand mini series is another. And The Green Mile and The Shawshank Redemption are nothing less than cinematic masterpieces.
So now we can add another adaptation to the mix: 11/22/63. Of course, it is nowhere near the level of The Shawshank Redemption or The Green Mile, but I would at least put it in my top 10, if not my top 5.
Oh, and let’s have a word with you book douches…
That’s right, you guys. I have searched online for reviews of 11/22/63, and most of them seem to consist of either critics who have missed the entire point of the series (sorry guys, this is not Back to the Future or a modern take on Quantum Leap) and the Constant Readers who simply don’t like this adaptation because it not IDENTICAL to the book. I have heard everything from “Jake uses the name George in the book”, to “he visits Derry, not Holden, Kentucky,” to “Jake sings a Rolling Stones song, not a Beatles song.” And apparently, these differences make this movie a bad movie.
Well, I have some news, so listen up folks: an onscreen adaptation does not need to be a slavish, word for word adaptation of a book to be a good adaptation or even a good movie. In fact, an onscreen adaptation should not be a literal adaptation. Changes are a good thing when it comes to adaptations. What works in a book does not necessarily work for the movies or television, as we are dealing with visual mediums. Abstract concepts in a book (like the idea of the past pushing back) need to have a visual representation in a movie or TV show (the Yellow Card Man) so that the same ideas can be planted in the viewer’s (as opposed to the reader’s) mind.
In other words, I tend to think of it like this: chocolate cake is something we are all familiar with. However, if you search for a recipe for chocolate cake online, you will find thousands. Some recipes use buttermilk, Some use vegetable oil and no butter. Some use cocoa powder instead of melted chocolate. But all have the potential to make a good cake, if the chef executes the recipe properly. And it is the same with any onscreen adaptation of a book: there are many ways to translate an idea from a book to the screen. That doesn’t necessarily mean that one idea is a bad idea. In fact, there may be many good ideas. But what is needed is proper execution. And for the most part, the changes in 11/22/63 were properly executed, making the final product something that was a bit different from the book, but when you slice into it, you still can see that we have chocolate cake, although the recipes may have differed a bit.
Oh, and I need to give another shout out:
In other words, another reminder that we are watching something based on a work created by the master of modern horror.
I especially enjoyed seeing “Redrum” written on the wall of the book depository (although “Your a patsy?” Really? Apparently, graffiti artists in 1963 have about the same level of spell and grammar composition as the Internet trolls of the modern era. Who knew?)
And the nod to The Stand (coincidentally, my favorite King book ever) was pretty awesome too. Loved how we caught a glimpse of that graffiti in the alternate timeline, which, if you think about it, is pretty similar to the world of The Stand, actually…
And speaking of horror, I was again struck by the use of horror movie elements in something that is time travel/suspense/love story (and that makes perfect sense, screw you, critics, it makes perfect sense!). And the use of horror movie elements, like the color red (Sadie’s dress and the door in the book depository), made perfect sense in this context, giving the viewer a sense of foreboding for Jake and anyone associated with Jake.
Again, let’s talk about the visuals…
And again, I was floored by them, especially in this episode. I loved the scenes in the book depository, along with the mad dash to get to the book depository. The camera angles, the sound effects and the speed all served to give this part of the story some tension, which worked very well.
The scenes after Jake saves the president were also well done. I could tell that some actual footage from the infamous day was used, and that was a nice touch. I also thought that changing from color to black and white back to color (when Jake was booked and taken to the police station) was a nice touch, and gave the scene a bit of authenticity, and it almost came across as an actual event, as opposed to a scene in a fictional mini series.
The visual depiction of the alternate timeline was also well done. I enjoyed the surreal quality of it, as that reinforced the idea that this was an alternate timeline and not something that really should have existed in the first place. The dog in the distance that looked towards Jake and then walked off was a nice touch too, giving a sense of disorder and lawlessness. Dystopia at its finest.
Now, I don’t have too many complaints about this episode or about the series overall. However, I wish the writers would have done a little better job with the alternate timeline. Visually, the series got the point across. However, I wish that we could have just a little more detail. The book did a good job of providing us this information, and it was fascinating. However, this part in the mini series felt a little bit rushed, and almost glossed over. Not that this takes anything away from the mini series, but I am almost hoping we get to see some deleted scenes or something else that gives us a little bit more detail.
And the ending!
I know that I have said that I welcome changes to a story when it is adapted to the screen, and that is mostly true.
In other words, I would have channeled Annie Wilkes if the writers had DARED changed this ending, which I consider to be one of King’s best, or maybe even his best, period.
And to my delight, the ending to the mini series is essentially the same as the ending to the book.
So of course, I stepped into a feeling puddle. And I am still trying to shake those pesky feelings off. Sticky little buggers, they are…
In fact, my mind went here:
Is a dream a lie if it don’t come true
Or is it something worse
that sends me down to the river
though I know the river is dry
That sends me down to the river tonight
Down to the river
my baby and I
Oh down to the river we ride
And it was fitting: Jake and Sadie once danced on the floor of the gymnasium, and fell in love. But that was literally in another lifetime. And all Jake is left with is the memories, and a dream that did not quite come true. But still, it is better to have the memories and the dreams. That way, the river is not completely dry after all.
Well, that’s it for 11/22/63. I have had the pleasure of taking a journey with Jake Epping. And like Jake, I am left with a sense of longing. But life is all about taking journeys. After all, it is better to take and journey and have the memories. Otherwise, without the dreams and the memories, life would be about as much fun as a dry riverbed.