Despite having had almost four years to prepare for this moment, Jake finds himself running out of time as he races to the Texas Book Depository and Lee Harvey Oswald. The past is pushing back hard as Kennedy’s motorcade is starting it’s long, slow journey up Dealey Plaza. But as much as the past doesn’t want to be changed, has Jake ever stopped to consider; SHOULD it be changed?
Picking up straight after last week’s episode, Jake and Sadie speed toward downtown Dallas, encountering ghosts from their past and obstacles at every turn; the past is very keen not to be changed. So much so that history as Jake knows it is being altered; they find the Texas Book Depository closed and locked, whereas Jake knows it was/is/should be open. They gain entry and, despite further ‘pushing back’ – including the ominous graffiti “You’re the patsy” scrawled on a stairwell wall – reach Oswald just as he fires his first, missing shot. A quick game of cat and mouse ensues between Lee Harvey and Jake before a struggle and fight ends with Jake shooting Oswald dead. It’s only then that Jake realises Sadie has also been shot. It’s a fatal wound and she dies there and then in his arms, just as the police arrive to arrest Jake as one of the two would-be assassins of John F Kennedy. JFK is, however, safe and sound.
At a Dallas police station, it really does look like Jake is going to be the patsy; the press are assembled, flashbulbs are going off right, left and centre and the long shadow of Jack Ruby looms large. But Jake’s incarceration doesn’t last long; his threats to expose all of the FBI’s secrets he knows – it amounts to a lot – carries much weight and before he knows it, JFK himself has called to offer thanks for saving his life. Jake is set free and dropped off at the local bus station; it’s a long trip back to the rabbit hole. His mission has been a success, but at what cost? His true love has paid the ultimate price.
Stepping back into 2016 Jake is shocked by what he finds. The world he knew is a virtual apocalyptic wasteland and what he, and we, need is a guide. It’s lucky then that Jake just happens to bump into Harry Dunning, the school caretaker who’s family Jake saved from their murderous father back in ’61. Exposition Harry quickly brings us up to speed; Kennedy served two terms as President and this alternate history became very different, there was no Vietnam War, no 9/11, but the world went to shit. Turns out Kennedy being assassinated was a good thing. Who knew? Jake immediately knows what he must do – go back down the rabbit hole, back to 1960, thus resetting everything. This he does, emerging for a third time to familiar sights, sounds and smells, including the car full of young girls, one of whom just happens to be Sadie. Jake is transfixed, follows her and strikes up a conversation. Of course to Sadie, Jake is a complete stranger. Could he make her fall in love with him all over again? The Yellow Card Man thinks not, and makes an appearance to warn Jake that no matter how hard he tries, the loop he’s now back in cannot be changed. If he stays here, that loop will be repeated, creating once more the nightmare future he’s already witnessed. So Jake leaves Sadie once more and returns back up the rabbit hole to the 2016 he knows.
He shouldn’t but Jake can’t resist going online and finding what became of his lost love. Sadie Dunhill is just that week (what a coincidence) to be honoured as Woman of the Year in Jodie, and Jake pays a visit to have one, last dance with her.
After playing fast and loose with the source material, we get the ending ripped straight from the book and it’s as unsatisfying on the screen as it was on the page. After all he’s been through, Jake learns that the best and only thing to do was….nothing whatsoever. But it does work, to a degree. The final shot, of Jake and Sadie dancing, together but forever alone, separated by decades, is pretty heartbreaking. But, if you think about it, it does posit Lee Harvey Oswald as nothing more than a Great American Hero, albeit one who had no idea what he was ultimately doing. And we mustn’t forget Jake’s shameful treatment of Bill Turcotte, an addition from the book for the series who, when no longer needed, was quite literally chucked out a window.
As a whole, however, this was a very satisfying run and Hulu must be commended for not stretching it out for a longer season which would have drastically harmed it’s pace and tone. The end seems pretty clear cut but a case could easily be made for a second season. Pining for Sadie, it’s not a stretch for Jake to go back down the rabbit hole and try to get back what he lost without changing the future of the entire planet. And if he fails, he could always just reset again.
11.22.63 aired on Hulu on Mondays and has ended. For now.