Jake Epping (James Franco - Your Highness ) is recruited by his buddy Al Templeton (Chris Cooper - Amazing Spiderman 2 ) to save JFK from assassination. It turns out that Al has a time-portal that goes back to 1960.
This version of time travel has some unusual rules. Like Narnia, the portal is in a closet and time travels at a different rate. No matter how long you spend in the closet, only two minutes passes in the modern day. Every time you travel back it automatically resets, so if you fix the world then you can never return. And if you even get close to any major historical events, the universe will try to stop you.
Travelling back to 1960 is a typical American Baby-Boomer fantasy. Back to the Future established the late Fifies as time-traveller's paradise, while the show Quantum Leap was five Seasons worth of Baby Boomer do-overs. The Kennedy Assassination is probably one of those fixed points in time that all Time Travellers eventually wind up at, like the Titanic or the year 1985.
Jake Epping (James Franco - Your Highness ) has a few years to kill, so to speak. He decides to put his time to good use, so he drives across the USA to find the abusive father of a future friend.
Jake's target, Frank Dunning (Josh Duhamel - Transformers ), is destined to become a spree killer of the Family Annihilator variety. They are more common in the post-Feminist era, when family breakups are a regular occurance. That makes him something of an anachronism in the era of the Eisenhower Administration.
Jake has two chances to reflect on the nature of killing. Frank shows him The Kill Floor of the local abattoir, where rednecks (like in Texas Chainsaw Massacre ) kill cattle and turn them into beef-burgers. Also, a World War Two veteran recounts the deed that won him a medal. Each man views killing in a different light. Has Jake got what it takes to kill Frank, never mind Lee Harvey oswald?
Jake Epping (James Franco - Your Highness ) and his new sidekick move into the town Oswald will move to when he returns. They set up surveillance on the apartment Oswald will live in. Strangely, the FBI have completely failed to do the same thing. Jake does admit to one mistake, though - he wasted two years that he could have spent learning Russian!
Jake advises his sidekick to keep a low profile. However, he ignores his own advice. Texas was a Southern state, and there is quite a lot of subtle racism on show. Naturally, our hero indulges his anti-racist sentiments from the Twenty-First Century.
This show reminds one of Back To The Future , but it brings a shocking comparison to mind. Marty McFly went back thirty years, from 1985 to 1955. Today we actually look back even longer than we did, from 2016 to 1985. However, the real changes in society took place in the turbulent Sixties and Seventies. Modern people could adapt to life in the Eighties far more quickly that Eighties people could in the Fifties.
Jake Epping (James Franco - Your Highness ) continues his romance with the lady schoolteacher. After all, he met her in Episode One - before he was even working in the school. It is so unlikely that they would meet twice that he assumes it is fate. However, someone else finds out about their relationship. He thinks it is the CIA, while she is preoccupied with her problems with her estranged husband.
Billy, Jake's pretend brother, gets the frustrating tasks. Nobody has fated him a love interest, and when the amateurish surveillance operation takes the boys to a top-class brothel poor old Billy is left in the bar without any money for a girl. The good news is, Billy befriends the bored housewife in the upstairs apartment. The bad news is, she is Oswald's wife.
Jake's dating of a co-worker at school means his work-life becomes a soap opera. The office lady discovers one of his secrets, so he has to pretend to be a character from The Godfather series to get out of trouble. The Principal gets the wrong idea when he has to bail Jake and Billy out of jail. And the girlfriend's ex Johnny Clayton (T.R. Knight - Grey's Anatomy) seems to know a lot more than he lets on.
Jake Epping (James Franco - Your Highness ) and his co-conspirator Bill maintain surveillance on Oswald. It is coming up to the night that someone takes a shot at the fascist General. Unfortunately, History pushes back again. Jake gets distracted by a personal subplot, and the important role is delegated to Bill.
The schoolteacher lady dumps Jake because he has kept secrets from her. In truth, all he did wrong was to not take enough precautions with his secrets. However, his employment contract with the small-town Texas High School has a morals clause. Worse, her estranged husband Johnny Clayton (T.R. Knight - Grey's Anatomy) is still in town and wants revenge. Yes, Jake certainly seems to spend a lot of time fighting abusive ex-husbands, even if they are excellently played by actors who usually get stuck in boring good-guy roles.
Jake Epping (James Franco - Your Highness ) finally learns that he should not have ignored Billy. The poor kid was bossed around and denied a chance to get any action. As a result, he rebels in the worst way possible. Not only has he gotten himself a girlfriend, she is a married woman. Worse, she is married to the man they are conducting surveillance on! Finally, Billy has befriended Lee and they pal around a lot. So much for staying low-key and out of sight. But the worst thing is, Jake does not know who the second shooter is yet.
Lee Harvey Oswald is being stalked by the FBI, in the shape of Billy from Ally McBeal. This is actually a good thing, because should he discover any of the clumsily-hidden bugs in his apartment then he will assume it is from the US Federal Government instead of from a time-travelling next-door neighbour.
Jake Epping (James Franco - Your Highness ) wakes up in hospital with a severe concussion. Worse, he has acquired traumatic amnesia along with his head injury. He has less than two weeks until the assassination, and as the days tick by it becomes more urgent for him to remember.
Bill has been abandoned. By the time Jake remembers where he is, it is almost too late. He has been the victim of 1960s medical practices, like in American Horror Story: Season 2 .
Meanwhile, Lee Harvey Oswald is under even more stress. He has failed at his career, and his poverty undermined his marriage. Without workplace buddies or family members to confide in he becomes socially isolated. And living in America, with the right to bear arms, he has access to a rifle. This is apparently a perfect psychological profile for a lone gunman. It is also a description for about half the people in the USA. This raises an important question - not why does the USA have killing sprees like Sandy Hook, but why are there so FEW?
Jake Epping (James Franco - Your Highness ) closes in on Lee Harvey Oswald. He has had three years to plan, and yet he still has to run halfway across the city.
The confrontation with Oswald is brief, considering the whole show has been building up to it. However, Jake then has to deal with the FBI, in the shape of Billy from Ally McBeal.
Eventually, Jake gets back to the present day. But what effect has saving JFK had on the future? Will it be as bad as in Red Dwarf: Season 7 ?
Remember, this was written by Stephen King , and his idea of a prison break was epitomised in Shawshank Redemption. One must consider that his take on time is unconventional, especially compared with US television cliches that answer all problems within 42 minutes, basically one day's worth of screen time.