“Teacher Kills Spy, Saves Kennedy!” And then…?
Warning: Full spoilers for the 11.22.63 finale follow.
After three long years, Jake’s journey through time came to an end this week, as “The Day in Question” finally arrived. And while said journey had its tedious ups and downs and extraneous subplots (you know who you are… Bill), 11.22.63’s series finale delivered in a big way — or rather ways — during the back half of the episode. And interestingly, most of the finale’s most compelling moments came after the JFK assassination attempt, which was quickly resolved, albeit in a completely different way than what we’ve read in the history books.
“The Day in Question” opened on an exciting action beat, with Jake and Sadie going after Oswald at the top of his shooting spot. Honestly, I wasn’t surprised by Sadie’s death here; it seemed like the only logical choice thematically. Still, the couple’s final moment together was bittersweet, and the events that followed were completely separated from Jake’s historical trajectory for the past three years, which made this storyline even more gripping to watch than usual.
For me, one of the highlights here was Jake trying to convince the authorities that he was trying to save Kennedy and not assassinate him. For example, the way he turned the tables on that secret service agent showed just how much Jake knew about the case and everything else he had on Hoover, Bobby Kennedy and Monroe. It was also pretty trippy hearing JFK thank Jake over the phone for saving his life, which was a nice counterbalance to Jake’s loss with Sadie.
Of course, the “big moment” here wasn’t the assassination or Jake becoming a hero, but the apocalyptic present that JFK’s survival apparently wrought. In truth, the end result could have gone one of two ways — blissful utopia or tragic dystopia — and while I think it may have been more fun to see Jake deal with the former as sort of a contrast to how he felt about Sadie, the latter offered its own emotional crux with Leon Rippy’s Harry Dunning.
Not only did Jake’s reunion with his former student offer a long-awaited payoff to the events in episode two, but it proved that even Jake’s early attempts to “set things right” totally backfired. I also got a little choked up when Jake reset the timeline once more, only to discover Harry didn’t get the promotion after all. (“You’re a good man, Mr. Epping,” indeed.)
But really, the rest of this episode was about Jake deciding whether he should give it another shot with Sadie and start from the beginning, without trying to prevent JFK’s crucial demise. Jake “reuniting” with a young Sadie, for instance, introduced an interesting possible path for Jake to take, but obviously their love could never be as Time would inevitably pushed back, as the Yellow Card Man foretold.
As for the final present-day scene in Jodie, I was pretty pleased with it. Considering how this story was really about Jake and Sadie, not Jake and Kennedy, it felt right to end the series with Jake learning about Sadie’s intended life while they danced. Granted, a little more followup on what happened to the diner and the Rabbit Hole would have been nice, but overall this finale hit the spot.