Last year when I heard Jordan Peele was producing and hosting a new Twilight Zone series, I was excited, for I am a huge fan of the original. I have watched many of the 1959-1964 series episodes over and over again and my family looks forward to the TZ marathon that the Syfy station puts on television every New Years Day. I also was a big fan of the 1985-1989 series, although I did not watch many episodes of the 2002-2003 series. I was pleased with the first season as a whole, although it was a bit uneven, so I looked forward to this second season. Careful- a few spoilers in the following quick recaps.
Meet in the Middle:
Phil, a lonely bachelor who longs for a romantic connection yet doesn’t seem to have the ability to form one, unexpectedly makes a telepathic connection with a woman Annie. Not understanding how it happened, they are both freaked out, but in time form a friendship and later a romantic connection. Desperate to meet her in real life, Phil heads to meet her, but when Annie disappears a secret about her is revealed.
Michelle, a beautiful and professional woman, finally lands her dream job as the manager of a high-end hotel. Elated, her victory is short-lived when the world seems to stop in their tracks and she is left as the only one who is aware of reality. But her reality is soon called into question when it is discovered she is a he who is living out a fantasy world in his sleep. A heart attack and then a coma has stranded him in this alternative world, but Michelle wishes to stay there, despite having his real-life wife try to convince him to disengage from the dream and come back to her. An interesting episode about perceived reality and how our online personas can become more real to us than our physical lives.
The Who Of You:
A struggling actor, who is behind on the bills and suspects his girlfriend is cheating on him, decides to rob a bank. Unexpectedly, his consciousness slips into the teller’s body, and her’s into his. He decides to slip out with the money now that he’s in a new body, but then his consciousness hopscotches from body to body, all while his original body is now in police custody. This was a fun episode as the police detective clues in that personalities seem to be slipping in and out of the original bearded actor. It goes without saying that there is an additional sly twist at the end for the actor to deal with.
The classic “watch out what you wish for” when an aspiring singer is gifted a coin that brings her fame and fortune. But the constant adulation and ovations comes at a cost and becomes so over the top that Jasmine realizes it is not authentic. Her sister throws the coin away for her and Jasmine goes into seclusion. During this time there is a new singer who becomes an overnight sensation, and who it is comes as no surprise. This perils of fame episode was weak.
Among the Untrodden:
As weak as the previous episode was, the next proved to be my favorite! Irene is a nerdy girl who transfers into a boarding school and immediately comes under fire from mean-girl Madison and her nasty group of friends. Irene is fascinated by ESP and during a science-fair experiment clues in that Madison has latent powers. At first dismissive, Madison eventually agrees to meet with Irene and the two girls do experiments to figure out what powers Madison holds. Woven into the story is Irene’s need to be accepted by Madison and her posse and we watch Madison start to look out for Irene. Later you will suspect that it is actually Irene with the powers and she’s manipulating everybody, but the episode has some surprising twists and turns in store.
This episode is a mix of The Abyss and Alien movies, in a short 30-minute burst. Scientists are studying newly discovered octopuses that because of a thinning ice sheet have been captured for the first time. The different teams are secretly planning to monetize or weaponize their findings, but the highly intelligent octopus has other plans. An entertaining monster-of-the-week episode with a fun but highly unrealistic ending.
A Human Face:
Grief overpowers logic in this meh episode. A grieving couple whose daughter committed suicide is packing up as they prepare to move when an expected cosmic flare occurs. But this flare brought a shape-shifting alien to their home who takes the form of their daughter. The mother immediately embraces the alien as her daughter but the father resists. The alien even admits that she is there to conquer Earth, but human emotion has made her reevaluate her mission. The ending was preposterous with too much of a need for suspension of disbelief.
A Small Town:
A sweet episode in which a small town’s mayor’s widower finds a magical model of the town and begins to make repairs to it that correspond to the real town, but then the slimy current mayor begins to get credit for the improvements. The widower resorts to some petty aggressions but eventually has to fess up when things go wrong. The episode could have gone deeper with the political angle, but instead concluded with a happyish ending.
Imagine Groundhog Day but with a creepy stalker. A graduate student studying Indigenous masks is saved from being hit by a truck outside of the museum she is headed to, and once inside runs into her good Samaritan. The two hit it off, although the man seems to be hitting his marks a little too perfectly. It is revealed he is in the middle of a time loop, and every day he relives his meeting with her, with an intent to make her love him. But his nice-guy persona wears off and he comes off as a psychopath who only views her as a conquest. The conclusion is left ambiguous as to what will happen next, which I felt was apropos for a TZ episode.
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Gah. This messed up episode is their conclusion for season two? An overly commercialized and sterile world is linked to the original series episode To Serve Man and to the Kanamit alien species. I’m not even going to summarize this episode- it was boring, weird and far from clever. The only good thing I can say is that George Takei voiced one of the trio of the Kanamit aliens which is a nice nod to the original series, as he starred in the episode The Encounter before he became famous on Star Trek. If this had been in the middle of the season, I could have moved on, but it was a bad idea to end on this note.
Of the ten episodes, Among the Untrodden was by far the best, with Downtime and The Who Of You being strong contenders. I enjoyed some guest stars such as Topher Grace, Gillain Jacobs, Christopher Meloni, Jenna Elfman, Morena Baccarin and Joel McHale. The quality fell off in later episodes which was a shame. But keep in mind any anthology like this is going to have clunkers. There are some absolutely cringe-worthy episodes from the original, but I still think fondly of the entire series, so I will hope there will be a season three of this new updated Twilight Zone.