I am a huge fan of the original Twilight Zone, and have watched many of the 1959-1964 series episodes over and over again. Indeed, 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. So when I heard Jordan Peele, of Get Out fame, was producing and hosting this new version, I was in! Careful- a few spoilers in the following quick recaps.
Episode One: The Comedian
A comedian isn’t connecting with his audience when he is convinced to use info from his own life in his performance. The thing is- when he mentions people by name they disappear from existence, so he begins to exploit this by getting revenge against people he hates. While his new show begins to bring him fame and fortune it obviously comes at a price. As the episode concluded, it pans out and the comedian is found in a group picture that reminded me of the movie The Shining, plus a few people in the crowd had distorted features found in the original episode Eye of the Beholder. I was disappointed with this first episode, I believe it would have been better shown later in the season.
Episode Two: Nightmare at 30,000 Feet
One of the original series most famous episode’s had William Shatner (before his famous Star Trek role) as a passenger on a plane that was the only one that saw a gremlin on the plane’s wing, putting everyone’s safety at risk. This episode pays homage to that episode but with a more modern retelling of it. A man traveling home finds an I-pad that is playing a podcast about a downed plane, and as he listens to it, the details match with the plane he is on. He keeps on seeing signs that point to this flight crashing and he does everything in his power to prevent the tragedy but he ends up causing more problems for the crew. In the end, you are made to wonder was this disaster going to happen no matter what or did the man make it worse by getting involved? A stuffed animal gremlin, based off the creature found the original episode of this name, washes up on the island that they crashed on it the end.
Episode Three: Replay
A black single mother and her college-aged only child travel to take him to school through the mother’s hometown area, known for its racism. At a roadside diner, she playfully tapes her son on a recorder and experiences her first déjà vu that day. Later when they are pulled over for a traffic violation by a racist white police officer things get out of hand and the son is shot by the officer. She discovers if she plays back the recording she took earlier she and her son will go back in time to the diner before the accident happens. Determined to change the outcome she changes her plans, but no matter how many times she tries to alter the future, the officer finds them and kills her son. Finally, with her brother’s help, they are finally able to outwit the officer and make it to college safely. But it’s the Twilight Zone, so there is one more twist at the end. This was a very strong episode and should have been the first to set the tone for the remaining season.
Episode Four: A Traveler
A Christmas story set in Alaska, it puts a spin on colonialism and the white savior complex. Every holiday the white sheriff wishes to pardon an inmate in the local jail so one of his Native deputies reluctantly picks up her drunk brother, knowing he won’t be charged this time, to fulfill this sham her boss insists upon. But in the jail is another prisoner, that no one arrested, who insists on being part of the party because he says the sheriff’s exploits are legendary. While the sheriff gets puffed up with pride, his deputy suspects something is amiss, and this Traveler starts sowing seeds of dissent in the community. This sly episode relates to fake news and harkens to the original TZ episode The Monsters are Due on Maple Street.
Episode Five: The Wunderkind
John Cho headlines this outing, which already elevates it, as I am a huge fan of his Lt Sulu role in the new Star Trek movies. Here he is a young political manager, who crashes and burns when the sitting president candidate whose campaign he led, is not re-elected. He improbably takes on an 11-year-old boy as his next candidate who is a YouTube sensation and gets him elected President on a platform of change. Giving someone who is not qualified unlimited power is a recipe for disaster, and this allegorical tale of presidential madness can be directly compared to our current administration. It also had shades of the original TZ episode It’s a Good Life when a child begins to terrorize the adults who have given their power away to a little dictator.
Episode Six: Six Degrees of Freedom
Five astronauts are about to blast off to Mars when a nuclear war begins on Earth and they make the soul-crushing decision to continue with their mission- knowing they might be the only survivors and they will not have any help going forward. They endure some interpersonal drama but seem to be holding up well in the months it takes to reach Mars when one of the crewmembers seems to lose touch with reality and believes it is all a test and none of the crisis is real. Of course, there is the requisite TZ twist at the end for the long-suffering crew. This was a strong episode that had me guessing to the end, and had a movie-type scope narrative.
Episode Seven: Not All Men
A young woman has a date with a co-worker to watch the meteor shower and when she rebuffs his advances he gets angry. The next night while at a bar with her sister and friends, men in the town begin to go crazy, and she believes it is exposure to the meteor that is effecting the men only. After finding her teenaged nephew who resists the anger, and the army comes to save the women of the community, she wonders if the meteor shower was just an excuse for toxic masculinity to go haywire. I’ve now noticed a few Easter eggs such as the number 1015, a Busy Bee Cafe logo and the name Whipple are cropping up in several episodes.
Episode Eight: Point of Origin
This episode has a clear message about illegal immigration when a privileged white woman, played by Jennifer Goodwin, is detained as an illegal alien. The episode begins with this wealthy woman planning a party, and you can easily see how she marginalizes those that work for her. When her foreign nanny is forcefully taken from her home, she and her entitled friends sniff that it’s the immigrant’s fault in coming here in the first place and they deserve their fate. But when she herself is placed in custody and interrogated, the first hints of her early life in another desolate dimension, are hinted at. The interrogator is the actor who plays Sarek (Spock’s father) on Star Trek Discovery, so this sci-fi connection was a further nod to the alienness of the episode. The ending was bleak, but I won’t reveal why.
Episode Nine: The Blue Scorpion
A man is shocked when his elderly father commits suicide, as he had been a pacifist hippy, and was not known to own a gun. Jeff is going through a divorce that he doesn’t want and this additional blow throws him into a depression. As he cleans his father’s house, he discovers a safe that had held the previously unknown gun and bullets, when he finds a bullet with his name engraved in it. He later begins to meet many other Jeff’s such as his wife’s lover and lawyer, and you begin to wonder who the bullet is intended for. While the story is seemingly resolved in a satisfactory manner, there is an additional twist at the end, that is like a punch in the gut.
Episode Ten: Blurry Man
This very meta episode began with a story you thought was going in one direction, but then caught you by surprise by having the episode be about a writer for this Twilight Zone series. She lives and breathes TZ, and her complete dedication to it begins to take a toll when she has hallucinations. But are they real or not? Who the Blurry Man is (look for him in all the preceding episodes!) is pure gold. It was a fun and atypical way to end season one, although we never did find out the significance of the number 1015 or the other Easter eggs that have been sprinkled throughout the season.
This series was good- a real good thing (I just did my own TZ Easter egg!). It had some well-known actors and actresses take interesting roles, and they all did a remarkable job with it. After each episode, I went to YouTube and watched videos put out by GameSpot Universe that had excellent recaps, commentary and spotted Easter eggs. The show was renewed for a second season, so I will need to continue my subscription with CBS All Access so I can watch it, Star Trek Discovery and the upcoming Star Trek Picard!