It’s no secret that I love the original Twilight Zone. So when I heard they were doing a reboot of the show my opinions and feelings on it fluctuated wildly. At first I was wildly against it. When I heard that Jordan Peele was going to be involved, though, made me somewhat hopeful. The comedy on Key and Peele seems socially satirical and his movie, Get Out, instantly made me think of the Twilight Zone. Social commentary in a science fiction/horror setting.
This week Lilyn, Cory and myself watched the first four episodes and each did a mini-review of them. Some of them provoked a lot of thoughts and feelings.
The Comedian wasn’t a strong start story-wise but it lets you know upfront what the show is going to be about and what it was going to be tackling and I loved that. It felt to me like it was speaking on how comedians can bring up societal issues in their comedy (but that’s just me, I’ve seen other interpretations). The episode does an excellent job of creating an eerie dissonance between the laughter of the audience and what was actually happening. There’s also a fantastic zoom at the end that was very eerie.
Peele, I think, would probably be a better narrator if he let go and let his own personality shine through. You can’t copy Serling’s voice or smirky narration, you just can’t. So instead of trying, Peele just needs to loosen up and find his own way of doing things.
I’m not a huge fan of the original Twilight Zone, though I know Gracie would like to murderize me for the fact. I like it well enough, but could never truly get into it. However, when I heard Peele’s name attached to the new Twilight Zone, I knew at some point I’d want to give it a shot. For a starter episode, this wasn’t bad. Predictable, yes, but well-acted and well-shot enough that it didn’t really matter. The important thing to me, though, was the fact that they were addressing stuff head on. A show that opens with a joke about the 2nd amendment (with a very valid point!) and has an Indian lead? Well that’s a bunch of people they offended right there and I am here for that. Closing the episode with a little les/bi admiration made me happy, too. The only pick I really had with it is that Peele, who shows up in the end as the Serling stand-in, just does not have the rich voice needed to do the sort of narration that Serling did. Will happily keep watching, I just hope it gets a little more hard to guess how things are going to turn out.
I’m not a diehard Twilight Zone fan, but based on what I know of the series I think they captured the spirit of the show really well. This one is shaping up to be more than just another remake. I’ve been in a TV funk lately and it’s been a minute since I was this invested in a show, so I have to give it high marks for that.
Nightmare at 30,000 Feet
Nightmare at 30,000 Feet is a reimagining of the original episode Nightmare at 20,000 Feet. I was never that into that particular episode (I prefer Shatner’s Nick of Time episode on the original Twilight Zone better) so I was really interested to see where this one was going to go once it was clear they weren’t following the original to the letter. I did like it throughout (and Dan Carlin’s in-episode narration) but the ending fell a little flat to me. It was an unexpected twist but it twisted in a way that felt out of place with the rest of the episode. Weirdly, for the Twilight Zone, I had a hard time believing it. It’s hard to explain without spoiling it, so I won’t. Again, the cinematography was very good. It creates an uneasy atmosphere without going overboard. Peele still needs to loosen up and I couldn’t help but feel that Carlin would have done an excellent job of narrating the episode.
I am loving a lot of the references they are putting into it from the original series. They’re fun but not disruptive and “look at us, we’re so meta!”
I liked the second episode of Twilight Zone more than the first. It was filled with a suitable amount of “what the fuck?” and I totally did not predict that ending, so it suited me down to my toes. I had no idea that this was a reboot of an original TZ episode, so I know my reactions to things were probably different from our resident Twilight Zone nerd (Gracie). I liked the nods to the original show (albeit I had to have them explained to me). It was well-shot, well-acted, and very surreal. Still hoping Peele’s narration grows on me because so far I’m just not feeling it.
I’m going to be biased on episode two because I love Dan Carlin’s voice. My main complaint is that the lines from the podcast don’t sound like a cohesive piece of content, which would be easier to get over if they didn’t have a real podcaster playing the narrator. I like the horror of the idea that trying to fix something actually makes things worse, and even condemns you to a terrible fate. The way these stories are being told feels really good so far.
Replay is the episode that grabs you by the throat and says “Pay attention”. And, despite what I’ve heard some other reviewers say, is the episode that aligns the closest with Serling’s vision. To anyone who says this episode is too “socially conscious” they can piss off. It’s a tense, gut-punch of an episode where you keep hoping things will change and knowing they won’t. This would have been a hell of an episode even when it first came out but with the events of this year, it’s particularly thought-provoking and hard-hitting. Where again, we’re sitting here hoping things will change.
The original Twilight Zone may have had to hide its messages under the guise of fantasy and science fiction but bringing social issues such as civil rights, equality, and censorship is very much in line with the original show. If you don’t think so then you’d better go back and watch it. I think Serling would be proud to see his show be able to state that Black Lives Matter free and openly, without having to hide it.
This third episode is where it finally found its footing. The first two were good in a quirky, “that’s interesting” sort of way. This one, however, grabbed us by the short and curlies, especially given the current events with the death of George Floyd and the police brutality that has come to light time and time and time again until people are finally done and demanding change. I felt so damned tense and helpless during this episode. Everything was so well communicated that I felt like I got as close as possible to walking in that mother’s shoes. At this point, this is the episode I would point to and say, WHY have you not watched this yet?
The rewinding camcorder in this episode hits hard no matter who you are. Anyone can relate to the desire to take back something you said or did. And I’m sure there are more layers of meaning related to race than I could see. It’s a lot to chew on and not an episode to be watched lightly. Who says our entertainment can’t have deep messages?
Lilyn and Cory didn’t have much to say on A Traveler. It’s one of the lighter episodes and is just an interesting and fun science fiction romp. My only thoughts on it were that it seems like a spin on “Will the Real Martian Please Stand Up?” and with the ‘Traveler’ and mention of Russia it seems to lean heavily into the ‘Fellow Travelers’ of McCarthyism but doesn’t dig too deep into it. There’s also a quick shot of the gremlin from Nightmare at 20,000 Feet and Talking Tina from the killer doll episode which was fun.
I think so far the episodes have been a little uneven (as was the original) and it feels as though they are trying to carve their own mark while paying homage to the original series, especially in the ways that count. The acting is great the cinematography is visually striking and the pacing is good.
I’m definitely interested in watching the full series and with episode 2 being released fully on the 22nd I particularly want to watch the rest (particularly Tananarive Due’s episode). It’s certainly worth keeping an eye on. And I will certainly be keeping you guys updated on the journey…through The Twilight Zone.
GracieKat was the first co-host of Sci-Fi & Scary, Lilyn’s partner-in-crime, and sub-head of the Kali Krew. She reviews horror books, movies, and games for the site. She also does a weekly Focus on the Frightful feature, and is the site list-maker. She is also in control of the Sci-Fi & Scary podcast which will relaunch soon.