Does it stand up to modern standards or the original’s?
2019 marks the 60th anniversary of the iconic and classic horror/sci-fi anthology series, which is no coincidence that a reboot has once again reared its head. Jordan Peele‘s The Twilight Zone comes at a time when anthologies have returned to the limelight, thanks to modern takes on the genre by shows like Black Mirror, Love, Death & Robots, and Channel Zero.
In a world where horror/sci-fi anthologies are no longer quite the niche they were over six decades ago, can The Twilight Zone reboot justify its own existence? That’s a question it must answer in order to avoid falling into the abyss of obscurity like the series’ previous two reboots in the 80s and early 2000s, respectively.
Two episodes have been released so far, “The Comedian” and “Nightmare at 30,000 Feet”, with mixed reactions by critics and normal audiences alike. Let’s see what works and what doesn’t in the first two episodes, and what I think about them.
These reviews will have spoilers, so here:
The Twilight Zone Episode 1 Review: The Comedian
The first episode of The Twilight Zone reboot stars Kumail Nanjiani as a struggling stand-up comedian named Samir Wassan. One night after one of his failed performances, he meets his idol, who gives him ‘advice’ that changes his life forever. That advice? Use people as material for his comedic performances instead of politics or other heavy-handed topics. What happens then?
Spoiler alert: The people he uses for comedic material ends up being erased and literally wiped off the face of the earth like they never existed. This continues for almost the entirety of the episode’s whopping 54-minute runtime before the character realizes that the hole he’s digging is too deep to crawl out of. The episode’s pacing suffers, which was never a problem in the original series because episodes back then were 30 minutes long at most.
However, I do like the themes explored in this episode, including how much of your values would you sacrifice to succeed and your perception of other fellow human beings are. For instance, Samir Wassan gets so caught up with his newfound fame that he never stopped to think about how he was actually starting to see other people as simply “material” and fodder for his comedy.
Meanwhile, Jordan Peele’s role as the narrator (in place of the late Rod Serling who created and narrated the original series) is a mixed bag for me. He does a fine job of evoking a sense of mystery but it’s jarring that I can’t help seeing him as the same guy from the Key & Peele. Surely I’m not the only one who sees that.
I do still think that it was too long, and many people will find its almost one-hour runtime too much to slog through. This will be the biggest obstacle in the reboot’s attempt to capture a wider audience. In comparison, Black Mirror managed to get away with long runtimes due to its usually shocking plot twists.
Unfortunately, the plot of “The Comedian” is predictable, and you won’t find much of a Black Mirror plot twist here. It definitely will not impress any Twilight Zone first-timers, especially those who have grown used to Black Mirror.
Ultimately, it’s a decent yet unremarkable beginning to Jordan Peele’s The Twilight Zone reboot.
FINAL SCORE: 60/100
The Twilight Zone Episode 2 Review: Nightmare at 30,000 Feet
This episode is actually a direct remake of the classic The Twilight Zone episode Nightmare at 20,000 Feet, which featured a pre-Star Trek William Shatner. The original premise was simple: A guy on a flight freaks out when he notices that a monster is lurking outside the plane.
The reason why this episode was chosen to be remade is presumably because it plays to everyone’s fear that something and anything can happen during a flight, which could turn even the most sensible person into a paranoid wreck.
Nightmare at 30,000 Feet attempts to modernize that initial premise, with Adam Scott as an investigative journalist named Justin Sanderson as an updated version of William Shatner’s character.
Justine Sanderson suffers from PTSD, and while on his fight, he discovers an MP3 player with a podcast that discusses the mystery of a plane crash. Things get bizarre when the narrator of said podcast refers to the plane that crashed as the exact same one that he is currently a passenger of. He then starts panicking, which gets worse as paranoia sets in.
He becomes so convinced that the plane would crash that he starts antagonizing everyone who he suspects (or anyone that the podcast mentions by name). Things keep escalating until the end of the episode, where the twist happens. It’s a pretty bad twist. I won’t spoil it for you, but the resolution spoils everything else in the episode.
Amazingly, Nightmare at 30,000 Feet does manage to retain its suspenseful and unsettling atmosphere for most of its 36-minute runtime. However, that aforementioned ending is so predictable and ridiculous that it immediately threw my immersion away. It’s a “what the ****” moment, in the most negative way possible.
FINAL SCORE: 50/100
The Future Of This Twilight
Episode 3 of The Twilight Zone is slated to arrive on 11 April 2019 on CBS All Access. While the first episode is available for free on YouTube, it’s region-locked to the U.S., which means those of us here in Asia won’t be able to access it.
I won’t blame anyone who abandons the series after watching the first two episodes. If you’re a veteran fan of horror and sci-fi, you’ll know that a few bad apples are bound to appear, even in the most perfect seasons of any series.
Considering that this is an anthology series, don’t let one bad or not-so-good episode stop you from watching the next one, because it just might be a good or even great one. That’s the advantage of being an anthology series.
In the meantime, here’s the complete first full episode of The Twilight Zone reboot for our readers in the U.S. (or those with VPNs). Or check out the trippy trailer below for a taste of what to expect from the first season of the reboot.