Roush Review: Returning to ‘The Twilight Zone’
How Rod Serling would have appreciated 2020, a year ripe for fantastical allegory, with a pandemic and a social revolution vying for headlines. Conversely, those who’ve felt like they’ve been living in a twilight zone for months may relish the opportunity to escape into a second season of Jordan Peele’s stylish if somewhat swollen reboot of the revered supernatural anthology. (Once again, Peele takes on the Serling role of droll, cautionary narrator with pronounced understatement.)
Judging from the handful of overlong episodes made available ahead of launch, with all 10 stories available at once for binge-watching pleasure, the new Zone is still rather a mixed bag, though one brimming with imaginative pleasures and smart casting.
My favorite so far is “The Who of You,” a clever body-switching caper in which the question “Do you know who you are?” takes on especially loaded meanings. Grace and Frankie‘s Ethan Embry rises to the occasion as a failed actor channeling multiple personalities when his soul keeps jumping into other human vessels—a cop, a confuse barista, a scared child—in the aftermath of a desperate act. When one of his body swaps involves a flamboyant psychic played by Pose‘s Billy Porter, there’s great delight in watching Embry channel Porter’s mannerisms. In classic Zone tradition, the story comes full circle in a satisfying and ironic final twist.
Another acting tour de force, by Westworld‘s Jimmi Simpson as a lonely-hearted sad sack, elevates “Meet in the Middle,” in which an unhappy bachelor makes a telepathic connection with another forlorn soul looking for love. This virtual romance, with its unintended echo of today’s world of social distancing, builds in intensity as he insists on meeting his unseen lover face to face. As longtime Twilight Zone viewers know, there’s usually a price to be paid in getting what you wish for.
In the least transporting of the vignettes screened in advance—ironically, the closest to pure science fiction—”You Might Also Like” introduces Gretchen Mol as a futuristic housewife who initially resists the pull of society’s Next Big Thing, a magical Egg everyone covets because of the promise it “will make everything be OK again, forever.” It doesn’t take a genius to know this isn’t the panacea being touted from every corner, and just because she’s right doesn’t make the final “shocking” reveal any less predictable.
The Twilight Zone, Season 2 Premiere (all 10 episodes), Thursday, CBS All Access