If there were a theme running through the second season of Jordan Peele’s reboot of THE TWILIGHT ZONE, it would be called…
…the mean season.
Peele still sticks to the spirit of Rod Serling’s brainchild, but there are a lot of episodes that would’ve fit more in the horror vein as a continuation of Serling’s other genre series THE NIGHT GALLERY. This season carries the human observation and fantasy but there’s more of a grindhouse movie feel to some of the episodes than before. The show is meaner, bloodier in cases, and the language makes sure that you’ll never see the bulk of these in a marathon on DECADES or something.
Where the first season sometimes got raw in episodes that faced specific themes like the burden of racism and the existential threat of police brutality and profiling in the excellent episode “Replay” with Sana’a Lathan as a mother with a very special camera who is driving her son to college, or the clever twist on the classic episode from the original series which starred William Shatner, “Nightmare at 30,000 Feet” which updates not just the monster on the plane but how our changing technology made it possible, this new series showed a change of tone that, in its harshness and grittiness occasionally overpowered whatever message or lesson it was trying to convey in its delivery. There were a few episodes where I predicted the endings or reveals before they showed up, but the stories keep me engaged for the most part. If there is a weakness that was consistent, it was in the finale episode “You Might Also Like”, which like last season’s “Blurryman” works really hard to be an homage to the original series but misses the mark because they tried way too hard and fumbled the ball from where I sat.
Unlike the last season, CBS or Peele decided to dump all ten episodes onto CBS All Access at one time as opposed to weekly so I was able to watch them all over a couple of days. This time around though the episodes had runtimes that varied a great deal. Some of them will fit in the 25 minute range, like the episode “8” which is the shortest and goriest of this season with a vibe I think fans of THE THING will dig. Others run longer with an average of 45 minutes so it can throw you off a little if you watch them back to back with no break for several episodes.
So here’s titles and how I scored them in my opinion alone.
I tried not to spoil things too much in the summaries.
“Meet in the Middle”, while on a blind date, a man finds his ideal woman in the last place he ever expected and… it’s complicated. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
“Downtime”, a very ambitious woman is having the best day of her life until it’s interrupted by a huge sphere that suddenly appears which will lead her to question everything she thought she knew. ⭐️⭐️⭐️
“The Who of You”, an out-of-work actor undertakes an act of desperation and finds himself playing the roles of a lifetime. This episode is totally stolen by Billy Porter when he shows up. The twist here is nicely done and happens a few times over before the WOW ending.
Words of advice: Don’t blink. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
“Ovation”, asks the question: “What if you suddenly became so famous that the applause never ended?” It’s question an aspiring singer gets an answer to when the biggest star on the planet hears her singing while busking for change in the park. You’ll figure out the end long before it happens, but you’ll want to stick around to see Jordan Peele’s final thoughts on the episode. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
“Among the Untrodden”, the new girl in class is picked on and bullied by the cool girls until she discovers the most popular girl in school may have talents she’s unaware of. In a clique where your value is based on your popularity and usefulness, is true friendship possible between these opposites? If “Mean Girls” and “Carrie” had a kid, this is probably how it would’ve gone down. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
“8”, it’s THE THING, underwater in roughly 20 minutes. A crew investigating a mystery under the sea discover a new predator…
…or is that the other way ‘round?
If you like your doomed mission in isolation bloody and a little graphic, go pop that corn, Mr. Peele has you covered on this one. ⭐️⭐️⭐️
“A Human Face”, hey, you guys remember that original series episode called “Eye of the Beholder” where there’s a lady wrapped in bandages and everyone’s saying she’s hideous but it turns out the world is full of uniformly deformed people and she is literally Ellie Mae from THE BEVERLY HILLBILLIES?
Well this ain’t that one. And yet it sort of is a spiritual cousin to it. A couple hear a noise in their basement and they go to investigate…
…and they find something they didn’t expect but is it something they needed? ⭐️⭐️⭐️
“A Small Town”, Littleton has had its fair share of troubles lately. The town on the verge of financial ruin and people are moving away…
…but then the changes started.
Damon Wayans Jr. fronts a cast in a story told in such a way, you’d think Serling himself came back to write and direct it. The episode takes a break from chilling the blood to warming the heart and it is beautifully done. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
“Try, Try”, the old saw, “Practice Makes Perfect” gets taken to an extreme as a beautiful young woman, while heading over to the local museum to work on her dissertation, is saved from being hit by a truck by a man who appears to anticipate her moods and needs, shares interests and, for all intents and purposes, appears to be the perfect man…
…but you know what they also say about books and covers…
Cautionary note: gets a little creepy and abusive in places. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
“You Might Also Like”, a woman wakes up in her bedroom with no idea how she got there. It’s not the first time it will happen, and it won’t be the last. But everything will be alright when she gets THE EGG…
However her visit to the Twilight Zone, takes a detour to faces familiar and unexpected.
This one scores the lowest of the season for me because they sort of change the entire hook for a classic episode that makes it fall flat. ⭐️⭐️