Hasitha Fernando reviews the series premiere of The Twilight Zone…
The original anthology series created by Rod Sterling set a dizzyingly high benchmark for others to follow. Making its debut in the late 1950’s it proved to be a wild success, thrilling audiences with the macabre and unexpected. Often these phantasmagoric tales were imbued with an underlying moralistic message, challenging the viewer to look beyond what their senses could perceive. There have been several attempts to revive The Twilight Zone in the past, with varying degrees of success. This year, rising horror-genre sensation Jordan Peele and CBS All Access have decided to breathe life back to this revolutionary TV series. So, does it live up to people’s lofty expectations? Read on to find out…
Off the bat, I’ve got to be honest, Jordan Peele’s involvement in this Twilight Zone revival had me super stoked. With the first two episodes of the series already released, I was impatient to see them. The first episode titled ‘The Comedian’ tells the story of Samir Wassan (Kumail Nanjiani), a down-on-his-luck comedian who catches a lucky break, one miserable night. J.C Wheeler (Tracy Morgan) a legend in the comedy circuit, advises that for Samir to achieve stardom, he must make his humor more…personal. Taking Wheeler’s instructions to heart, our protagonist does as he suggested and is soon basking in the adulation of his peers. But this fickle fame of course, comes at a terrible price.
Although the premise of ‘The Comedian’ bears some resemblance to Death Note, it possesses none of said anime’s strengths. Being neither engrossing nor original; the repetitive story beats, lackluster humor, needlessly expletive dialogue and sprawling runtime served only to further bog down the narrative. In spite of decent performances, I suppose some scripts are truly unsalvageable.
The second episode, ‘Nightmare at 30,000 Feet’, is a modern-day retelling of the classic Twilight Zone tale ‘Nightmare at 20,000 Feet.’ The story follows investigative journalist Justin Sanderson (Adam Scott), as he tries to avert a potential disaster involving the flight he’d just boarded, after uncovering a mysterious Mp3 player. Finding a kindred spirit in fellow passenger Joe (Chris Diamantopoulos) they attempt to solve the mystery before their time runs out.
‘Terror at 30,0000 Feet’ however is a vast improvement over the previous installment. The update made on the story is an apt and timely one. Instead of a grotesque gremlin wreaking havoc, a character study on the detrimental effects of paranoia and xenophobia is made. The claustrophobic setting of a plane in mid-air added to the palpable tension of the proceedings. All in all, a truly gripping episode featuring strong performances from the leads.
Jordan Peele does make for an inspiring host, but the presence of strong material is imperative if this revival is to take flight and soar. Here’s hoping the series picks up with future episodes.