The Twilight Zone season 2 review: Jordan Peele’s reboot has neither the wit nor wisdom of Netflix’s Black Mirror

The Twilight Zone season 2 review: Executive producer Jordan Peele’s reboot can’t capture the spirit of Rod Serling’s original, nor the wisdom of close competitor Black Mirror.
The Twilight Zone season 2 review: Jordan Peele returns as the narrator.
The Twilight Zone season 2 review: Jordan Peele returns as the narrator.
Updated on Jun 25, 2020 06:50 PM IST
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Hindustan Times | ByRohan Naahar

The Twilight Zone season 2
Cast - Jimmi Simpson, Gillian Jacobs, Billy Porter, Daniel Sunjata, Gretchen Mol

They say you get the government that you deserve. But what they don’t say is that you also get the Twilight Zone revival you deserve. On both accounts, we appear to have been short-changed.

The second season of the science-fiction anthology series, available in India on Voot Select, continues to suffer from what I’ve decided to call the John Carter Jinx. It’s an affliction that affects properties that have inspired countless imitators, but in the process been overtaken by them, to the point that few remember their relevance at all. While John Carter, the film, was a legendary box office disaster, despite the original novels having inspired everything from Star Wars to Avatar, Jordan Peele’s Twilight Zone reboot is a pale counterpart to Black Mirror, or even the recent Tales From the Loop.

Watch the Twilight Zone season 2 trailer here 

Neither has it been able to live up to its own illustrious legacy. The Twilight Zone has been revived on several occasions, none coming close to the original. Without exception, the highlights of the new episodes are Peele’s brief appearances as the Narrator. There he stands, a stoic expression on his face and a crisp three-piece suit on his back, doing a fine job of amping you up at the beginning of every episode, only for the episode itself to let you down.

Of the three provided for preview — there will be 10 in total — none boasts the wit or wisdom of the original 1959 series, created and narrated by Rod Serling. You Might Also Like, written and directed by Oz Perkins (son of Psycho star Anthony), comes the closest to capturing the retro vibe that fans associate with the Twilight Zone. It builds upon a premise that feels both contemporary and campy, although I cannot, of course, reveal any details about it here.

The Who of You, directed by Key & Peele alum Peter Atencio, is a handsomely shot entry, but bafflingly written. About an unemployed actor whose desperation takes him down dreary paths, the episode crumbles under its own weight, and even at 46 minutes long, feels like an eternity.

Jimmi Simpson in a still from Meet in the Middle.
Jimmi Simpson in a still from Meet in the Middle.

Meet in the Middle, directed and shot by Matthias Herndl, is utterly gorgeous to look at, and also the most accessible. Inspired partially by Spike Jonze’s Her, the chapter stars Jimmi Simpson as a loner who strikes a telepathic connection with a woman named Annie, played by Gillian Jacobs in a mostly voice role. But while Her made startling observations about modern romance, and Black Mirror’s similar Hang the DJ satirised the idea of finding a soulmate, Meet in the Middle doesn’t fully explore the potential of its premise. Simpson is terrific as the unstable Phil, shot in soft focus that isolates him from the world, but the episode ends with a bit of an unmotivated letdown.

Also read: Tales from the Loop review: In bleak times, new Amazon show is a brighter alternative to Black Mirror

As it turns out, Peele’s involvement in the show feels as tertiary as his short on-screen appearances. The reboot has none of the brilliance of his two feature films -- Get Out and Us.

There is, of course, no shortage of television and cinema inspired by The Twilight Zone for you to enjoy instead. As a quick remedy for this disappointment, I’d recommend Amazon’s recent The Vast of Night — a stripped-down sci-fi spectacle that announced director Andrew Patterson as one to watch out for.

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The author tweets @RohanNaahar

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