'Twilight Zone' Review: First Two Episodes Are a Mixed Bag, But Worth Sticking Around
Jordan Peele's Twilight Zone reboot is finally here, with the first two episodes available to view on CBS All Access. The first episode "The Comedian" is also available to stream for free on You Tube. To say that this series is highly anticipated is an understatement, and that is all because of Peele. After the massive success of Get Out and now Us, Peele has become a new must-see voice in the horror genre. With the Twilight Zone, Peele and his production company Monkeypaw Productions aim to bring the iconic series back to prominence, and through two episodes, they succeed to mixed results.
In "The Comedian", Kumail Nanjiani stars as a stand-up named Samir who bombs on stage every night for telling political jokes about gun control. Everything changes when he meets star comedian J.C Wheeler (Tracy Morgan), who urges him to stop with the political jokes and make his comedy personal. Once he starts doing this, Samir notices that whoever he talks about onstage, like his dog or his nephew, begins to face from existence. After some initial hesitance, he begins to take to his newfound power by erasing people who have wronged him, or made his life hell. What he fails to realize is that just erasing people from existence has consequences.
Nanjiani has not done anything like this before, and it is cool to see him play a character with some edge. Where this episode actually fell apart for me was the length. It is a clever concept for a Twilight Zone episode, but you can feel them stretching it out, especially in the middle twenty minutes. If they had taken out one or two of the scenes with Samir on stage and "trying out" his power, they would have had a much tighter story on their hands. The surrounding cast is fine, and the episode is really well shot. Some scenes are very claustrophobic and tightly shot, adding to Samir's paranoia in a great way. I just really wish it was 15 minutes shorter somehow.
'Nightmare at 30,000 Feet' does not have that problem, coming in at a tight 37 minutes. Adam Scott stars in an update of the classic William Shatner-starring original Twilight Zone vignette. Scott is Justin Sanderson, an investigative journalist on a flight to Tel Aviv when he finds an MP3 player at his seat with a podcast talking about how the flight he is on disappeared. We spend the next half hour watching him become increasingly unhinged as he tries to figure out how to use the podcast to stop the plane's fate.
This was a great spin on the original story, and really steers into the concept of paranoia and it is very disorienting to us, the viewer. It does a fantastic job or making us distrust everything we are seeing, and by the time the final reveal happens, you reassess everything you just watched and have a real "OHHHHH!" moment. This one also features Jordan Peele's narrator in a better, more natural way than 'The Comedian' did. It should feel natural, not shoe-horned in.
Most importantly though, this feels like Twilight Zone. Granted, it is updated to make it feel more modern. Like the first time the f-word is uttered was a bit jarring, but that adds a layer of authenticity that might have been a bit lacking in the classic series. These first two episodes are not perfect, and that is okay. They are solid watches and make for a great start to the new series.
The Twilight Zone is now streaming on CBS All Access, with regular, weekly new episodes added starting on April 11.
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