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Blu-ray Review: The Twilight Zone (2019): Season One

February 19, 2020

By John Corrado

Hosted by comedian turned new horror master Jordan Peele, The Twilight Zone is a CBS All Access Original Series that serves as a reimagining of Rod Serling’s original 1959 sci-fi and fantasy show, updating the storytelling for more modern sensibilities and anxieties.

Season One is made up of ten episodes, all of which feature introductions by Peele, who serves as our narrator and also executive produced the series with Simon Kinberg. The first episode, The Comedian, is also one of the best, starring Kumail Nanjiani as a struggling standup comic discovering that he has the power to make people disappear through his act. Nanjiani received an Emmy nomination for the role.

Adam Scott stars in the second episode, Nightmare at 30,000 Feet, which is directly inspired by the classic William Shatner episode Nightmare at 20,000 Feet. Only in this version there is no gremlin on the wing of the plane, and a foreshadowing podcast causes Scott’s character, a renowned journalist, to go crazy instead. It’s a fairly entertaining twist on the original, and Scott carries the episode with a strong dramatic performance.

Next up is the third episode, Replay, which plays off the anxiety of police shootings to develop suspense as an African-American mother (Sanaa Lathan) discovers that her father’s old camcorder has the ability to turn back time, and tries desperately to use it to protect her young adult son (Damson Idris) from a racist officer (Glenn Fleshler). It’s a tense and well acted episode, using the time travel premise in a clever and ultimately heartbreaking way to explore the seeming inevitability of violence.

The fourth episode, A Traveller, is directed by Ana Lily Amirpour, one of the show’s guest directors, and is set at a remote police station in Alaska where a mysterious visitor (Steven Yuen) endears himself to the police captain (Greg Kinnear) in hopes of getting pardoned on Christmas Eve. It’s the best episode overall, with Amirpour handling both the storytelling and tone of the piece very well, building up a really great sense of atmosphere that I enjoyed quite a lot.

The fifth episode, The Wunderkind, takes on a more comedic and satirical tone, and features John Cho as a failed campaign manager who becomes obsessed with getting a young viral star (Jacob Tremblay) elected president of the United States. The sixth episode, Six Degrees of Freedom, is set on the first manned mission to Mars, and really leans into the science fiction elements in a way that makes it feel like somewhat of an outlier. The episode often feels overly ambitious given the constraints of the format, and bites off a bit more than it can chew.

The seventh episode, Not All Men, boasts a solid performance from Taissa Farmiga as a young woman who starts to observe the men in her town going crazy following a meteor shower, but the whole thing feels somewhat on the nose. The eighth episode, Point of Origin, serves as a not so subtle allegory for immigration that arguably goes on longer than it needs to, following a suburban housewife (Ginnifer Goodwin) struggling with the concept of where “home” really is.

The season ends strong with the final two episodes. The ninth episode, The Blue Scorpion, stars Chris O’Dowd as an anthropology professor whose life becomes overtaken by his late father’s suicide weapon, an antique pistol with a blue scorpion on its handle. It’s an engaging episode, and O’Dowd is strong in the leading role. The tenth and final episode, Blurryman, is probably the cleverest one of the set, as it employs a meta storytelling structure to focus on a writer (Zazie Beetz) being chased by a shadowy, mysterious figure. It’s a lot of fun, and does a fine job of paying tribute to the original series.

While some of the episodes are better than others, and the social messaging can feel heavy-handed at times in a way that threatens to overshadow the stories themselves, Peele’s 2019 version of The Twilight Zone is still a consistently entertaining series that boasts solid production values and good performances across the ten largely unconnected episodes, which are carried by all-star casts. It’s not as good as the original, but the series starts and ends strong, even if it does start to lag a bit partway through. While there are admittedly a few weaker episodes here, there are also plenty of stronger ones and, with each one under an hour, this an enjoyable series overall that lends itself well to binge-watching.

The 5-disc Blu-ray set comes with a good selection of bonus features, including an episodic promo and featurette (“Opening the Door To…”) to accompany each of the ten episodes, deleted or extended scenes for six of them (The Comedian, Nightmare at 30,000 Feet, Replay, The Wunderkind, Six Degrees of Freedom and The Blue Scorpion), and audio commentary tracks on three (Replay, Not All Men and Blurryman). The full music video from The Wunderkind is also included to accompany the episode.

Additionally, the first disc includes a promo for season one and the featurette Remembering Rod Serling, and the third disc includes a gag reel, the featurette Easter Eggs Revealed, and the two part making of documentary Crossing Over: Living in The Twilight Zone (Part One – A Dimension of Mind: Development and Part Two – A Dimension of Sight and Sound: Production). The final two discs in the set include special black and white versions of all ten episodes, which is a nice addition to the set.

The Twilight Zone (2019): Season One is a Paramount Home Media Distribution release. The whole set is approximately 14 hours, 35 minutes and rated 14A.

Street Date: February 18th, 2020

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