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DVD Review: The Twilight Zone (2019): Season Two

January 12, 2021

By John Corrado

★★★ (out of 4)

Over the past few years, Jordan Peele has gone from comedy star to one of our finest horror filmmakers, an unexpected but genuinely exciting career reinvention.

In 2019, Peele leveraged his power to get a reboot of Rod Serling’s classic show The Twilight Zone on the air, updating it for modern sensibilities with more diverse casts and a diverse slate of guest directors. The second season of the show is being released on DVD this week, in a three disc set that includes all ten episodes from season two.

Peele serves as executive producer of the series and once again takes over from Serling as host, appearing at the beginning and ending of each episode. The first episode of season two, Meet in the Middle (dir. Mathias Herndl), follows a lonely man (Jimmi Simpson) who begins to fall in love with the voice of a woman (Gillian Jacobs) that he starts to hear in his head. It’s sort of like a riff on Her with a telepathic twist, and I found the story to be engaging right up to the final reveal.

The second, Downtime (dir. J.D. Dillard), switches gears from psychological thriller to science fiction. It follows a woman (Morena Baccarin) who gets promoted to manager at the hotel where she works, only to discover that her reality is not what it seems. It’s one of the shorter episodes, but still a fun little mind-bender, that includes a fine appearance from Tony Hale.

The third episode, The Who of You (dir. Peter Atencio), follows a struggling actor (Ethan Embry) who is in dire straits and decides to rob a bank in order to pay the bills, but ends up switching bodies in the process. With plenty of action and a constantly moving plot, this is a very entertaining and fast-paced take on the body swap genre. Embry gets to show his range in the leading role, and the episode includes a memorable supporting turn by Billy Porter.

The fourth episode, Ovation (dir. Ana Lily Amirpour), tells the story of a busker (Jurnee Smollett) whose chance encounter with an influential pop star (Sky Ferreira) right before her untimely death leads her to receive applause every time she starts performing, to the point of drowning her out. Amirpour helmed the best episode of season one (A Traveller), but this season two entry feels somewhat underdeveloped, despite a decent performance by Smollett.

Things are back on track with the fifth episode, Among the Untrodden (dir. Tayarisha Poe), which is set entirely at an all-girls boarding school, where transfer student Irene (Sophia Macy) becomes convinced that popular girl Madison (Abbie Hern) possesses psychic abilities. I really enjoyed the whole vibe of this one, like a mix between Carrie and The Craft, and it’s one of the best episodes overall.

The sixth episode, 8 (dir. Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead), is set at the edge of the world, where a team of scientists led by Orson Rudd (Joel McHale) is searching for new forms of life, and discovers a new, highly intelligent species of octopus. Taking its cues from monster movies like Alien and The Thing, this is the episode that feels most like an outlier. While it works as a decent enough chamber piece, the roughly half-hour running time also isn’t long enough to fully flesh it out.

The seventh, A Human Face (dir. Christina Choe), is one of the more dramatic episodes. It focuses on a couple (Christopher Meloni and Jenna Elfman) who are in the midst of moving, only to be visited by an alien creature that bears a striking resemblance to their deceased daughter (Tavi Gevinson). It’s a decent mix of sci-fi and character drama that is intriguing and fairly well acted, if a little uneven in its overall execution.

The eighth episode, A Small Town (dir. Alonso Alvarez-Barreda), follows a man named Jason (Damon Wayans Jr.) who discovers a scale model of his town in the church attic. The model allows him to make real life changes, putting him at odds with the town’s slick mayor (David Krumholtz), who takes credit for the work. Alvarez-Barreda does a good job of nailing the episode’s fantastical tone, and it has an Amazing Stories vibe to it that I really enjoyed.

The ninth episode, Try, Try (dir. Jennifer McGowan), follows Claudia (Kylie Bunbury), a graduate student who nearly steps in front of a truck but is saved by Marc (Topher Grace). The two of them spend the day together getting to know each other at the museum, but the fast-talking Marc holds secrets that lead to several dark turns. It’s a pretty good if slightly predictable two-hander that is well performed by Bunbury and Grace, who shows range as he goes from charming to creepy.

The tenth and final episode, You Might Also Like (dir. Osgood Perkins), focuses on Mrs. Warren (Gretchen Mol), a housewife whose day has come to pick up her “egg,” a secretive device that the ads promise will make everyone’s lives better. This is probably the most out there of the episodes, with a tone that varies wildly from suburban satire to science fiction. The makeup and special effects are cheesy, but this is clearly an aesthetic choice to pay homage to the original series. It’s ambitious and bites off more than it can chew, but the weirdness of it keeps us watching through all the odd twists.

The first season of this rebooted series was a pretty good if somewhat uneven affair, with the episodes ranging from very good to just okay. This is mostly true of the second season as well, but this one has less variance between the episodes. I don’t think this really makes it a better set of stories overall, but it does make it a slightly more consistent one. While the highs in season two aren’t quite as high as they were in season one, the lows aren’t quite as low, either.

The best episodes (Meet in the Middle, The Who of You, Among the Untrodden and A Small Town) are quite engaging, and the rest of the season is never less than watchable. All in all, this is a decent set of genre tales that I enjoyed watching, and it warrants a recommendation as a whole.

Bonus Features (DVD):

I do wish that The Twilight Zone: Season Two had gotten a Blu-ray release, to match the one that the first season received last year, but the DVD set comes recommended in absence of an HD version. There are a few short bonus features spread across the three discs, which are housed in a clear plastic case that is complimented by a sleek white slipcover.

Disc One:

Downtime – Deleted Scene (18 seconds)

Ovation – Deleted/Extended Scenes (2 minutes, 49 seconds)

Disc Two:

8 – Extended Scene (55 seconds)

A Small Town – Deleted Scenes (2 minutes, 13 seconds)

Disc Three:

Gag Reel (4 minutes, 12 seconds)

The Twilight Zone: Season Two is a Paramount Home Entertainment release. It’s 6 hours and 25 minutes, and rated PG.

Street Date: January 12th, 2020

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