THE TWILIGHT ZONE
Season 1, Episode 10
Available on CBS All-Access (new episodes uploaded every Thursday)
So much has been said about this new “Twilight Zone” series. There’s a great love/hate for it. The people who love and defend it do so with the same fire and passion as those who absolutely hate it. I mean, check it out, as of 6:53 AM (PST), the IMDB trolls have already voted “1 out of 10” enough times to set the overall average score at a “5.7”, which is fairly ridiculous. The episode isn’t even close to a score like that. In fact, none of the episodes are rated accurately on IMDB. I’ve said this much already. I don’t usually talk about this in my reviews. You’re really not supposed to. But I’ve found that, with this week’s episode (and season finale), entitled “Blurryman”, there’s really no way I can avoid mentioning what other people think of this show…mainly because the finale is self-aware, paying homage, not only to itself, but to its long, storied history.
Last week’s trailer for the show seemed to tease the story of two characters being haunted by a mysterious figure the show was calling “Blurryman”. Except the show opens a bit differently: a writer by the name of “Adam Wegmen” (Seth Rogen) is struggling to fix a script that’s been sent his way. He’s berating himself for being unable to think straight. He calls himself a terrible writer — until, BAM! He hits it. He starts the story just after the world has ended. It’s fixed! And he’s ready to go out with his significant other (Betty Gabriel of Jordan Peele’s “Get Out”) to celebrate in the city…which he discovers has been completely destroyed, much like the world in his story. “It was only a story,” he says, almost inaudibly. His girlfriend tells him that they need to get to a shelter because “The Reapers will be coming soon.” Cue Jordan Peele who gives our requisite Twilight Zone opening monologue — except, he cuts it short because the monologue just isn’t working. So, the director yells “CUT”, bells ring, Peele calls for his writer, Sophie (Zazie Beetz) and the two have a discussion about simplicity, genre writing and how it all applies to what Rod Serling originally envisioned when he created “The Twilight Zone”.
It isn’t long before the opening monologue has changed to something more to Peele’s liking and we try again…only to discover that, unbeknownst to everyone on set (including Sophie), the new monologue, in a veiled manner, describes a future ordeal that Sophie is about to experience, something having to do with the inability to run from something which “lurks, blurry, in the background of her show”. Everyone the set thinks Sophie’s being a smartass while Peele and Rogen absolutely love that Sophie’s frustrations are turning to fun on the set. Everyone’s in the moment — except for Sophie who has no earthly idea how she became the center of her own episode. Peele tries to assure her that it’s “probably a prank for a blooper reel” but that it’s pretty cool that “she’s in her very own episode of The Twilight Zone right now: a writer who can’t face her fears”. But what does Sophie fear? She’s jaded, having watched this show as a child and as she grew up.
As Sophie attempts to do damage control around the set, she’s told that the director is furious because she was obviously referencing “the blurred figure in the background of every shot of the episode” which Sophie’s just got to be behind since she was successful at pranking the crew with the new monologue. Except that Sophie’s even more clueless about the entity than she is about the cue cards being changed and, pretty soon, Sophie is stalked by the figure she sees on the editor’s monitor. I don’t think I can say much more about the episode because that would be absolutely criminal. If you want to know how it ends, I’ll post the spoiler in “LOST IN THE ZONE” and you’re free to discuss it.
One of the great things about this episode is that it’s a return to form, of sorts. The premise and the antagonist are goosebump-inducing. The name of the entity/episode, alone, is enough to make you turn your lights out and settle in on the couch with a blanket you can use to cover your eyes when things get too intense for you to watch. This is something that has been effectively missing in a series that was astute at balancing the supernatural “campfire tales” and science fiction argle bargle with moralistic storytelling, something Sophie points out to this “version” of Jordan Peele, who seems intent on telling a story in a way that’s far too simplistic than what “The Twilight Zone” actually deserves, in Sophie’s opinion.
But the best thing about “Blurryman” is that it’s all Meta from top to bottom. Meta, as we know, can be to one’s advantage or detriment depending on the execution. The writers and producers who dabble in it live and die by the sword. When it’s done lazy, you’ll end up with something like that episode of MTV’s “The Osbornes” where Ozzy’s son murders his dog in his sleep (sorry to remind you of that bullshit). When it’s done right, you end up with a flawless diamond like The X-Files’ “Jose Chung’s From Outer Space”. Sure, you might wonder why the Blurryman is so violent and hostile, given the big reveal at the end, and the climax and resolution might be seen, by some, as too silly and self-serving but it’s one of the only twists in the new series that you cannot possibly see coming and it also works as a near psychological self-examination, a beautifully meditative analysis of itself and what the “The Twilight Zone” is or can be.
I dare say that it’s easily one of the Top 3 episodes of the new series and one of the greatest episodes ever produced over all four incarnations of the show’s history.
LOST IN THE ZONE
- Obviously, there’s a lot to unpack here. Bear with me.
- First, let’s talk about the ending. Of course, here there be spoilers…click and swipe to read it all: Sophie is literally lost in “The Twilight Zone”. As a little girl, she used to watch the show and she was obsessed with it to the point where her parents worried about her. As she grew to be an adult, she lost that childhood wonder and became jaded, a cog in a pop culture machine who wrote for profit and not to satisfy her inner fangirl. The 5th Dimension calls her back to her childhood, using “The Blurryman” as a messenger. When she’s finally forced to face her fears, it turns out that the figure is none other than the late Rod Serling (brought back via CGI and voiced by Mark Silverman — more on him in a moment), the creator of the original show. Serling takes her back to The 5th Dimension through a series of doors as Serling opines that “throwing away childish things may mean you’re closing your mind, not opening it.” Beautiful moment.
- More on Mark Silverman (SPOILERS – CLICK AND SWIPE): Silverman has played the voice of Rod Serling in both the Florida and Disney’s California Adventure versions of “The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror” as well as on NBC’s “Medium”. Silverman is a great voice actor who is as talented as he is kind, as he takes the time to frequently interact with his fans. I was overjoyed to hear him reprising Serling’s voice here and finally got the opportunity to speak with him about it following the episode. There’s nobody else I can imagine who is able to both imitate Serling’s trademark voice AND do it justice.
- It was nice to see Jordan Peele do more than just his “narrator” role. His interaction with the various actors and crew was fun to watch. I’ve seen him on Key & Peele and, here, he’s very playful and seems to be having some fun playing himself.
- The show’s climax is done in black-and-white which dovetails perfectly into CBS’s new option which allows viewers to watch the show in black-and-white via their streaming service, CBS All-Access.
- There are far too many Easter Eggs to count here but here are some:
- A young Sophie watches “Time Enough At Last”, an episode which finds Burgess Meredith all alone in the middle of a nuclear holocaust with all the time in the world to finally read every book he’s ever wanted to…until his glasses break and he can no longer see.
- The concept for “Blurryman” is not unlike the first season finale of the classic Twilight Zone called “A World of His Own”, another meta-tale of a writer whose characters come to life. In that episode, Rod Serling breaks from his normal role as “The Narrator” and also interacts with the characters in that episode.
- Whipple is seen all over the televisions in this episode.
- “The Blurryman” has been seen in each and every past episode of the new “Twilight Zone” — so says the editor speaking to Sophie. And she isn’t wrong. The only thing was that the figure wasn’t exactly “blurred” in those episodes…but they were dressed the same…that’s all I can say. Anything else would have me turning the text white. But it’s nice to see that the episode pays homage to all the other eps we’ve seen so far.
- So, these might be my final adjusted rankings for the ten episodes presented this season:
- 1) Replay
3) The Blue Scorpion
4) Point of Origin
5) The Wunderkind
6) The Comedian
7) A Traveler
8) Not All Men
9) Six Degrees of Freedom
10) Nightmare at 30,000 Feet
- 1) Replay
- Thank you so much for sticking around to read my reviews for “The Twilight Zone” each week. I also cover “Cobra Kai” and, hopefully, we’ll get more content to keep you entertained very soon. See you next season!