The long anticipated wait to Jordan Peele’s Twilight Zone has finally ended. The newest iteration of the popular sci-fi franchise finally premiered with back to back episodes, and fans have been eating it up.
Theories, predictions, and everything in between have already populated forums and boards, and while Peele has stepped in to replace Rod Sterling’s iconic role as host and narrator, he’s still found a pay to pay homage to the sci-fi master’s original show. Beginning with the first episode The Comedian (which is free to stream, by the way) , Peele has pretty much defined the tone for the rest of the season to come.
Now yes, it is too early to judge an entire show on only two episodes, but between the two episodes it seems Peel will be drawing from the original material, and revamping it in a way that pulls in both new and classic Twilight Zone fans. To begin with, The Comedian is a a story about selfishness masquerading as selflessness, as Samir—a struggling comedian—realizes he must put himself out there in order to gain the audience he’s been hoping for. Peele is good for being on the nose, as he casts actual comedians—Kumail Nanjiani and Tracy Morgan—to lead our story.
Kumail’s character Samir is stuck between a rock and a hard place; for one thing, he always starts off his sets by speaking about touchy political subjects like the 2nd amendment by pointing out the contradictions in its wording. (It should be noted that contradictions are a prevalent theme for Peele both in this episode, and in his body of work as a whole).
Frustrated that not a peep of laughter comes from the crowd, Samir takes to the bar, ordering something brown and cheap, when he is met with the legendary J.C Wheeler (played by Tracy Morgan, who is indeed legendary). Wheeler gives him some advice, stating that talking about pieces of his life would resonate with the audience more than trying to make some political statement. Samir thinks he’s too good to resort to sacrificing his family for some cheap laughs, until he does it for the first time with his dog—named Cat (yet another contradiction— and catches onto something.
The rest of the episode deals essentially with Samir testing out this new power of his; being judge, jury and executioner as anybody he speaks about on stage from his life, manages to disappear. All the while, Samir continues to rack in the fame, the nortoriety, and seemingly has it all—at the expense of other people. It isn’t until he’s called to the carpet on it by his girlfriend and his nemesis comic—Dee— that Samir decides to make his final encore his ultimate sacrifice.
In the world of comedy, this is nothing new, as many comics have spoken to the “laugh to keep from crying” aspect of their life being taken extremely seriously. Comedians draw from their own lives and use it in their material all the time, for better or for worse. But in this instance, Peele is trying to draw out the idiosyncrasies of what one does when abusing the power they are unexpectedly given. A universal lesson that is extremely prevalent and relevant in both the media, and the world at large right now.
With that being said, while this episode was a step in the right direction, it may not be a shoe-in winner that everyone is hoping for.
The Twilight Zone has been a tricky franchise to reboot and recapture audience love and attention, and it seems that Peele’s newest iteration may not be the exception.
The full ethereal, suspiria, and subversive tone that surround Serling’s Twilight Zone was not exactly present in this modern version. Add that to the fact that Black Mirror is a show tackling similar themes that is a force to be reckoned with.
However, Peele certainly has proven he has something unique to offer in this newly released series, as it more than likely will be an anthology dealing with themes of fighting against self, and what that means against individuality.
Suffice to say, the 5th dimension is back, and with Peel at the helm, we’re all taking the trip, whether we like it or not.