Rod Serling’s iconic Twilight Zone has been remade on three previous occasions.
Twice for television (in 1985 and 2002) and once as a 4 storied film in 1983. There was even a radio series, theme park ride, pinball game and several songs. None of them have surpassed the 5 season original (ok I admit, I’ve never taken the the theme park ride).
The latest incarnation comes from Jordan Peele (Get Out, BlacKkKlansman, Us), screening in Australia through 10 All Access. With anthology dramas back in fashion -thanks Ryan Murphy- revisiting this series is no surprise. If only it can come close to the original.
Each episode is one hour long, decidedly longer than the blueprint original, which to be fair extended by its fourth season. The episode reviewed here, “Replay”, is coded as S101 but screening as the third in the series and from all accounts is the stronger of the early tales.
Written by Selwyn Seyfu Hinds, it centres around an African American mother Nina (Sanaa Lathan), driving her son Dorian (Damson Idris), so he can commence his Film major studies at college.
“I want to do something good in this world, like you’ve done for me,” he tells her.
But in smalltown Virginia, strange happenings and a wrinkle in time is inextricably linked to the “Rewind” button of her son’s camcorder.
Largely a three-hander episode, Glenn Fleshler portrays a racist lone cop, who bullies the pair for no apparent reason. It’s only by hitting the Rewind button that Nina can take control of a distressing situation, as she travels further and further down a rabbit-hole time dimension.
The three co-stars are tops, particularly Sanaa Lathan as the doting mother protective and reactive to situations that defy logic. The episode is strongest when there is tension between the three performers.
The direction from Gerard McMurray employs arty, filtered shots of the countryside that add to the isolation of the open road. Towards the end things get a bit too preachy for my liking, but then I’m not the target audience living in the midst of Trump and Black Lives Matter. The Twilight Zone has always raised social issues, and while there is clearly a need to do so again, sometimes less is more. In fairness shows like The Good Wife and Handmaid’s Tale are far less subtle than Peele.
The other question facing this reboot is the remarkable success of Charlie Brooker’s Black Mirror. While Peele reboots linear storytelling, Brooker reinvents it, giving us the interactive Bandersnatch where the user undertakes a choose-your-own-adventure.
Nevertheless, this Twilight Zone episode is satisfying and sometimes uncomfortable viewing and on that front is faithful to the Serling blueprint.
The Twilight Zone preview airs 10:30pm Thursday April 18 on 10.
All episodes available weekly through 10 All Access from April 18.