Signal Horizon

See Beyond

The Twilight Zone Season 2 is a Sharper More Relevant Journey

In a pop culture season that felt mostly empty Jordan Peele’s iteration of the socially conscious science fiction anthology show The Twilight Zone Season 2 seems to benefit from that emptiness. While I was not a huge fan of Season 1, Season 2 seems to have found it’s identity. Season two seems to have found its balance between Tales From the Crypt morality plays and the nostalgic campiness of Amazing Tales. Mostly though the second season of the Twilight Zone trusts its wide array of writers and directors to craft stories and messages that are meaningful to the artists who have been tasked to create the episodes. That meaning is what made each other version of The Twilight Zone so important. In that way Season 2 has showcased how Peele’s rendition has found its groove.

Perhaps top of the list of episodes that eschews the old rules to allow the artist to follow their own brand would be the episode titled “You Might Also Like” directed by Osgood Perkins. The entire episode feels big W weird. Perkins channels old school TZ by working in an alien chorus that provides moments of clarity only to return to bigger concepts of the nuclear family and consumerism. It is a wonderful companion piece to the bizarre and wonderful Vivarium. The episode itself its incredibly unsettling in only the way Twilight Zone episodes can be. If nothing else the aliens should look familiar to Twilight Zone fans.

“A Small Town” — Pictured: Damon Wayans, Jr. as Jason of the CBS All Access series THE TWILIGHT ZONE. Photo Cr: Dean Buscher/CBS 2020 CBS Interactive, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

“A Small Town” showcases the writing of married couple Tananarive Due and Steven Barnes. Due has made a name for herself as an academic specializing in Black horror and Barnes got his start writing for the 1980’s version of the Twilight Zone. The episode features some really spectacular effects while highlighting the power dynamics between kids and adults and those that have power and those that do not. A Small Town is about the titular small town but Damon Wayans Jr. as the lead protagonist makes all of the issues facing that town feel a bit bigger.

The first season seemed caught between sharp social criticism and appealing to the nostalgia that Twilight Zone evokes. Those forces are often in opposition and as a result Season 1 felt uneven. There are moments of that in season two particularly the bland episode “The Who of You” which tragically under utilizes Billy Porter and seems adrift. It could be a Creepshow episode but seems to lack confidence towards the end. It isn’t quite there but even in episodes that I felt like were misses you can see the general trajectory of where the show wants to end up.

The cast of season two continues to impress with Damon Wayans, Ethan Embry, and Grethen Mole to name a few. For me the far more exciting element of Season 2 can be found in who is writing and directing the episodes. Justin Benson, Aaron Moorehead, and Oz Perkins are budding genre superstars. The series gets them and as they showcase in their episodes they get the series. As Jordan Peele introduces each episode it also feels like he is introducing an audience to their individual aesthetics.

The largest issue for me continues to be how long the less successful episodes feel. Other anthology shows, Shudder’s Creepshow, and the original Twilight Zone, make their arguments in short thirty minute increments. It forces faster pacing. It also forces creativity in storytelling that can often be lost in the hour long run time of Season 2. If the episodes are enjoyable then each thirty minute episode could be an amuse-bouche. If they are not to our liking at least they are over quick so we can move on to the next course. An hour just feels a bit too long from time to time. Season 2 is a much better meal than Season 1 but might be better by making it’s service a bit quicker. Either way Jordan Peele is a master and is operating at his highest level as a producer when he brings us into his version of The Twilight Zone.