Twilight Zone Season 2: Episodes 8-10

08. A Small Town

  • The best way to describe this episode is flat. The premise, that a man finds a scale model of his town that when he changes it changes the town, isn’t inventive, but worse nobody in this episode changes, grows, or sacrifices anything. The main character starts a good person and ends a good one. He only ever tries to improve the town and is contrasted with the evil and smarmy current mayor who took over the office after his wife died.
  • A more interesting episode might have him purposely screwing up the town so that the new mayor looks worse in comparison to his wife in some attempt to preserve her memory in the town, and at the end of the episode letting go of his grief and helping the town despite the mayor getting credit for it.
  • Or another angle might be that at the end of the episode he realizes that by papering over and minimizing the effects of the mayor’s actions he’s let fundamental structural issues fester and only grow worse, and that despite it being painful he needs to let the mayor fail in the short term so that real change can be affected at an institutional level.
  • Either angle would require growth on the main character’s part, and say something substantive about the world. Instead we get neither, and the episode ends with a big yawn, not much actually having changed.

09. Try, Try

  • This episode is essentially just Groundhog Day, but what if evil. In it a man who repeats the same day endlessly has learned and made it his goal to charm the main character. But instead of it being romantic it’s evillll.
  • The whole thing is obviously a commentary on men and privilege and stalking. He is a god in this world where he knows every moment and facet of it, he’s essentially stalking her in that he’s getting to know her without her permission, feels entitled to her love and attention, and views her as an object just like he does everything in his day long loop.
  •  The man is essentially stalking the main character and sees her as an object. He gets frustrated and violent when she doesn’t return his affection or claim to her. But as with most of the new twilight zone, this theme feels preachy and mawkish and surface level. Stalking is bad, men shouldn’t feel ownership over women, blah blahhhh. As I said in my first video, it’s not that these messages are wrong or unimportant, but they’re presented in such a preachy way that it makes for bad storytelling and aren’t likely to change the mind of anyone who didn’t agree with them already.
  • Both main characters also fall into the uncomfortable limbo between cypher and fleshed out person that most Twilight Zone characters do. Notice how often the characters are just blunt and say things about themselves, and contrast it with how the layers of the couple in A Human Face were slowly peeled away to show real people.
  • There’s sort of an interesting concept in the episode about nihilism vs meaning, about what does the moment matter against the merciless grind of time, but it doesn’t go anywhere. Giving into despair and sliding into apathy is never a real temptation for the main character for example. And there’s no real catalyst for her to overcome it at the end, to fight despite knowing it won’t matter, that any defiance will be just lost to time and repetition. It’s an unexplored and underfed,

10. You Might Also Like

  • This episode is a subtle, but big departure from the rest of the season. Like A Human Face it’s about grief and has the main character choose at the end of the episode to come to grips with that grief and an alien representation of it, but is a far more surreal take on it.
  • Describing the premise itself is actually pretty difficult. Roughly speaking, it’s about a woman who has a recurring dream as she waits for a device that’s supposed to change her life and the world that every household is getting.
  • The surreal tone of the episode is ultimately what makes it work as an episode, I think. Unlike most of the characters of the new Twilight Zone character that exist in an uncomfortable limbo, she’s firmly on one side. Interestingly, and unlike the pair in A Human Face, she’s on the cypher side. We’re not really told that much about her, and it’s not like she’s terribly complex, but that actually suits the episode better than if she had been. It matches it’s surreal tone, and the woman is likeable and we identify with her simply because she reacts in a smart and relatable way to the surrealness of her world, essentially putting us and her on the same team.
  • She also has a core of grief in the second half of the episode that it gives her eventual decision to embrace the aliens a modicum of weight. The end of the episode doesn’t really real
  • The ending doesn’t quite land with the force the episode wants it to, but as a whole the episode kept my attention and was interesting, and that’s a promising end to this second season of the Twilight Zone.

Conclusion

In all, there are four episodes that signal a better direction for the new Twilight Zone: Downtime, 8, A Human Face, and You Might Also Like. Three of the four are shorter than the other episodes, break from the parable structure of a character having to learn an important lesson about some social ill, and manage to place their characters on one side or other of the limbo that the other episodes suffer from. They also tend to have concrete goals that keep the middle of the episode from lagging: survival in the case of Downtime and A Human Face, and unraveling a mystery in 8 and You Might Also Like.

Those four episodes represent an evolution for the series, a way of moving past the overly long parable nature of the first season and achieving both better television and more thought provoking stories. It remains to be seen though if season 3 will actually embrace this new direction, or regress back to it’s first season structure.

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