In part 3 of 5 of my two episode at a time reviews (10 episodes this season), and unlike my glowing reviews of episodes 4 and 5, this time be going to opposite ends of the spectrum, with one episode being the worst one so far, and the new one one of its best, if not the best. Let’s get the bad news out of the way first:
Great premise, sloppy execution. Wasted potential. How on Earth did this one not work? How did the script even get green lit before going through several drafts and major re writes. The ending should’ve been a knockout punch to the head, not several slow and dull shots to the stomach. Seriously, how do you ruin the premise of: what if a 11-year-old became President? Well, this episode manages to do that. I was so frustrated and bored by the episode that I had to go look who wrote it. And then I was not surprised with what I found: Andrew Guest, who wrote for 30 Rock, for which I hated.
The episode stars John Cho as a once hugely successful campaign manager that tries to come back into the spotlight by trying to get an 11-year-old (the great Jacom Tremblay) elected President after a video he makes fake campaigning goes viral. It sounds good right? It’s not. First of all, it focuses too much on the campaigning and not enough on what happens once Tremblay (it’s really not a spoiler to say he actually becomes President) gets elected. The campaigning stuff is bland and boring and wastes the talents of John Cho, who of course is good here. In fact, none of the acting is a problem as everyone gives it a good go in that department. Also, the way the episode was shot and directed was great too. It lines up with the atmosphere of the previous episodes and is gorgeous to look at, even though the events taking place are hard to pay attention to.
The is completely the screenwriters fault (and maybe the producers for not pushing the screenplay back to Mr. Guest and asking him to give it a rewrite or two). With politics being a hot button topic nowadays, this episode should’ve had much more to say about our current climate. In fact, this episode really doesn’t have anything to say other than, “this kid’s presidency reflects Trump’s, do….do you get it?” No matter what side of the political fence you are on, the episode doesn’t take it to the level it needs to send any other kind of better, more subtle message. The ending is predictable and really corny, uninspired, and stupid. I can think of a dozen other ways this story could’ve branched out, all better IMO of the one that we got. It feels like this episode was trying to kind of pay homage to the classic episode, “It’s A Good Life,” but it really is in no way in the same ballpark of the genius of that premise. It is really disappointing that over all the Twilight Zone episodes I’ve seen, past and present, this is one of the worst.
Six Degrees of Freedom
Being able to watch more of the classic Twilight Zone episodes between these newer ones, I have finally discovered the trend: that each new episode is basically Force Awakening classic episodes. Meaning they are all soft reboots. Soft re-imaginings. Why I didn’t figure all this out by episode 2, I have no idea. The Comedian is a play on the episodes The Dummy and one from the 80s reboot Take My Life Please; Nightmare on 30,000 Feet is a play on Nightmare on 20,000 Feet; Replay is a play on Nick of Time; A Traveler is a play on the combination of the classics The Monster Are Due On Maple Street and Will The Real Martian Please Stand Up? So what episode does Six Degrees of Freedom try to re-imagine? Easy, that would be Five Characters in Search of An Exit. And a dash of the very first Twilight Zone episode, Where Is Everybody? The first episode I mention is about 5 random characters stuck in a metal cylinder, not knowing why they are there, trying to get out. They eventually have to work together to escape, only to come upon a very dark and depressing twist of fate. I will not reveal at all what Where Is Everybody? is about in lieu of spoilers.
This episode is quite a bit different but with the that moral compass of people helping each other out to reach a common goal. Five Astronauts are about to launch the first manned mission to Mars when they hear from their superiors over the radio that North Korea just launched nuclear missiles at the United States (the U.S. is retaliating of course) and that one of those nuclear missiles is set to get there in about 20 minutes. The captain (played by DeWanda Wise, who was one of the co-leads in the very underwhelming just released Netflix film Someone Great), makes the decision to override the control center and launch to Mars anyway, prolonging their deaths in a hope that their could be a solution when they get there. Tensions are weary and one of them starts asking questions. Whether they are right or wrong…can only be answered in….The Twilight Zone.
Sorry, wanted to do a dumb cheap narration of my own there. This is definitely one of the better episodes of the six aired so far, if not THE best, then right under Replay. I had a guess of where this whole thing was going to go, and my guess was addressed quite earlier than expected, which made me question it, and ultimately its twist ending. This episode also offers one of the few rays of hope than the other Twilight Zone episodes have. While I initially thought that Replay offered a few rays of hope the more I replay the very very end of that one in my mind, the more I realized that it might’ve supposed to been a downer as well. Anyhoo, this is definitely our most science-y science fiction tale of the bunch. The isolation of Alien mixed with the conspiratorial dread of The Thing and the short story it is based on, Who Goes There? The visuals are fantastic, the acting is fantastic, everything about it works. I’m not sure any of these episodes will be considered classic in the far far off future, but this and Replay have been the closest to tone of the original series thus far.
Ranking of New Episodes
- Six Degrees of Freedom
- A Visitor
- Nightmare at 30,000 Feet
- The Comedian
- The Wunderkind