So now even podcasts are dangerous? Shit, doing the dishes just got a lot more harrowing.
So we’re two episodes into this new rendition of The Twilight Zone and after the first one I was delighted but worried. It was lengthy and drug in places despite being charming, and I went into the second one with trepidations. My fears were foundless, however, as “Nightmare at 30,000 Ft.” has proved to be a much stronger entry that feels way more like an episode of the classic series than I could have hoped for.
Adam Scott, notorious funny man, is playing damaged and serious journalist Justin Sanderson. After working a story in the Middle East that resulted in a mental breakdown, he’s back in the game and headed overseas to work again. His wife is worried, he’s on edge, and all he wants to do is kick back and listen to a podcast on a player he found in the seatback. Perfect recipe for a trip to hell, right? The podcast itself is talking about the flight he’s on, the 1015 that left at 10:15pm on 10/15, and it discusses the disappearance of the flight.
The remaining half hour from the setup is stressful and twitchy, taking cues from the story it takes its name from while at the same time headed in a new direction to focus on the idea of predestination and the effects of mental damage. Scott plays to the back of the house, over-the-top and real with his anxiety, and he parallels the feeling that runs underneath the skin of the film. He’s very human, making massive but understandable mistakes as he tries to combat fate. Performances like this embody what The Twilight Zone is supposed to be about, giving us someone to connect with – an everyman that gives the audience someone so relatable that it hurts to watch. Given the quiet information that Justin has, would any of us make different decisions? It’s a hard question that has no true answer.
There’s comfort in familiarity, an idea that we can recapture something from our youth. There’s been a lot of play in that department lately, particularly with our media consumption. Jordan Peele, wondrous host of the show and director of the films Get Out and Us, is playing to that crowd with his title and setting. When Shatner saw a gremlin on the wing of his flight in 1963 audiences went wild, cementing it as one of the legendary episodes of the show. By co-opting the name we’re already sold on this episode, comfortable with everything about it because of our ties to something we know by heart. The contents, however, are wholly their own and cements this as a solid part of the new incarnation of this show.
Whole those contents are fantastic, I have to touch on the ending. I was less than thrilled with the epilogue of the story, left feeling a bit hollow. The finale of the main plot was perfect and gave me that sense of ominous dread that I had been longing for. The tag, though, felt almost cruel and vicious. It went from feeling like a human story to something out of a zombie flick (and not one of the great ones), crude and clumsy. It wasn’t horrible, by no means did it derail the episode, but the harshness it showed toward Adam Scott’s character was a bit too much for my personal tastes. I don’t mind my protagonists suffering, but when they’re this relateable giving them this ending feels plain mean.
In spite of this I have to say that I loved this episode. It was a blast, darkly comic and contemplative. It’s exactly what I needed from the series and this is the one that will hook people onto the new show. The first episode was worth your time, this one is a near-perfect joy.