The Twilight Zone Season 2 Skewers Some Of The Internet's Favorite Targets
Jordan Peele's Twilight Zone revival returns with new episodes that take down "Karens" and incels alike.
The Twilight Zone has always been political. Countless episodes of the original series tackled politics, directly as well as indirectly--from The Mirror, which parodied Fidel Castro, to The Shelter, which concerned the mutually assured destruction policies of the Cold War. Last year's Twilight Zone revival, publicly helmed by comedy and horror auteur Jordan Peele, trod a similar path, with mixed results (which is fine--there were episodes of the 1960s series that missed the mark as well). The reboot's second season, available now on CBS All Access, continues the tradition, and the three episodes sent to press ahead of Season 2's release skewer some of the internet's favorite bogeymen: "Karens," incels, and whiny, entitled, self-centered men.
Each of these three episodes features a signature Twilight Zone conceit. In "Meet in the Middle," for example, a man named Phil (Westworld's Jimmi Simpson) begins hearing a voice in his head (Community's Gillian Jacobs) and wonders whether she's a real person or a figment of his imagination. There's commentary burbling beneath that mystery; the character could be generously described as "picky" when it comes to women. Anyone online in 2020 will recognize in Phil the traits of your average garbage incel dude--the kind of guy who comments on Pornhub videos and feels the need to criticize women's appearances while wondering without a shred of self-awareness why so many people have him blocked on Twitter. Any woman who falls short of his long list of imagined, hypothetical ideals gets judged as shallow and boring, and it's their fault he's #foreveralone. There's a reason he falls so hard for the female voice in his head as it becomes clear that she checks his every box--she's the ideal woman he always imagined was out there, as he dismissed and belittled every actual woman he encountered in real life, from Tinder dates to his therapist.
In "The Who of You," a struggling actor named Harry (Ethan Embry) discovers on his most desperate day that he has the ability to jump into other people's bodies by simply looking them in the eye. A succession of new victims get transferred into Harry's sleeve (sorry), while he jumps from host to host and attempts to abscond with a big bag of money. As Peele's narrator points out, Harry is the type of person who thinks he's the center of the universe--a clear-cut sociopath. He's ineffective when trying to communicate with others, blames everyone around him for his own failings, and believes life's deck is unfairly stacked against him, when in reality, he's just a whiny, selfish a-hole. You have encountered this "reply guy" countless times on Twitter and in comments sections--I guarantee it. And the last thing you'd want is for him to spontaneously develop a superpower that puts his extreme lack of empathy to the test.
In the last of the three episodes sent to press, "You Might Also Like" takes aim partially at the vapid, worshipful capitalism that sees consumers lining up every 12 months to get another brand new iPhone that's once again incrementally better (or sometimes actively worse--still missing you, headphone jack) than their current one. The episode stars Gretchen Mol as Janet Warren, a bonafide "Karen." She's a prim, activewear-equipped housewife who's never satisfied despite having everything she ever wanted. She exists in a pristine world in which everyone around her is obsessed with The Egg, a new product that an unidentified company has promised "will make everything OK forever." Nobody knows what it does, but everybody wants one. The episode is interspersed with vaguely unsettling commercials for The Egg and other dystopian products.
"You Might Also Like" also features the return of the Kanamits, an alien species that originally appeared in the iconic 1962 episode "To Serve Man" (you know, the one with the human cookbook reveal). Naturally, when Mrs. Warren encounters these blue-hued, big-noggined beings, she demands to speak to their supervisor--yes, really. Subtle, this one is not.
Like so many chapters of The Twilight Zone that have come before, these episodes span the gamut from silly to disturbing. Their attempts at social commentary aren't hard to decipher, but that doesn't make them less incisive. If nothing else, their portrayals of modern, internet-driven stereotypes are more or less accurate, and many viewers will recognize them immediately. With all of The Twilight Zone's 2020 episodes dropping at once (rather than week-to-week like the first season), the three we're able to discuss currently present just a small slice of what the show's second season has to offer. But if you live your life online (and these days, who doesn't?) they're worth tuning in for.