This The Twilight Zone review contains spoilers.
The Twilight Zone Episode 8
Some scholars and fans of science fiction will tell you that the purpose of the genre isn’t to answer the fascinating question it poses, but instead, to simply ask those questions in ways that make you think.
In this sense, the latest episode of Jordan Peele’s Twilight Zone reboot — “Point of Origin” — is exactly like The Twilight Zone of old; it dips us into an interesting premise, but ends before we can figure out exactly how to feel about it. Most forward-thinking people probably have a sympathetic view of “illegal” immigration, but what this episode does is try to push the controversies around immigration into another dimension — literally.
In the episode, Ginnifer Goodwin plays Eve, an upper-class housewife who comes across as somewhere between a Stepford Wife and that Hogwarts Professor everyone hated; Dolores Umbridge. Everything about her life is perfectly disgusting, insofar as she seems like one of the people in Gattaca who screw over the other characters. When her house cleaner ask her for help getting her grandson into a good school, we see her congratulating herself as a privileged white savoir on steroids. The character, in short, is unlikeable as hell.
But then, there’s the wrinkle of the episode. Turns out, this housewife isn’t actually from this dimension, and was instead, ferried through some kind of interdimensional portal by her parents when she was a very young child. Rapidly, a Men-in-Black style agency, complete with fedoras borrowed from The Adjustment Bureau, arrests Eve and throws her into an internment facility. Even though her memories have been erased, an interrogator (played chillingly by James Frain) reveals that she is in fact, an illegal immigrant from an alternate dimension.
In essence, this concept is the entire episode. How would a super-privileged white lady respond to the idea that she is, in fact, an “illegal” immigrant from another dimension? What happens to Eve in the episode is intentionally supposed to mirror what happens to migrants in the real world. Frain’s interrogator even uses the word “caravan” to describe the groups of humans who crossed over from one dimension to the other. It’s never made clear why exactlythe interdimensional immigrants fled their Earth for the Earth of this episode, but environmental calamity is seemingly blamed, since the world they escaped to has a “blue sky,” whereas the dimension they left, did not.
All, in all, the allegory of the episode works, but it’s tough to make an argument for the length. Because the new episodes of The Twilight Zone are all close to an hour long, and the original series were usually 30-minute jaunts, “Point of Origin,” feels like it leaves its premise underexplored, but also overstays its welcome. This isn’t exactly sci-fi world-building, as it is sci-fi scaffolding. The stage is briefly set to make an allegorical point — in the style of Orwell or Huxley — and then, just as quickly, that world is seemingly folded up, forever. Like Eve, the viewers of The Twilight Zone are hopping between a variety of dimensions. Luckily, we’re not facing the same consequences she is. But then again, the point of this episode is to assert that maybe we already are.
The notion that the new Twilight Zone is already very close to real life creates an interesting paradoxical question about its very premise. Unlike Black Mirror, the hyperbole in an episode like this or “Not All Men,” isn’t thatfar off from real life. So, in a sense, the allegorical power of The Twilight Zone feels like it has less oomph if only because an episode like this is just a premise, and not really a plot.
It’s not exactly a problem, per se. Viewers generally don’t want to return to the briefly glimpsed worlds of The Twilight Zone. But, because the premise of “Point of Origin” is so good, one can’t help but wonder how it would have been handled by a different franchise. What would interdimensional immigrants look like on Doctor Who? What about Star Trek? In those franchises, the characters have to grapple with the consequences of the premises. But, in The Twilight Zone, the only people being held accountable are the viewers.