Billy Porter in "The Twilight Zone." What else could anyone possibly want?
Billy Porter in “The Twilight Zone.” What else could anyone possibly want?

Image: Dean Buscher/CBS

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Last year, The Twilight Zone pulled one of its famous twists on the viewing audience. The first three episodes were praiseworthy, with its premiere garnering an Emmy nomination for its lead actor Kumail Nanjiani, but the rest of the season failed to live up to the standard set by those episodes. Looking back, the eventual issues with Season 1 were present in those three episodes as well — the episodes were too long, its twists were delayed, and the reliance on mysterious technology was overdone — but the bait and switch still stung. 

CBS All AccessThe Twilight Zone again allowed reviewers a glance at three episodes for its second season. Thankfully, none of the Season 2 episodes had any of the Season 1 issues. In fact, they predict a much better season for The Twilight Zone, and exhibit the thoughtfulness, surprise, and quality that the oft-rebooted anthology show deserved all along.  

It’s refreshing that the three provided episodes of Season 2 are virtually technology-free. Far from the “what if phones, but too much” vibe of Black Mirror, the horrors of The Twilight Zone spring forth from the darker side of human nature. Narcissism, greed, grief, and hyperconsumerism are the boogeymen here, which allows each episode to follow a character’s downfall according to their all too familiar flaws. 

As with Season 1, The Twilight Zone starts strong with an episode dedicated to exploring a man’s obsession with something he does not have. In the first season’s premiere, Nanjiani longed for stand-up glory in “The Comedian” and saw his character smacked down by hubris; in the Season 2 premiere, Westworld‘s Jimmi Simpson plays an odious man searching for the perfect partner, only to find that dick-first entitlement might not lead him to the romance he thinks he deserves. Simpson’s episode “Meet in the Middle” is a harsh morality play that magnifies the worst of his character, but not all episodes of the new season follow the recipe for just desserts. 

“The Who of You” is also the episode guest starring Pose‘s Billy Porter, who proves he should appear on any television show he desires and be paid large amounts of money to do so, forever. 

The second review episode (listed as Episode 3 in the season’s online list) “The Who of You” is one of the best so far in the new series and carries that greatness on the backs of an ensemble cast of actors handed a truly bizarre premise. To state the premise would be to spoil the episode’s first (but not final) twist, but suffice it to say that trying to follow which character is talking, where they are, and what might happen next is mind-bending and thrilling spin on a heist movie. 

“The Who of You” is also the episode guest starring Pose‘s Billy Porter, who proves he should appear on any television show he desires and be paid large amounts of money to do so, forever. Porter’s moment in the episode is unfortunately brief, but he makes a meal out of a scathing monologue delivered to the protagonist of “The Who of You,” who deserves the tongue lashing ten times over. Porter may play a phony psychic in the episode, but he could easily make a side career out of being the world’s most glamorous and rude life coach.

Final of the three episodes provided for review is Episode 10, “You Might Also Like,” a story that draws on the history of the original Twilight Zone to update an old threat and present a new one of humanity’s own design. Its format is unique among the episodes, as it’s cut into several, sub-titled stories that build to a terrifying climax, but only becomes fully understandable on a second or third viewing. For those who want to get the full experience of “You Might Also Like,” perhaps watch Season 3, Episode 24 of the original show — the legendary “To Serve Man.”

The first season of Peele’s The Twilight Zone started strong and fell apart as later episodes suffered from too-long runtimes and trite twists. If the rest of Season 2 is as bold and original as its first three episodes, it’s well on its path to eclipsing that uneven first season and potentially becoming a must-watch series of television. 

Watch the full season of The Twilight Zone Season 2 on CBS All Access

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