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The Twilight Zone Season 2 Learns from Season 1’s Flaws While Churning Out A Diverse Array of Sci-Fi Tales 

Twilight Zone Season 2
Photo Credit: Robert Falconer/CBS

Last year, with the help of Simon Kinberg, Marco Ramirez, and Jordan Peele, CBS All-Access brought viewers back into the strange depths of The Twilight Zone for mysteries, monsters, and mind-bending trips into the unknown – or at least that was the intention.

While the series has a couple of strong starting episodes, a mind-blowing final two episodes, and immense star power, it just couldn’t fully live up to the hype. Many stories relied too heavily on social themes that never could carry their own weight, characters that weren’t as interesting as the people playing them, and a fixation on final twists that generally tread into familiar territory. With a second season arriving featuring an all-new cast and set of stories, there’s hope that this time viewers could be taken through a Twilight Zone worth watching. 

The end of Season One gave original creator Rod Serling and the classic days a fitting goodbye and left hope that a new season could be a genuinely new era for the iconic franchise. Within the first few minutes of the premiere Twilight Zone Season 2 titled “Meet in the Middle,” you could almost instantly tell that things were better. There’s a noticeably stronger budget as the shadowy cinematography is more defined, the sets/environment are much more compelling, and there’s some pretty rad imagery that’s legitimately creepy. 

With things like giant spheres in the sky that put everyone into a coma-like trance, a scene of a man getting open heart surgery suddenly clapping while unconscious, and the return of a classic alien species, this season definitely defines coming back bigger and better – for the most part. Even some of the writing and directing talent they got for this season, including Sleight and Sweetheart director J.D. Dillard and Gretel and Hansel director Oz Perkins, really raised the bar for the kinds of stories we got to see. 

The story concepts are definitely more novel and are actually really good at hooking viewers early on with some great misdirection and sudden turns. The concept of “Meet in the Middle” is totally brilliant as it takes online dating to telepathic levels and is easily the best of the series with an award-worthy performance from Jimmi Simpson, palpable suspense, and an ingeniously horrifying ending. There are other perfectly creepy and captivating concepts as well – including a body swapping bank robbery gone wrong, a group of Antarctic scientists discovering a new species of octopus that’s more than they can handle, a lonely church handyman suddenly able to change the small town he lives in while dealing with the sleazy mayor, and plenty of others. Honestly, the entire concept of “A Small Town” is excellent and the creepy and humorous turns it takes make for a very balanced experience. There’re even fun connections that viewers can spot, like a commercial in “Meet in the Middle” teasing a special device shown in “Downtime,” throughout the season that tie episodes together. 

The writing is much stronger and more varied this season and they clearly learned their lesson from last season that there’s no need to overly rely on social issues for relevancy or sudden final twists with nothing building it to create fascinating stories with thought-provoking themes. Like I said before, “Meet in the Middle” offers an interesting and sort of demented take on online encounters. “The Who of You” takes body-swapping to dark places and offers a self-reflective view on life and “8” paints a terrifying picture of humanity’s time at the top food chain being cut down by an undervalued intelligent species. 

There’re still some familiar messages and storylines that aren’t as special. For instance, “Ovation” just gives the same old showing of the terrible price of fame and cost it has on your sanity that we got last season in “The Comedian.” Not to mention, some concepts end up not being as exciting as they initially seem because there’s no consistent runtime of these episodes. 

Binge-watching a series like this is actually kind of tough because of how some episodes are so much longer than others. Episodes that are about thirty to thirty-five minutes generally felt like the perfect length whereas episodes that are forty minutes or longer struggled to hold my attention. Generally, the longer episodes really feel like they are trying to squeeze as much out of its concept when it doesn’t need to. You eventually start to notice a considerable drag. Most of the time though, it was decently easy to get over some dragging humps in these episodes because the final moments tended to grab your attention. It was actually nice to see some really strong endings to episodes that not only shocks you with the revelations it presents, but also the life-altering decisions that characters make. The endings are well-built and make re-watching feel rewarding. 

Most impressive was actually how this season also didn’t lean too heavily on the names of its stars to create some intrigue in its characters. Don’t get me wrong, having great actors like Simpson, Jurnee Smollett, Damon Wayans Jr., Topher Grace, Morena Baccarin, and Joel McHale is definitely a star-studded cast, but they aren’t the drawing point. Last season, it constantly felt like the big pull of the series was who was on it, but this season it’s definitely a more story-driven pull that allows everyone to deliver great performances. Smollett is great and offers a more maddening depiction of the price of fame, we get to see a more serious side to Wayans Jr. that’s nice to see and is blended with great humorous charm, and everyone in “The Who of You” creates so much body-switching fun with the diverse performances they have to give. Also, just seeing Peele back as The Narrator is a total joy and seeing him do things other than monologues, like what he does at the end of “Ovation,” is awesome. 

The Twilight Zone Season 2 hits a few bumps with some deja-vu problems, but ultimately is much more inventive, thrilling, and intriguing to watch than its preceding season. Ultimately, The Twilight Zone is still missing some pieces to be the subscriber pulling show that CBS All-Access needs it to be, but this second season shows that things are heading in a much stronger direction. 

The Twilight Zone Season 2 is currently streaming on CBS All Access

Tom Moore
Tom Moorehttps://mooreviews.com/
Tom is always ready to see and review everything horrifying and hilarious that hits theaters, television, and video games...sometimes. You can check out his other reviews and articles on his blog, Mooreviews.

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