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Twilight Zone - Season One


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#1 RJDiogenes

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Posted 02 April 2019 - 06:33 PM

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"You're traveling through another dimension.  A dimension not only of sight and sound, but of mind.  It is the middle ground between light and shadow, between science and superstition, and it lies between the pit of one's fears and the summit of one's knowledge.  You are now traveling through a dimension of imagination. You've just crossed over into the Twilight Zone."

Yes, they're using one of the original opening narrations.  Another good sign that these guys have respect for their source material.

The first two episodes of Twilight Zone are now available.  The first was also released on several free platforms, including YouTube and Amazon Prime.
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#2 RJDiogenes

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Posted 02 April 2019 - 06:36 PM

I think that the first episode, "The Comedian," was a bit long for Twilight Zone, but that didn't make it bad-- just different from (most) Zones.  TZ should have punch, and this was a slow-burning nightmare. Which was fine.

The cast was good (Samir's frenemy was a knockout) and the guy who played Samir was great with his face language at communicating the realization, horror, indulgence, and repentance that were swirling around in his head.  After the dog and the nephew vanished, it didn't take him long to figure out what was happening-- he probably watched Twilight Zone as a kid-- and his first impulse was to use his newfound power to make the world a better place, which was the whole purpose behind his strident, humorless routine from the start. But then the negative consequences kicked in and when he lost his girlfriend he went completely off the rails. The montage of him shrieking his hatred of his former tormenters while the audience inexplicably laughed was both chilling and painful.

In true TZ fashion, the universe just decided to screw with Samir for no apparent reason, maybe just to see what would happen.  We'll probably never know who TC Wheeler really was.  He was introduced as a famous former comedian, but why did he show up now to mess with Samir?  Did he sell his own soul once, and this is now his Hell?  Was it a  test?  Did he succeed with Samir or fail?

The ending I expected-- or at least what I would have done-- is go out and do a routine about TC Wheeler. That would have undone all the events of the story, and perhaps a lot more.  But Samir's redemption by self destruction, followed by the final twist of Wheeler moving on to his next victim, was classic TZ.

All in all, it was pretty good.  Better than the last revival, perhaps as good as the 80s version.  We'll see what they have in store for us.
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#3 Christopher

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Posted 02 April 2019 - 07:06 PM

View PostRJDiogenes, on 02 April 2019 - 06:33 PM, said:

Quote

"You're traveling through another dimension.  A dimension not only of sight and sound, but of mind.  It is the middle ground between light and shadow, between science and superstition, and it lies between the pit of one's fears and the summit of one's knowledge.  You are now traveling through a dimension of imagination. You've just crossed over into the Twilight Zone."

Yes, they're using one of the original opening narrations.

In fact, it's an amalgam of all the original narrations. The first two sentences are the opening sentences of the season 2-3 narrations, while the third sentence is from the season 1 narration (with "one's" substituted for "man's" and "his"). The fourth sentence is a mix of various things (the aforementioned first sentence, the various versions of "a dimension... of..." from seasons 2-5, and "dimension of imagination" from season 1, with "now" being an original addition), while the last sentence is the closing of the season 4-5 narration.


Most of the reviews I've seen of "The Comedian" have been negative, complaining about its excessive length among other things. But I read an interesting comment from a stand-up comic saying that it works as an allegory of a comic's experience, how the profession can destroy your personal life because you see everything as material to exploit and thus drive loved ones away, that sort of thing. So maybe it's too inside for non-comics to really get it. Anyway, I'm hesitant to watch it, given the reviews.
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#4 Cardie

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Posted 05 April 2019 - 02:38 PM

It's the classic Faust story done at excessive length. tailored to stand-up comics who want big laughs rather than scholars who want to learn the secrets of the universe. I found it and the second installment, a riff on Nightmare at 20,000 Feet, to be disappointing. At least the twist on the second was a bit more surprising than the one telegraphed in The Comedian. The one that dropped last night is supposed to be better. I will check it out this evening.
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#5 RJDiogenes

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Posted 06 April 2019 - 02:01 PM

Okay, I finally got to watch episode two. I enjoyed it, and it mostly succeeded in achieving that fabled TZ vibe, but I'm not sure quite what to make of it overall.   I loved seeing the creeping shadow of The Twilight Zone invade the modern world of podcasts and mobile devices and cockpit cameras (and possibly flights to Mars-- I didn't quite catch what that billboard was about).  The sets and effects were unfortunately photorealistic, but the disorienting and claustrophobic camerawork more or less compensated for that.  The casting was classic TZ, with the protagonist, the hijacker, the captain, and the air marshal all distinctive character actor types. Where did the spooky MP3 player come from?  Who cares?  This is the Twilight Zone, where the universe f*cks with you for no apparent reason.  (And also, why an MP3 player, which would be a retro touch right now, let alone in the day-after-tomorrow future of this episode?).

One thing that really made me happy was that this was not a remake of "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet"--  the title was just an homage.  They didn't even recycle the character names.  Thank you, Jordan Peele.  And the main character's performance was certainly an homage to William Shatner, as he not only made an increasing nuisance of himself to the flight crew, but also managed to sneak around the narrow confines of the aircraft and poke into people's belongings without being noticed. He even went a step further than Shatner-- instead of just shooting out a window, he managed to crash the plane.

But it was the ending that really kind of messed with the narrative.  Throughout the episode, the podcast was pretty explicit about the aircraft being lost with all passengers and crew-- and yet when the journalist finds the MP3 on the beach (both conveniently located and still working), the narration reveals that everyone but him survived. This implies a change in the timeline, and that his actions saved everyone's lives.  Yet all the passengers gang up on him (and apparently dispose of his body without a trace).  The podcast doesn't mention the hijacker at all.  Did he survive?  Was he a stowaway?  A ghost?  The passengers and crew that attacked the journalist were actually behaving like vengeful EC Zombies, which would have made sense aside from that being at odds with the podcast.  I think a better ending, more fitting to the mental and temporal disorientation of the episode, would have been just leaving him alone on the beach with the podcast telling him that everyone had been saved months later-- leaving him not only abandoned, but time displaced.  As it was, it kind of felt like the first episode of a Lost reboot-- or parody.

Overall, though, it was an entertaining episode, successfully accomplishing the old TZ vibe, ending aside.  Not quite as successful as the first episode, but punchier and still well done.
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#6 Cardie

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Posted 06 April 2019 - 11:07 PM


Quote

Throughout the episode, the podcast was pretty explicit about the aircraft being lost with all passengers and crew-- and yet when the journalist finds the MP3 on the beach (both conveniently located and still working), the narration reveals that everyone but him survived. This implies a change in the timeline, and that his actions saved everyone's lives.

The podcast he listens to on the beach was made after the first. I took it that the plane was still missing at the time of the first podcast and the second recorded some months (years?) later when a passing ship located the survivors on that atoll a la Lost. It did say that the journalist was not among the survivors.
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#7 RJDiogenes

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Posted 07 April 2019 - 03:55 PM

View PostCardie, on 06 April 2019 - 11:07 PM, said:

The podcast he listens to on the beach was made after the first. I took it that the plane was still missing at the time of the first podcast and the second recorded some months (years?) later when a passing ship located the survivors on that atoll a la Lost.  
That's possible. My impression was that it was a series he heard the next episode on the beach.  It did say that it was months before they were rescued.
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#8 RJDiogenes

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Posted 15 April 2019 - 05:49 PM

Episode 3, "Replay."

Well, that was kind of like the pieces of a Twilight Zone episode that fell on the floor and didn't get put back together just right. Or maybe several episodes, because it was kind of reminiscent of "The Hitchhiker" and "A Most Unusual Camera," and maybe a couple of others.  It started out great, with a lonely diner in middle America, complete with a jukebox.  And then we've got an old-fashioned camera (that would have been futuristic on the original Twilight Zone) that can rewind time-- possibly stop it and speed it up, too, but nobody ever tried that.  Nor do we know if it will work for anyone else but the mom.

But then we set up a premise where the state trooper, who seems to represent an inhuman force, will always get them as long as they bypass the uncle's house, because the story seems to be about the mom's disconnection from her family.  Along the way, we get some talk about alternate dimensions and cosmic strings, just to have the words out there, apparently, and some self-contradictory comments from the son about the Big Bang giving rise to a deterministic universe, implying that the camera is trying to get around that and the universe is fighting back. And then we learn that the camera once belonged to the mom's dad, strengthening the idea that the camera is haunted and trying to protect them, while maybe using the state trooper to force them into a family reunion.  But then when the family reunion leads to a safe path to the school using memories from childhood, the state trooper shows up anyway, this time with reinforcements, strengthening the idea that the universe didn't want the kid to make it to the school and is trying to right itself.  Then the antique camera that has been the central prop of the story so far is not used to protect the kid and his family from the forces of evil-- a barricade of modern cameras connected to the cloud are instead, totally undoing both the premise of the mom's father's ghost protecting them or the universe trying to keep its timeline intact.  Then we flash forward ten years in the future, where everything is okay, but the camera gets broken and we get a hint that the evil state trooper or his equivalent is immediately on the scene to get the kid now that he is no longer under the protection of the haunted or universe-bending antique camera-- except that he never was, because the previous time reversals were only there to show us that the camera could not protect him and that his fate was inevitable.

I think it would have all come together better if the mom's idea of talking to the state trooper had been the climax, and that it had worked.  That would have made the story elements come together more seamlessly and have provided a more positive them to the events.
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#9 Christopher

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Posted 15 April 2019 - 08:24 PM

View PostRJDiogenes, on 15 April 2019 - 05:49 PM, said:

But then we set up a premise where the state trooper, who seems to represent an inhuman force

He represents systemic racism and the way cops keep killing unarmed black people for no goddamned reason, which is literally almost an everyday occurrence in this country. I haven't seen the episode yet (though I just reupped by CBSAA subscription, so I may see it soon), but the description of the story, where nothing the characters do can protect them from unjustified police violence, is clearly an allegory for how things feel to many black Americans. I read a story along similar lines recently in this free e-book collection of stories from Lightspeed Magazine. It's the last one in the collection, "The Venus Effect" by Violet Allen, and it's a metafictional tale where the writer keeps trying to tell stories about a black hero in various different genres but the hero keeps getting randomly killed by the police before any of his stories can even get started. It's weird, but pretty potent.



Quote

I think it would have all come together better if the mom's idea of talking to the state trooper had been the climax, and that it had worked.  That would have made the story elements come together more seamlessly and have provided a more positive them to the events.

I think it would be dishonest and would trivialize the problem if a story claimed that one speech could cure institutional racism.
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#10 RJDiogenes

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Posted 21 April 2019 - 04:36 PM

Episode 4, "A Traveler."

Starring Glenn from Walking Dead.  Again, it superficially captured the feel of The Twilight Zone , but the fragments never quite came together.  And for a small police station in an out-of-the-way town, that place sure had long corridors and a big dungeon.   Also, it was a Christmas episode-- did they not get the memo on when the series would air?

So, in classic TZ fashion, we've got an isolated spot with spooky and inexplicable goings-on going on.  In essence, it seems, an alien has disguised himself as a human in order to get the secret location of a shed that controls the power supply to a nearby Air Force monitoring station, so that it can be shut down and open a window for the invading saucers to come. Okay then. Why did the alien choose to appear mysteriously inside a locked cell underneath the police station, raising all kinds of suspicions?  Why was the sergeant the only one who was actually suspicious and the captain not even interested in how the guy got into the underground holding area?  If the aliens have the power to appear in human form, why did the traveler use this power in such a lame-ass fashion?  If the traveler has access to the inner secrets of the townspeople, why would he need to trick the captain into revealing the location of the shed?  And if he is such a know-it-all, why does he lie sometimes and sometimes tell the truth?  Why does he come at the time of the Christmas party and feign interest in the festivities, only to use his secrets to incite interpersonal conflicts that never go  anywhere?  Why does the sergeant try to arrest the captain even though no Russians show up and there's no evidence that the traveler was telling the truth?  If the shed is so important, why do neither Russians nor space aliens show up to tamper with it, yet the saucers come down anyway?  And why is that particular area so important to the aliens' invasion plans?  

Why do the aliens even want to invade?  And, from a storytelling perspective, what was the point of all this?

The Narrator's narration talks about a "night of the most powerful myth," presumably Christmas, and that "there is no difference between myth and mistruth."  How does an alien invasion connect with Christmas being based on myth?  Because the alien is a pathological liar?   The town drunk says to the alien that "we might be better off with you in charge," even though nobody seems especially bad off, and the sergeant kind of hates the captain, because he has a somewhat overbearing personality even though he seems like a decent enough guy, so is the theme that banal aliens are no different than banal humans?   Happy Holidays or Take Us To Your Leader-- six of one, half a dozen of the other. And how does that tie into the sergeant's alleged gift for sniffing out lies, which she didn't really demonstrate in any convincing fashion?  Everything about this story was just half hearted and didn't link up in any kind of cohesive narrative.

We're almost halfway through the first season of this revival, and so far the style is really nice-- but the substance has been lacking at best.

Edited by RJDiogenes, 22 April 2019 - 06:18 PM.

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#11 G-man

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Posted 22 April 2019 - 05:16 AM

I dunno, there's a powerful myth behind Easter (i.e. the resurrection) ... but if Christmas was explicitly referenced ... I'm not seeing a connection.

/s/

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#12 RJDiogenes

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Posted 22 April 2019 - 06:20 PM

It reminds me of the Darker & Grittier fad that began in the 80s. Watchmen and Dark Knight Returns came out and were amazing, and then a bunch of inferior talents began to copy the superficial elements of those books without understanding what really made them great.  And that's what's happening here. These people are mimicking the superficial elements of Twilight Zone without understanding what really made it a classic-- it's a land of just shadow and no substance.
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#13 Cardie

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Posted 24 April 2019 - 06:59 PM

This was the most pointless and illogical episode to date. To make any thematic sense, the stranger had to be a demon or an  angel or some being out of Inuit folklore. As just a garden variety alien, he was going to a lot of trouble for nothing. And, like most of the episodes in this new version, at least 15 minutes too long.
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#14 RJDiogenes

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Posted 29 April 2019 - 07:56 PM

This week we have episode five, "The Wunderkind" (starring that guy who was on the first season of Sleepy Hollow).  This one was the most baffling yet.  I think at this point we can safely say that this revival is aimed squarely at the Millennial Generation, because the levels of political naivete and thematic misfires are astonishing.

There really wasn't what you would call a story here. There was a sequence of events that involved a child being elected president, followed by his campaign manager apparently being killed because of a random statement the kid had made outlawing adult doctors. There was no thematic connection to any element of the story and no relevance to the assumed target of the satire. He might as well have been set upon by that pack of dogs.  Furthermore, this pseudo-twist was telegraphed from the opening scene, so it wasn't even a surprise.

The most glaring deficit, aside from a plot, was the lack of a catalyst propelling us into the Twilight Zone. The original show would set the stage for a social satire of this magnitude by placing us unambiguously in an alternate reality or a vaguely futuristic time. But here there was no such surreal setting, nor was there even a mysterious bar patron or traveler, haunted video camera or MP3 player, or even a JFK silver dollar sitting inexplicably on edge.  There wasn't even a prologue in the opening narration noting how all qualifications for the presidency had been impulsively repealed without thought to the consequences.  Nothing. The venue was essentially the equivalent of our world in which more  impossible things happened than even Mary Poppins could handle.

Clearly, this was supposed to be a satire of President The Donald-- but at this it failed badly.  While the genuine article gained traction by exploiting the base vulgarity of one ideology and the moral abdication of the other, this kid won over the country across the board with love and puppies. What the hell kind of satire is that?  The Donald is only childish in the sense that he's mentally retarded-- wouldn't an escapee from an asylum or a psychotic sniper be a better surrogate?  Why make the theme that power corrupts when your source material is about how corruption is power? And how are we to parse the campaign manager, who had regrets and died for them?  What is the message here, folks?

Next week:  An outer-space adventure. Perhaps it will be a stinging indictment of mesothelioma.
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#15 Christopher

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Posted 29 April 2019 - 08:40 PM

View PostRJDiogenes, on 29 April 2019 - 07:56 PM, said:

This week we have episode five, "The Wunderkind" (starring that guy who was on the first season of Sleepy Hollow).

Hunh. Not the John Cho credit I would've expected someone to pick first.


Quote

The most glaring deficit, aside from a plot, was the lack of a catalyst propelling us into the Twilight Zone. The original show would set the stage for a social satire of this magnitude by placing us unambiguously in an alternate reality or a vaguely futuristic time. But here there was no such surreal setting, nor was there even a mysterious bar patron or traveler, haunted video camera or MP3 player, or even a JFK silver dollar sitting inexplicably on edge.

There were a few episodes of the original TZ that had no fantasy or SF elements -- "The Silence" (with a macabre twist ending but nothing paranormal), "The Shelter" (with the barely speculative element of a false alarm creating fear of a nuclear attack), and "The Jeopardy Room" (basically a suspense thriller). And the pilot episode, "Where Is Everybody?", turned out to have a perfectly logical, basically real-world explanation that was only borderline science fiction at best.
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#16 RJDiogenes

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Posted 03 May 2019 - 05:44 PM

This week they released Episode 6, "Six Degrees of Freedom."

And that was actually a big improvement. The episode was mostly very well done and pretty much resembled a Twilight Zone story.  It certainly helped that they made use of several tried-and-true TZ tropes, such as nuclear Armageddon and an isolated spaceship crew being driven slowly mad, but it also had a really decent TZ twist at the end.

Like pretty much all of the episodes in this first season, it was overly long.  In another context, like an independent film festival, it would have been fine, but Twilight Zone should have been pithier and punchier.  The opening sequence of the crew deciding whether to evacuate or continue on was very nicely done, but could have been handled as exposition in dialogue after the fact. The attempts to contact Earth would have established the situation.  And several scenes, such as the birthday party and baby talk, were superfluous.  But the cast, none of whom I think I knew, were all decent and the solar flare sequence, with crazy guy preaching as everything threatened to go toes up, was very tense. All in all, the only real error that jumped out at me was their reception of an old TV show-- electromagnetic waves don't go backwards and a TV transmission isn't likely to be reflected back so conveniently. They wouldn't be able to pick up an old TV broadcast that clearly near Mars even if the timing was right-- we needed a roof antenna in Dorchester just to pick up Boston stations.

But that twist ending was actually pretty good.  It was nicely ambiguous, so we don't really know if the aliens saved the astronaut, if the astronaut was actually an alien agent, or if the astronaut had been correct and the whole mission was just a simulation, albeit orchestrated by the alien agency.  But the real kicker was that the aliens determined the human race to be worthy of salvation!  How the hell did a positive message sneak in there?  I suspect that this episode will be very unpopular.  :lol:

On the other hand, the previews for next week made me cringe, so this one is probably just a fluke.
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#17 Cardie

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Posted 04 May 2019 - 07:35 PM

Quote

if the astronaut was actually an alien agent

The chief alien referred to him admiringly as having figured out they were watching, so I think he was what he appeared to be. That actor, Jefferson White, has done quite a few supporting roles lately but he was the only one I recognized.
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#18 RJDiogenes

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Posted 05 May 2019 - 04:25 PM

Oh, okay, I guess that bit got by me.
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#19 RJDiogenes

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Posted 12 May 2019 - 04:57 PM

Episode 7, "Not All Men."

And Millennial Twilight Zone is back, with an episode about toxic masculinity from beyond the stars.   Like the L'il Donald episode, I'm not sure if this was supposed to be tongue in cheek, but the climactic exchange of the soldier's "Smile and you'll look pretty" and the woman's triumphant "No!" was a laugh-out-loud moment. :lol:  The whole thing was like an awkward fanfic.

The TZ trigger in this one was a storm of little red meteorites that inexplicably impact in the midst of the Perseid meteor shower, even though nothing like that has ever happened before.  Suddenly, men, and only men, go all "Return of the Archons," and the world is in flames. The characters quickly decide that the red meteorites are to blame, and then just as quickly decide that the red meteorites are placebos, and that all men everywhere just suddenly decided to revert to  their true bestial nature.

Aside from an opening sequence that is a possibly unintentional homage to It Came From Outer Space, there's not much to say about the story.  Like several other episodes in this revival, it's more of a sequence of events than a plot.  The main character came so quickly to the conclusion that the red meteorites were involved that I was speculating that the story may be a dream episode, like "The Midnight Sun," or that she might be an alien agent, either hostile or friendly, like in "The Monsters Are Due On Maple Street," but the episode had nothing that clever to offer.  It was just the boys versus the girls, in typical 21st century style.  I think the actual twist her is that the real world has entered the Twilight Zone and society has regressed back to the 1950s.  This episode will certainly give the Right-Wingnuts a lot of ammunition, if nothing else.
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#20 RJDiogenes

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Posted 19 May 2019 - 03:46 PM

Episode 8, "Point of Origin."

This one had a couple of familiar faces:  Snow White from Once Upon A Time and Sarek from Discovery.

It certainly did an excellent job of capturing the feeling of classic Twilight Zone, recalling episodes such as Eye of the Beholder and The Obsolete Man and Third From The Sun and others, with an individual or small group under threat from an oppressive police state.  The tension and paranoia were palpable.  In this case, it was all in the service of a metaphor for immigration-- specifically the issue of immigrants who came here illegally at an age when it can't be considered their fault-- and a little amnesia was thrown in to add a little mystery.

It was actually pretty well done this time, although it's not exactly the most difficult aspect of the immigration problem to tackle.   The agents of, presumably, the government were as stone faced and unforthcoming as one would expect in a TZ police state, as well as closed off to any extenuating circumstances.  The mother was surprisingly presented in a sympathetic manner, willing to help her housekeeper's grandchildren without hesitation and trying to save her from the immigration officials-- although there was a strangely hostile confrontation in the detention center that was kind of forced. Aside from that, the script was well written with only a handful of cringe moments (the use of the word "caravan," the detention center orderly's "I don't look like you," and the closing narration are the only ones I can think of).  The family's abandonment of the mother didn't really serve the metaphor, but it certainly served The Twilight Zone.

All in all, one of the two best of the series, along with the Mars Expedition episode.  It conjured up the Twilight Zone very well, dealt with a prominent social issue in an engaging manner, even if they played softball with it, and made it personal with sympathetic characters and good actors.  If this was the worst episode of the series instead of a standout, we'd  have a really good show on our hands.
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