The third episode of the new Twilight Zone brings us a parable with an location fans will find familiar, and elements many viewers will find distressingly close to reality.
It’s not perfect, but it’s the best the show has delivered to date.
Cast and Crew
Director: Gerard McMurray
Writer: Selwyn Seyfu Hinds
Sanaa Lathan as Nina Harrison
Damson Idris as Dorian Harrison
Glenn Fleshler as Officer Lasky
Steve Harris as Neil
Jocelyn Panton as TV announcer
Jordan Peele as host
A lawyer and her son, driving to college, encounter difficulties with a racist police officer—and a possible escape through the use of an old camcorder that rewinds time.
The first half-hour of the episode creates a strong sense of foreboding. We have a terrifically staged introduction, the fantasy premise itself with its various replays, and a setting filled with allusion to the more sinister and racist aspects of American history.1 I didn’t know how the story would turn next, save that the Harrisons would end up at Uncle Neil’s…
…which is where the episode weakens.
The Twilight Zone has always been political, despite what online detractors of its current incarnation seem to think. The original show also, a little too often, delivered its moral with the subtlety of a cannon.
The final act of the episode fires that cannon repeatedly, undercutting a more provocative, more powerful episode that we had been watching, which had already made its themes abundantly clear.
Originality: 2/6 The classic Twilight Zone had a number of episodes with similar premises, a fact which this episode does not try to conceal. They even begin this one at the Busy Bee Café, the setting of “Nick of Time,” which featured a magical fortuneteller machine—still, apparently in service.
The café itself has moved from Ohio to Virginia, but it remains situated in….
Okay, let’s move on.
Effects: 2/6 This episode doesn’t trade much in effects, although it uses some inexpensive but serviceable visuals to show the passing and altering of time.
Acting: 5/6 The leads give terrific performances, and Peele remains on-game as the host.
Story: 5/6 I don’t blame the writer for wanting to end on a somewhat upbeat note, but the final scene wastes much of the story’s potential.
Emotional Response: 5/6
Production: 6/6 This director has handled the material effectively, and captured the highways and byways of America in the fractured mirror this show has favored in all its incarnations.
Overall: 5/6 Despite its overdone ending, this episode works the best of the first three, and best recalls the classic series. I have to wonder why they did not choose to air it first.
In total, “Replay” receives 30/42
Of course, this rating might be adjusted upwards to consider the “effects” score.
Among many, more blatant references: in the context of this episode, “Emmett Drive” seems an allusion to Emmett Till, a Black teen lynched in 1955. This horrific event inspired Rod Serling to write “Noon at Doomsday.” Problems with producing it for TV, in turn, inspired him to create a series that addressed difficult issues by disguising as twilight fantasies.
Serling discussed the controversy in a 1957 article, “Billion Dollar Whipping Boy.” Christopher Metress revisited the incident in “Submitted for Their Approval: Rod Serling and the Lynching of Emmett Till” in a 2008 issue of The Mississippi Quarterly.