Rod Serling created the original Twilight Zone, in part, to tell stories and address themes otherwise off-limits to period television. The new show operates with a good deal more freedom. “Point of Origin,” a Kafkaesque outing, has clear enough targets, and one wonders if it wouldn’t have been better to just tell some version (even a creepy, Twilight Zone version) of the real-world story.

Title: “Point of Origin”

Cast and Crew

Director: Mathias Herndl
Writers: John Griffin

Ginnifer Goodwin as Eve Martin
Zabryna Guevara as Anna Fuentes
James Frain as Allendale
Toby Levins as William Martin
Michael Eklund as Otto
Ella Wejr as Isabelle Martin
Ellexis Wejr as Jacqueline Martin
Karin Konoval as Aidia
Ajay Banks as Delivery Person
Simon Chin as Gluck
Shiraine Haas as Constance
Brad Harder as Lee
Art Kitching as HSI Agent
Elfina Luk as Gretchen
Robert Mann as Mosher
Iris Paluly as Female HSI Agent
Johnny Trinh as Brent
Adam Tsekhman as Officer Foster
Elizabeth Weinstein as Stacey
Colleen Wheeler as Sgt. Johnson
Jordan Peele as our host

Premise

An upper-middle-class woman finds herself the target of a government agency, but encounters difficulties learning anything about the charges against her.

High Point

The leads all give exceptional performances. Ginnifer Goodwin conveys the sense of a person trapped in a nightmare she cannot comprehend, after a life that has little prepared her for serious hardships. James Frain gives an ice-cold performance as a sinister government agent. Others get credit for succeeding despite an, at times, awkwardly blunt script.

Low Points

The episode had a number of possibilities. It begins as a loose adaptation of Kafka. For a time it puts a privileged person in the position that the less-advantaged in society face or fear. Its particular twist, and the current show’s tendency to use a cudgel to make its points, undercut a potentially powerful episode.

Bonus issue: Otto accuses her of fearing him because she doesn’t look like him. It seems more likely she fears him because she’s a woman in an unfamiliar, dangerous situation, being asked to follow a strange man into a dark place. Since he never addresses her fear again, it feels less like a misreading on the part of Otto than an awkward attempt to remind us of race-related issues pertinent to this episode.

The Scores:

Originality: 1/6 The episode begins as a loose adaptation of Kafka’s The Trial, made with an eye towards contemporary politics. It then twists in its own directions, which will likely remind viewers of some older Twilight Zone episodes.

Effects: 5/6 The visual effects have been used to enhance the horror of Eva’s situation without becoming intrusive.

Acting: 6/6

Story: 4/6

Production: 6/6

Emotional Response: 5/6 The episode does create a strong sense of horror and, while it’s no Brazil, the script casts some satiric shade at bureaucracy in the service of oppression.

Overall: 4/6

In total, “Point of Origin” receives 31/42