If you’ve been tracking Jordan Peele’s new adaptation of the classic series, you have likely heard mixed reviews. Some praise the show’s creativity, even if it leans too heavily on the original series. Others say it’s a mediocre effort which lacks the bite of Serling’s original. The general consensus is that it’s a fitting tribute, nothing more, nothing less.
As somebody who watched The Twilight Zone growing up, and who also writes modern reboots of Twilight Zone episodes for fun (check out the rest of our site!), I’m content with the new series so far. Surprisingly so. I have yet to see all the episodes, but I look forward to them, and I give the show a hearty recommendation if you’re on the fence. Jordan Peele could have gone a few ways with the series, and I believe the direction he went was ideal.
First, he could have made a straight reboot – literally just transferring episodes into a modern context. The plot beats, characters, and twists would be nearly identical, but they would be in the 21st century. That might have worked, honestly, since there are 156 episodes to choose from. Serling was nothing if not prolific, and it’d be naive to assume that everybody knows every episode. Jordan Peele could easily have paired the well-known episodes with more obscure offerings (for variety), spruced them up for a modern audience, and delivered a fine show.
Second, he could have imitated Black Mirror and made the show more dark. More grim. More edgy. In fact, some of the criticisms of the show are, ‘It’s not as good as Black Mirror’ – how sad that Black Mirror has become the standard by which we measure sci-fi shows. Which isn’t even a fair comparison, since The Twilight Zone is more supernatural than sci-fi.
Would a darker Twilight Zone have screened well? Absolutely. Black Mirror’s popularity has skyrocketed despite being dismal, cruel, unforgiving torture porn. Apparently there’s a market for it that Peele could have cashed in on. And who would have faulted him?
Instead, he did something better. He made the show a true spiritual successor, which is at once wholly creative and wholly… wholesome. The series seems to be a mix of soft reboots and original ideas, both of which do justice to the original series. But it’s also a safe show. This is not a show you can recommend to young people looking for a thrill. This is not cutting edge television. This is a show you recommend to a sane human being. Somebody who likes tried-and-true narratives coupled with intriguing ‘what-ifs.’ Somebody who likes commercial breaks, a mysterious narrator, and plot twists that make you think without causing an existential crisis. Somebody like my mom, who sparked my interest for the series, and who wouldn’t be able to stomach five minutes of Black Mirror.
Ultimately, the show is a nice respite from the shocking fare of modern television. Each episode piques and holds my interest, but they don’t hold me captive like Black Mirror. They give space to breathe, they leave an impression, they don’t even need to be binge-watched. Call it boring, but I for one am enjoying the reprieve.