A heavy-handed and somewhat uneven episode of The Twilight Zone tackles topics of racism and police brutality, which is sure to cause all kinds of online controversy and backlash.
Mixing elements of Happy Death Day 2U and Edge of Tomorrow with themes from Blindspotting and The Hate U Give, Jordan Peele’s new episode of The Twilight Zone — entitled “Replay” — begins inside a country-side diner.
That’s where Nina Harrison (Blade’s Sanaa Lathan) and her son, Dorian (Damson Idris) are having lunch right before they head out to drop Dorian off at college so he can become a filmmaker (there’s like three or four references to Black Panther and how Dorian is going to become the next Ryan Coogler).
Nina also has an old camcorder along with her and, upon hitting the rewind button after her son accidentally spills on himself, discovers that it has some kind of magical powers.
The camera, you see, will rewind time and bring Nina back right to this very moment in the diner. No matter how far ahead in the future she goes, she always ends up right back there with nobody else being any the wiser.
Jordan Peele is sitting in the booth across from them, of course, as he gives an audience a warning that Nina and her camera are about to enter The Twilight Zone as we role those opening credits.
As Nina and Dorian are leaving the diner, they pass next to a cop — Officer Lasky (Glenn Fleshler) — who’s enjoying a piece of apple pie and seemingly minding his own business.
He really isn’t, though, as it’s not ten minutes later when Nina and Dorian are on the road when they get pulled over by Officer Lasky, who quickly reveals himself to be a racist as he pulled them over for no other reason than to mess with them.
When Officer Lasky sees the camcorder sitting in the front seat and thinks he’s being recorded, he begins to get physical with Dorian — which is what causes Nina to panic and hit that rewind button again.
Suddenly, she’s back in the diner, as if nothing ever happened.
They leave and head off to college a second time, only to be met with similar results. This time, when Office Lasky pulls them over, Nina has a bit of a panic attack and goes running out of the car. Dorian follows with a phone in his hand, which Officer Lasky thinks is a gun, causing him to reach for his own weapon and shoot Dorian where he stands.
Again, this episode of The Twilight Zone isn’t exactly subtle — which isn’t a bad thing as the message is an important one people should hear, even if it is a bit over-the-top at some points.
Nina manages to grab the camera again, and finds her sitting next to her still very much alive son.
Figuring they’re bound to run into the cop a third time, Nina brings Dorian into the nearest motel she can find and promises they’ll drop him off at college the following day. That’s still not enough to escape from Officer Lasky, though, as he shows up at their door later that night, resulting in another violent scenario that once again causes Nina to return to the diner.
Since trying to escape from Officer Lasky doesn’t seem to be working, Nina figures she’ll play into his humanity. Yes, he’s a racist, but maybe he’ll leave them alone if she attempts to stop and talk with him for a little bit, first.
So, she sits next to him at the diner and pays for his piece of apple buy. They make small talk for a while — Nina tells him how much her son means to him, while we also learn that Officer Lasky is divorced and yet still wears his wedding ring — before Nina feels comfortable enough to leave.
Again, though, it doesn’t work. Officer Lasky comes out of the diner shortly after them and asks to see Nina’s pink slips for the car she’s driving, as he’s apparently under the impression that it’s stolen. Nina doesn’t have that pink slip with her, which causes a whole bunch of panic that ultimately results in Dorian getting shot down once again.
Returning to the diner one final time, Nina knows this is no longer something she can do by herself. She tells Dorian everything that’s happened and works to convince him that all of this is real. He eventually believes, too, and suggests that the one way to avoid all of this might be to go through with the original route he programmed into the car’s GPS — a route that takes them to Nina’s brother’s house, whom she hasn’t spoken with in years.
Reluctantly, she agrees to go as they walk up to find Uncle Neil (The First Purge’s Steve Harris) waiting for them. After catching up a little and burying some of the wounds they’ve both been carrying, Nina tells Neil everything that’s been happening and asks for his help.
Neil suggests that they take an old, underground train route to get to the college (which is a bit much, don’t you think?), as there’s no way Officer Lasky would follow them there.
He doesn’t, of course, but he does happen to show up at the very moment the three of them are entering the college’s campus. Still convinced that Nina, Dorian and now Neil are up to no good, he takes out his gun with an intent to shoot — right before he’s stopped by the mob of people surrounding him.
It’s not just Nina’s camcorder pointed at this him time, it’s everyone else who’s attending the college. Now, there’s no place to hide. Nina gives a nice little monologue about how Officer Lasky is the one who’s really afraid right before he’s forced to retreat and Dorian can finally enter the college.
Ten years go by. Dorian, now a grown man with a child, is visiting his mother — who’s still clutching that camcorder. His daughter, however, has her hands on it for just a couple seconds before she accidentally drops and utterly destroys it. Dorian tells Nina not to worry because they don’t have to live in the past anymore, right before he walks outside to go get the three of them some ice cream.
This episode of The Twilight Zone then ends with the sound of sirens, implying that tragedy once again found it’s way into the Harrison home and, this time, there’s nothing Nina can do to rewind it.
It’s…fine. There’s a message in there that people need to here, no doubt, but it’s just not delivered in a way that I, personally, found to be particularly well-told. But that’s the great thing about The Twilight Zone! This one might not have worked, but that doesn’t mean the rest of the season won’t!
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