If there’s anything that the 1959 Twilight Zone taught us, it’s that this show loves space. Loooveess it. That’s why it should be no surprise the new Twilight Zone is now taking us into the cosmos with their latest episode, “Six Degrees of Freedom.”
Directed by Black Mirror’s Jakob Verbruggen, “Six Degrees of Freedom” starts in lighter spirits than most Twilight Zone episodes do.
Captain Alexa (DeWanda Wise), Casey (sadly not an older Edward Furlong as I speculated it was while watching the episode, but is rather Jonathan Whitesell), Jerry (Jefferson Wright), Rei (Booksmart’s Jessica Williams) and Katherine (Lucinda Dryzek) all compose the crew of what will hopefully be the first spaceship to ever land on Mars.
Never mind the fact that it looks like CBS All Access and Twilight Zone borrowed Netflix’s Lost in Space set to make this episode, because this is said to be the most daring mission ever completed by human beings.
However, with only minutes before takeoff, the crew gets some startling information that changes everything.
The day that the world has long dreaded arrives on the brink of their liftoff, as the United States, North Korea and Russia have all launched nuclear weapons. Several major cities have already been hit and, according to mission control, there’s a bomb headed right for them in the next twenty minutes.
That leaves the astronauts with a difficult choice to make: do they proceed with the mission and head to Mars in hopes that Earth will survive and they can offer some semblance of hope or do they evacuate the vehicle and try to make it to their loved ones before it’s too late?
A quick vote leaves most in favor of carrying on, with only Rei having reservations of doing so. Still, Alexa makes the choice to launch and, soon enough, their off flying into space.
There’s one more catch, though — the crew of the spaceship doesn’t actually get to look out into in space while they’re up there. Due to solar vortexes or some made up plot-device like that, it’s required they block off all windows in order to protect themselves. It’s for their own safety, they’re assured. Nothing to worry about at all, right?
A couple of days into their mission and things aren’t going well. Nobody is getting any communication from mission control or anyone on Earth, and people — specifically Rei — are starting to crack under the pressure.
Alexa attempts to calm everyone down, as she knows it’s going to be a good seven months before they actually make it to Mars, but even she is struggling to keep her emotions in check through all of this.
And yet, they press onward. In some kind of awkward editing on the Twilight Zone episode’s fault, we jump forward a couple of months here and there, gradually seeing that everyone is coming to accept the situation they’re in. Yeah, there are some minor mishaps — Rei and Casey are caught having sex one night, while Jerry could swear someone was watching him do some vehicle maintenance late one evening — but everyone seems to fall in line, for the most part.
It’s when they’re only a couple of months from landing on Mars when things start to go really bad.
It’s Captain Alexa’s birthday and everyone has come together to celebrate. The crew attempts to sing a pretty horrible rendition of Happy Birthday and dig into the cake when Jerry decides to break out the surprise ‘gift’ he’s been working on for the past couple of weeks.
“None of this is real,” he informs everyone. “All of this is just a test.”
According to Jerry, the station never actually left Earth at any point. He hasn’t figured everything out entirely yet, but thanks to a lack of condensation or crystallization anywhere onboard the ship, he’s convinced this is all a seven-month trial they’re being put through.
The rest of the crew barely has time to register this information as, right then, a solar attack hits and they have to head up to the control panel to save the ship.
Jerry doesn’t go. He might be insane, but he’s positive he’s correct and, now, he’s ready to prove it to everyone. Instead, he heads to the back of the ship, opens a door and walks out, expecting to see a team of scientists there congratulating him for figuring it all out.
The crew never sees Jerry again after that point.
They can’t necessarily be convinced that he’s dead, though, as there’s no body or anything for actual evidence. While it seems all but improbable, there’s enough there for each crew member to begin speculating in his or her own way about Jerry’s hypothesis — what if he’s right? What if this really is just a test and, now that he’s solved it, he’s laughing at them behind a camera somewhere?
Onward they still press, eventually leading to the moment they’ve been waiting so long for — landing on Mars. They do so with great success, meaning it’s time to open the windows and see whether or not Jerry was right.
Turns out, he was wrong — at least in their eyes. They are, in fact, on Mars, meaning everything that happened was real and Earth is likely all but extinct now.
A secondary reveal, however, shows us that Jerry might not have been as wrong as we think. Turns out, the whole thing really was a test — not performed by scientist back on Earth, but by aliens. They were the ones watching the crew of the spaceship for the past seventh months, looking to see if human beings were worthy of being saved.
Their conclusion? We made it, guys. Based on the way the crew came together as a family over the past seven months, they deemed we aren’t totally worthless as they now want to step in and lend us a hand. Way to go, us.
It’s a pretty anti-climatic ending, but it still has some fun in getting there as Verbruggen really lets the ambiguity and tension build throughout the majority of this Twilight Zone episode. Still not as good as “A Traveler” or “The Comedian,” but “Six Degrees of Freedom” still has its moments.
Tune into CBS All Access tonight to catch the new episode of Twilight Zone, and check out some of our other Twilight Zone recaps by clicking here!