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The 5 Best Episodes of Jordan Peele's The Twilight Zone, Now on SYFY
Jordan Peele's reboot of the iconic series is getting a Fourth of July SYFY marathon. Here are the five best episodes.
You unlock this door with the key of imagination. Beyond it is another dimension: a dimension of sound, a dimension of sight, a dimension of mind. You're moving into a land of both shadow and substance, of things and ideas. You've just crossed over into... the Twilight Zone. And Jordan Peele's reboot of the show has crossed over to SYFY, where you can catch a day-long Fourth of July marathon.
The original Twilight Zone, created and hosted by Rod Serling, ran for five seasons in the late '50s and early '60s. Contrary to popular belief, it wasn't a breakout hit at the time but it's passed the test of time and remains popular today, more than a half-century later, a testament to Serling's stories. That first series had a total of 156 episodes over the course of five seasons, 92 of which were either written or co-written by Serling.
Later, Serling sold his share of the show to CBS, allowing them to revive it years later. The first return to the Twilight Zone was in 1985 and included an impressive group of genre authors including Harlan Ellison and George R. R. Martin. It ran for three seasons before joining the original in the land of shows that once were. And another attempt was made in the early 2000s, this time with Forest Whitaker hosting for one season. More recently, the series was reimagined by horror and science fiction auteur Jordan Peele.
Peele's time guiding us through a wondrous land whose boundaries are that of imagination lasted two seasons on Paramount+. SYFY became the exclusive network home for the 20 episodes of the Peele-produced reboot earlier this year. And on July 4, you can catch the marathon starting at 6 a.m. EST with episodes from the original series — "Still Valley," "A World of His Own," "King Nine Will Not Return," "A Man in the Bottle," and "Hocus-pocus And Frisby" — before the reboot begins with "The Comedian." You can find the entire lineup of episodes here.
If it's been a while since you've visited the Zone, we're here to point you to our favorite episodes Peele's The Twilight Zone.
"NIGHTMARE AT 30,000 FEET"
One of the most well-known and imminently quotable episodes of the classic series was “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet," which stars Captain Kirk himself, William Shatner. In the 1963 episode, he plays Robert Wilson, a man recently released from a psychiatric institution who insists, in a way only Shatner can, that there's a man on the wing of the plane! The episode was revisited in Twilight Zone: The Movie, in a segment directed by George Miller (Mad Max) with John Lithgow in the Shatner role.
Peele revisited the premise once again in his second episode, updating the title to "30,000" feet and putting Adam Scott (Parks and Recreation) in Shatner's chair. Instead of an ape-like creature on the tip of the wing, Scott's character listens to a podcast describing a mysterious plane crash. As he keeps listening, it becomes clear that the plane the show hosts are talking about is the same plane he is currently on. The episode was a perfect way to pay homage to the original without doing the same thing for a third time.
While each episode of The Twilight Zone is a self-contained story, there are certain themes that emerge again and again. In the classic episode “Time Enough at Last,” a bank teller wishes only for enough time to read his novels undisturbed. When a nuclear disaster leaves him the last man on Earth, he finally has time for his reading but he won't get the chance. His glasses are broken and there is no one to fix them.
Peele's Twilight Zone played with similar themes in the second season episode “Ovation.” In it, an aspiring musician named Jasmine struggles to prove to her family and the world that she deserves a shot when she runs into a famous pop star. The singer gives Jasmine an object and moments later kills herself. With her new talisman, Jasmine finds quick success but knows, deep down, that it isn't deserved. All of that applause, unwarranted and unearned, becomes too tortuous to stand and the cost of fame is higher than Jasmine might like.
Starring the hilarious and charming Kumail Nanjiani, the episode “Comedian” was charged with setting the tone for Peele's version of the show. It opens on Nanjiani as Samir, a struggling comedian playing dingy clubs for little money. After another bombed set he meets a famous comic from an earlier generation who suggests he incorporate some personal details in his set. Samir takes the advice and tells a joke about his dog and it kills, in more ways than one. When Samir gets home, he finds his dog missing and, weirdest of all, no one in his life remembers the dog at all.
Once Samir realizes his newfound ability to command laughter and reshape the world around him, he starts telling jokes about people he thinks the world would be better off without, including a few personal relationships he isn't totally satisfied with. Erasing someone from existence is a big response for some perceived slight, but go off, Samir. As you might expect when you're inside the Zone, Samir eventually boxes himself into a corner and has to make a choice about the last joke he'll ever tell.
"MEET IN THE MIDDLE"
The second season started with a horrifying bang in “Meet in the Middle.” It centers on Phil, and Phil isn't good with people, despite longing for connection. When he starts hearing the voice of a woman named Annie in his head, he and his therapist think he might be losing touch with reality. Phil eventually comes to believe Annie is not only real but also the love of his life. After communicating telepathically for a while, they decide it's time for them to meet and settle on a location midway between their two homes. They are going to, as the title suggests, meet in the middle.
Little does Phil know, he's going to have to go the distance in more ways than he realizes. When Phil gets to their meeting place, Annie is nowhere to be found. Instead, her voice sounds off in his head again. Annie desperately tells Phil she has been abducted, and gives him her location and a description of her abductor. As you probably expect, Phil would do anything for love and rushes to Annie's aid. When he gets there, he finds out if Annie really is who she said she is.
The premise of “Replay” feels the most like a classic episode of The Twilight Zone but its setting makes it feel painfully modern. It's this combination that makes “Replay” one of the most powerful of the entire first season of Peele's installment, not because it's really weird but because it feels weirdly real.
The episode opens on Nina Harrison and her son Dorian. They're traveling together, one last road trip before Dorian goes off to college. Nina has an old family camcorder that she's using to document the trip, when she discovers that rewinding the tape also rewinds time. It's an ability that comes in handy when the mother-son duo encounter a racist police officer who continues to harass them no matter how many times Nina winds back the tape.
No matter what episode you're watching, you're always in for a good time inside The Twilight Zone. Peele's reimagining can also be viewed on the official SYFY app.
Looking for more sci-fi TV? Check out shows like Resident Alien, The Ark, Brave New World, Project Blue Book, Eureka, Heroes, Intergalactic, and more streaming now on Peacock.