Anthology shows have become very popular lately, especially on streaming services, with shows like Black Mirror, Amazing Stories, Electric Dreams, and more. However, those shows wouldn’t exist today without The Twilight Zone, which debuted in 1959 with Rod Sterling as the narrator. The show returned in 2019 on CBS All Access with Academy Award-Winner Jordan Peele as the narrator, along with a number of other celebrities appearing throughout. The classic show is famous for the twists at the end of each episode, and the new show also has a number of clever twists.
Unfortunately, the show received very mixed reactions from fans as many didn’t like the strong social messages featured. But still, enough people tuned in and a number of fans did like the show, so a second season is on the way, coming June 25th. For the most part, I really enjoyed the show, however, because its an anthology show, each episode is completely different, meaning some are better than others. It also means you don’t have to watch the episodes in order and you can skip some if you choose. So here is Kernel’s ranking of all 10 of the new Twilight Zone episodes. Don’t worry as there will be no spoilers for any of the episodes in this ranking.
10. Six Degrees of Freedom
While the good episodes of the new show are really good, the bad episodes are also really bad. By far the worst episode of the show, there is almost nothing good about Six Degrees of Freedom. This episode follows several astronauts embarking on a space mission, which sounds exciting, but because the whole thing takes place on a tiny ship, its really just boring. The creators were clearly going for a physiological thriller which could have been interesting, however not only is the episode not thrilling at all, but there’s no deeper meaning to it.
There is also no twist and the episode goes out of the way to subvert expectations, leading to a very unsatisfying ending. It even introduces an interesting element that could have done something to improve the episode, but again it subverts expectations and throws that element away. The actors seem capable, but all the characters are cold and emotionless, which makes it hard to root for anyone. Overall, there’s really nothing good about this episode and I would say just skip it.
9. A Traveler
Now unlike Six Degrees of Freedom, this episode has a lot of potential, however, the ending just isn’t good enough. It feels like the episode is leading towards this big finale and twist, that never really happens. Now to be fair, this episode does have a twist, but it’s totally obvious and just doesn’t do enough to wrap up the story. But this episode does have a number of things going for it, like the setting, the actors, and the overall story. The setting does a lot for this episode as it takes place on Christmas Eve in a snowy Alaskan town.
Also, the actors all do a surprisingly good job, especially Steven Yeun who gives a super creepy performance. The story is good up until a certain point, then it tries to bite off more than it can chew which results in a rushed and sloppy ending. But I did like the whole mystery of who the character was and I thought the episode did a really good job at building tension. The problem was, while the episode did a great job with leading up to a big reveal, the reveal itself wasn’t that impressive and the ending left a lot on the table. I would say this episode is worth watching, but just be prepared for a rather unsatisfying ending.
8. Not All Men
Not All Men is definitely the most controversial episode of the new show, and that’s for good reason. It has a very strong social message, and while I get what they were trying to say, I also totally see how it offended a lot of people. The episode follows Annie played by Taissa Farmiga, who has to survive the night when all men turn into vicious killers. The episode is meant to be a commentary on toxic masculinity, however, there are just so many holes in the message, and it’s just not very clear. I very much liked the idea of the twist at the end of the episode, but it just didn’t do enough with that. Instead of presenting a complex narrative throughout, it only starts to show the complexity at the end when it’s just too late.
But all that being said, I do think this episode is enjoyable. I think its really best to just tune out the social message, and just enjoy Annie trying to survive the night. The cast is also very good as Taissa Farmiga is just as good as her sister, and Ike Barinholtz is always a treat on screen. This episode is also very thrilling because once the action gets going, it never lets up. If this episode either cast aside the heavy social messages, or introduced the twist sooner to portray a more complex situation, it overall could have been a lot better. However, it’s still a very enjoyable episode that will keep you on the edge of your seat.
This episode is absolutely nuts and off the walls crazy, which ends up being a very mixed bag. On one hand, the episode is really ambitious and features some very cool elements. If you’re a Twilight Zone fan, even a casual one, this episode is a must-watch. There are so many easter eggs, references, and shocking reveals that its almost like the Avengers: Endgame for this show. And even though I said you don’t have to watch the episodes in order, definitely don’t watch this episode first as you won’t fully appreciate it. Also, this is an example of subverting expectations in a good way, as there is a shocking reveal towards the beginning of the episode which takes it in a radically different direction, but a better direction I feel.
On the other hand, the main issue with this episode is that it really has no story or plot. I really can’t go into details of the episode at all because of spoilers, but basically its just Zazie Beetz running through different locations. In an attempt to pack this episode with tons of reveals and references, it really has no absolutely no story or character development. In fact, most of the time you have absolutely no idea what’s going on, but you just have to admire all the cool stuff that’s happening. However, the big reveal at the end is pretty freakin’ amazing, so the episode is worth watching just for that.
6. The Wunderkind
Interestingly enough, this episode is actually the most similar to the classic episodes of the show and features a very clever twist. The plot is very simple, almost too simple, but it does feel like the shorter and simpler original episodes. This episode follows a washed-up political campaign manager who helps this kid run for president of the United States. The biggest problem with this episode is one you can probably already tell by reading that, and that’s it’s too ridiculous and unbelievable. All stories, no matter how crazy, should be rooted in some form of reality so the audience can relate to it, but here everything presented in this episode is just ridiculous.
Even if your story takes place in space, or underwater, the characters at least have to seem relatable and real, but here not only is the situation crazy, but the characters make decisions that make no sense. Like what occurs to the main character at the end of the episode, was really obvious from the beginning. The episode is just impossible to buy into. However, there are some good things that make it worth watching. The acting is very good as John Cho is definitely a professional and Jacob Tremblay is one of the best child actors of all time. Also, the twist is very clever and did put a smile on my face when it occurred because it is a great callback to earlier in the episode. Overall, the episode can be fun and has a clever twist, but it’s just really hard to buy into.
5. The Blue Scorpion
The Blue Scorpion is definitely the scariest episode of the show as it has a super creepy atmosphere throughout. The whole episode is just really creepy and gives you the chills because of the lighting, locations, cinematography, and acting. This episode follows a man who receives a gun from his father after he committed suicide, and the bullet has his name on it. Not only does the bullet have his name on it, Jeff, but he keeps running into people with the same name and becomes convinced he has to kill someone named Jeff. The episode is very tense as you know something bad is going to happen, but you don’t know what or when it will.
However, the whole episode is leading up to a big event, but what actually ends up happening isn’t fully worth the wait. The episode has a decent ending, but not as good as it could have been. It’s another example of subverting expectations, as the ending isn’t what you want or expect, but it’s not better either. If you’re not going to give fans what they want, you have to give them something better, and this episode does not do that. It feels like the whole episode is leading to something, but then goes in a different, less satisfying direction. But still, this episode is really creepy and has a good enough ending, even though it went in a less interesting direction towards the end.
4. Point of Origin
Overall, Point of Origin was a really solid episode with a very satisfying twist. Just like Not All Men, this episode was very controversial as it features heavy social messages, but I feel this time the show actually pulls it off. Immigration is the main parallel this episode draws, and personally I think the show did it in a very clever way. The episode centers around an average American suburban mom named Eve, who gets taken by the government and is held captive in this mysterious facility. Why was she taken? What do they want with her? Well, that is all explored as Eve attempts to escape the horrible situation she finds herself in. Honestly, this episode kept me on my ties as I was not sure how things were going to unfold.
Again, the twist is very clever and definitely surprised me, but it overall made a lot of sense. And while some people feel the commentary was too blunt, I appreciated the parallels and thought the whole thing was very well done. I can understand how some people were offended by Not All Men as that episode did vilify a certain group and didn’t really explore both sides, but Point of Origin really gives a unique perspective that I think a lot of people are missing. While the social message is a bit obvious, its a really good perspective and I feel a lot of people can take something away from this episode. And this episode has the perfect twist as I did not see it coming, but it made a lot of sense once it was revealed, which is exactly how a good twist should be.
3. Nightmare at 30,000 Feet
Loosely based on one of the most famous classic episodes of the show, Nightmare at 30,000 Feet updates the premise in a really interesting way. While it doesn’t exactly feature a possible monster destroying the plane, it still follows a man having a mental breakdown while trying to save everyone. This episode focuses on a stressed journalist Justin played by Adam Scott, who finds an MP3 player with a true-crime podcast on it. However, as he starts to listen to the story about the mysterious disappearance of a flight, he soon realizes that it’s the very flight he is on. Justin desperately tries to do everything he can to stop the plane from vanishing, but is it real or is it all in his head?
I mean the concept alone is just so good, and I really feel it delivers. This episode is really enjoyable and very thrilling as you know the whole thing is leading to a devasting conclusion, and it does. The ending is also very good as it has an Inception-like ending that will keep you guessing in the best of ways. It’s really a loop-hole that perfectly ties the episode together and can have a few different interpretations. Adam Scott carries this episode as he is just a really likable actor and the whole cast does a really good job. And even though the whole episode takes place on a plane, which seems boring, the tight setting only adds to the tension and creates a really thrilling dynamic.
2. The Comedian
The Comedian is the first episode of the new show and they made a good choice of promoting this one. Kumail Nanjiani stars as a struggling comedian who learns the price of fame and what it can take from people. This episode really feels like an updated version of the classic show, as it features a strong moral with a fantasy horror twist. What happens to Nanjiani’s character is really interesting and the way it plays out is entertaining to watch. Because the main character is so relatable, you can put yourself in their shoes and play along by seeing what you would do in that situation and contrast that with what the character does.
This episode is the best modernization of the classic episodes as it contains iconic elements from the original series but made for modern audiences. The production design throughout the episode is also really good as it has a lot of vibrant colors, but also a very dark feeling. All of the actors do a great job, Kumnail Nanjiani is a great actor and makes his character very relatable. Tracy Morgan also has a small role and gives a very creepy performance. It’s really fascinating to see Nanjiani’s character spiraling out of control as he desperately tries to make his story have a happy ending, and it makes you think what you would do in that situation.
This episode was actually going to be in second place, however, in light of what has been going on around the world, this episode has become more important than ever. This episode is extremely political and its message is very obvious, but it’s also very relevant and true. Replay is about a black mother and son who get trapped in a time loop after a cop keeps attacking them. They then have to find a way to outsmart the cop with many failed attempts. There are a lot of time loop stories like Happy Death Day, Edge of Tomorrow, and of course Groundhog Day, but this story hits the hardest because it’s very personal and real. Not only does the episode portray the fear of the black family, but it also does a really good job of portraying the true danger of the cop, and I do believe its a realistic depiction.
The actors all do a really good job, Sanaa Lathan is always good and she is especially good here. I also really liked Glenn Fleshler as the cop as he really does a great job at showing how manipulative these people can be. The episode is also a great metaphor about how people of color really can’t escape police brutality, whether they are innocent or not. The ending is very powerful and again shockingly relevant to what’s happening today. This story is also very authentic as it has a black producer, director, writer, and cast which all do phenomenal jobs and provide a unique perspective. Not only is this the best episode of the rival so far, but I would say it is a must-watch, especially because of what is going on today.
Readers may be aware of recent events that have brought to the forefront the issue of race inequality, not just in America, but all over the world. If you would like more information on the cause, I would urge you to access https://blacklivesmatters.carrd.co/ where you can donate, sign petitions, and help in many other ways to support the Black Lives Matter campaign. As stated on the website, racism doesn’t go away once the topic stops trending.