The Twilight Zone reboot's first season was let down by its endings
CBS's modern incarnation of The Twilight Zone hasn't unlocked the door to success just yet.
The 2019 reboot is in some ways on the right track as it wraps up its first season, and all of the pieces are in place for a series that fully lives up to the original. But it's not at that point, largely because of one key problem: its stories rarely conclude in a satisfying fashion that makes the long journey feel worthwhile. If there's anything we should expect The Twilight Zone to provide, it's killer endings. Yet for various reasons, almost every one of these first ten episodes stumbled over the finish line. And where a powerful payoff in the original Twilight Zone often allowed us to overlook an episode's other issues (of which there were plenty), the reboot's consistent fizzling out only make its flaws — from poor pacing to heavy-handed writing — stand out even more.
In certain cases, the conclusion was simply too predictable, as with the first episode, "The Comedian." Once Samir, who has the power to vanish anyone he mentions in his stand-up set out of existence, begins his downward spiral, the clearest place to go would be for him to say his own name to end it all. Ultimately, that's exactly what happens, and we're frustrated we waited 55 minutes for something we could see coming 20 minutes in.
The same goes for "Point of Origin," in which we learn that Eve is from another dimension. This moment of clarity is the episode's emotional height, and in the classic series it would have been the cue for Rod Serling to begin his closing monologue, but "Point of Origin" continues, and its actual final scene is far too inevitable.
"Blurryman" features what should be the season's most stunning twist, but it's sadly among the least surprising. The hook is the mystery of who the mysterious "blurry man" is, but chances are, your very first guess is correct. In fact, there's one scene that plays as if the information has just effectively been revealed, but it's only when we see Sophie is still confused that we realize we're not supposed to have figured it out yet — and by then, there's still another 15 minutes to go.
Then there are episodes where the reveal is rushed and poorly developed. Take "A Traveler," which has a final twist akin to the classic "The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street." But there, the aliens’ purpose was explicit and thematically appropriate. "A Traveler," on the other hand, doesn’t adequately explain why the majority of things that happened were actually necessary for facilitating the invasion, and so it doesn't land the same way. Just having aliens show up does not a great ending make.
"Six Degrees of Freedom," which asks whether a mission to Mars is a simulation, similarly doesn't answer its own question sufficiently. Aliens have been watching, it turns out, but the episode doesn't fully explain whether they have simply been monitoring the astronauts' trip to Mars or if the entire thing has been a simulation from the beginning. The episode's conclusion and closing narration fail to do what any good Twilight Zone ending should: satisfyingly clarify or reinforce the purpose of everything that came before.
In the opposite direction, "Replay" nearly falls apart due to its insistence on spelling so much out. It wraps up with an awkward speech voicing the already obvious moral, which drags down what could have been a true tear-jerker.
"Not All Men" concludes with perhaps the most classic twist: we believed that meteors were causing the men in town to go crazy, but it was just a placebo. This compelling idea, however, derails the episode since it doesn't really comport with everything else we saw. How can the meteors be a placebo when they also turned people's eyes red and altered their voices? In the original series, it often seemed an episode would be constructed around the twist, but this one feels carelessly added at the last moment.
Speaking of tacked-on endings, there's also "Nightmare at 30,000 Feet." The twist itself, that Justin causes the plane crash he was trying to prevent, is again given away too early. But a greater sin is the pointless closing scene, which takes things way too far over the top with passengers beating Justin to death. It adds little to the takeaway message and strains credulity when every single person apparently agrees to murder a man they shouldn't even know for sure was involved in the hijacking.
The two episodes that come closest to having truly effective conclusions are "The Wunderkind" and "The Blue Scorpion," but neither nails it. "The Wunderkind" unwisely cuts ahead to preview its final scene over and over, lessening its impact. "The Blue Scorpion" has a solid, if anticlimactic twist, but one that muddies the episode's overall message, with Jordan Peele's closing narration voicing a theme hardly expressed by the closing minutes.
Perhaps it's unfair to expect The Twilight Zone to be providing iconic endings on the level of "it's a cookbook!" so soon. But even the very first episode of the original series, "Where is Everybody?" demonstrated the show's unrivaled ability to tie a story up with an unpredictable ending that explains just the right amount and makes the entire story more meaningful.
The Twilight Zone reboot in 10 episodes has yet to replicate that feeling even once. Before the series' next stop, even if it's unwilling to cut back on the brutally long run times, constructing more memorable closing scenes would go a long way toward making it as timeless as infinity.