First episode of ‘The Twilight Zone’ reboot unexpectedly haunting

Kaitlin Clark, Print Editor-in-Chief

When the words “The Twilight Zone” are said, they conjure up black and white television screens, an unexplainable sense of anxious anticipation and, of course, the classic words, “it is an area which we call the Twilight Zone.”

After nearly 55 years since the original show’s end in 1964, comedian, actor and filmmaker Jordan Peele has revived the wildly popular show that pushed the boundaries between science fiction scenarios and reality. The first episode of the revived show, titled “The Comedian,” was released on April 1 on YouTube and CBS All Access and starred Kumail Nanjiani as struggling comedian Samir Wassan.

Wassan regularly performs at Eddies comedy club, a simple place with a bar, tables for an audience, and behind it all, the ever-watching wallpaper of an elegantly dressed audience. His routine highlights political discourse, which receives little attention due to its lack of humor. Following another failed performance, Wassan meets his comedy idol, J.C. Wheeler, played by Tracy Morgan, who tells him, “Put yourself out there and you will get laughs.” Wassan at first disregards this, but during another failing performance, he decides to start talking about his and his girlfriend’s dog. The audience suddenly loves his routine, and Wassan is pleasantly surprised. That is, until he returns home, and, while looking for his dog that he used in his standup act, is informed by his girlfriend that they don’t have a dog. In fact, they never did.

For the rest of the episode, Wassan grapples with the knowledge that by merely mentioning someone in his comedy routine, he can erase them from existence, a power that he begins to use with alarming regularity. The audiences at Eddies adore him, but he must ask himself how moral it is to take away someone’s very existence for a chance at fame.

While Wassan’s situation is dangerous, it is his own emotions that I found to be the most threatening. His constant need for validation has caused him to willingly make other individuals cease to exist. Wassan’s jealousy leads to him erasing one individual that changes everything about his life, leaving him wondering how he can get his old life back, even when he is told that it is impossible to bring back people who, to the rest of the world, never even existed.

I’ve always admired and enjoyed the original “The Twilight Zone” show, so I was hesitantly excited when I heard that there would be a reboot. For nearly the entire episode, “The Comedian” was entertaining to me, but lacked the classic ominous feeling that the original episodes left me with. However, within the last three minutes of the show, my jaw physically dropped. At that point, I checked the time left on the episode and was dismayed to see how little was left. As Jordan Peele came into view as the narrator with the episode’s final remarks, I was left with that classic sense of unease that I had been looking for. There wasn’t anything visually frightening, but rather a terrible knowledge of Wassan’s fate.

The first episode of Peele’s “The Twilight Zone” wasn’t what I expected, but it was thoroughly enjoyable. Plenty of critics have already compared it to the legacy of the show, saying that it simply doesn’t hold up, but I disagree. A new era calls for a new twist, and “The Comedian” delivered that for me. I wound up feeling more uneasy about Wassan than I did about Wheeler, partially because his need for fame and validation is something that so many young people relate to. I fully intend on watching the other new episodes as they are released. So far, the reboot has changed with the times while still creating that unease that lurks in the back of one’s brain for the rest of the day, ending with those three words signalling the close of one story: “The Twilight Zone.”