The Twilight Zone: Replay Review
The Twilight Zone’s third episode, Replay, shows the series’ strong legs with a relevant story and socially aware themes, but does show some stumbling with a lack of issues being resolved.
The episode follows a black mother, Nina (Sanaa Lathan), and her son, Dorian (Damson Idris), as they travel through Virginia to bring Dorian to college. Carrying her father’s old camera, Nina realizes that pressing the rewind button actually rewinds time and let’s her play out scenarios again. With this in mind, Nina will have to utilize this new tool to escape a stalking police officer (Glenn Fleshler) and get them to Dorian’s college in one piece.
Now, if you’ve seen or read anything in the news lately, or in the past couple years or so, you can likely figure out where the story between a black family and a stalking white officer would go. I will say that the “replay” aspect of the episode was very interesting and offers viewers a chance to invest themselves in Nina and Dorian’s relationship with multiple opportunities for dialogue. Lathan and Idris’ performances are great, and Lathan especially captures Nina’s slow mental drain and growing frustration towards the situation with each replay that occurs.
I also thought it was interesting how the police officer’s true motivation and reasoning behind his irrational profiling of Nina and Dorian as it reflects how deep racist profiling can be in today’s society. Even when Nina tries to figure why he is following and tries a different way to escape, he’s always right behind them, regardless if they do anything wrong or not, and I sort of like that as it reflects the deep-seeded fear that many black people have in the U.S. towards police as well as an inherent issue of racial profiling.
There’s even some nice geographical relevance to Replay’s story as its Virginia location has an important story of its own. There’s a point where Nina and Dorian visit Nina’s brother and the camera zooms out to reveal newspapers on the wall and a Black Lives Matter sign and it got me thinking how important it actually is. Upon seeing the name of the town, Earlysville, I was compelled to look it up and found that the town as well as a nearby town, Charlottesville, actually have strong ties to the movement. There was actually an incident back in 2017 associated with the movement where peaceful protester were rammed by a car and it’s interesting to see the series connect itself to such recent real-life events. It definitely adds some realism to the story and seeing it touch on such a hot-button topic in a similar geographical area feels like a Twilight Zone kind of move.
Now, even with all of this relevance and strong use of its major plot device to put a spin on its subject matter, Replay still suffers from the predictability plague that the series has suffered from thus far. It has some foreshadowing that’s too on the nose and because of this predictability it makes the episode feel like it has no power or surprise to it. The ending, while imploring a dark idea of never being able to escape that’s truly terrifying to think about, lacked that twist that comes out of nowhere and leaves me wide-eyed. Rather, the ending feels obvious and lacked that surprise or shock that I’ve been craving for so far.
Not to mention, the score is still over-powering at times and with each episode that passes, I only feel my distaste for the overbearingness of the score growing. It just cuts off so much of the dialogue and can even feel incredibly distracting in certain moments. All of this makes me sound like a broken record and I hope that this is something that will start to dissipate as we go deeper into The Twilight Zone.
Replay is a solid example of social fears and relevant topics being played with in The Twilight Zone, but it’s hard to look past the reboot’s issues of predictability and that lack of pure surprise. While I’ve really enjoyed the new series so far, I’ve started to worry if the rest of the series can shake these issues. I will say that next week’s episode, A Traveler, looks promising and can, hopefully send viewers into a Twilight Zone full of mystery, intrigue, and, most importantly, surprise.