The Twilight Zone: The Wunderkind Review
The Wunderkind is an excellent mid-point turnaround for The Twilight Zone and it offers pure misdirection in the best way possible as well as performances that are creepily compelling.
The episode follows a down-and-out campaign manager, Raff Hanks (John Cho), as he becomes fixated on redeeming himself after his initial failure to help his candidate win the Presidential Election for the United States. However, things change after he sees a young boy, Oliver Foley (Jacob Tremblay), talk about his desire to be the next president on his YouTube channel. Inspired by Oliver’s desire to see change, Raff becomes his campaign manager, but quickly realizes how bad his decision might have been and his regrets for how far it goes might leave him in a dire position.
The episode does an excellent job using misdirection and unpredictability to really suck viewers in and, just as Cho’s Raff says in the episode, I just couldn’t help but start to believe what the kid was saying. There’re pieces that the episode teases and shows in the beginning of the episode that we’re very effective in sucking me in and making me feel engaged much more than anything I’ve seen so far. I was constantly curious about why Raff is initially shown on a surgery table or what Oliver’s ideas are for his campaign. The episode constantly kept me guessing and even the finale left me feeling surprised and shocked in horror and it finally felt like I was truly in The Twilight Zone.
Even Raff and Oliver, themselves, embody the episode’s ideas of misdirection and their stellar performances are really what makes everything work. Cho is excellent from start to finish as he captures Raff’s unflinching desire for success that ultimately come back to haunt him. Initially, he’s shown to be cold and only caring for his own success and redemption, but once things start to go awry, Raff quickly tries to fix things. Tremblay puts in an equally amazing performance and shows, even further, that he one of the most talented young actors in the business. He really makes Oliver feel genuine with his performance capturing Oliver’s innocence and desire to try to do something good. He only gets better as the episode goes on and he had me cringing with tenseness towards the episode’s final moments.
What I really enjoyed the most about The Wunderkind was how its messaging and themes were a little more ambiguous and melded together well to make me actually think about what the episode was talking about. The episode is definitely a commentary on voters themselves and importance of being informed. There’re plenty of scenes where voters and supporters of Oliver discuss why they like him and there’s more discussion on why he’s a likable person rather than what he stands for. It’s definitely takes a stab at the idea of celebrities put their name in the presidential conversation and it’s pretty effective in displaying why that might be a problem.
I will admit that the episode definitely asks viewers to have a lot of suspension of disbelief as it moves pretty quickly, and the episode doesn’t touch on the nuts and bolts of Oliver’s rise to get in office. However, what is shown is really interesting and how his campaign uses Oliver’s wish list and commercial about Oliver’s dying dog to make him seem like a viable candidate is pretty believable and reflects how ridiculous political campaigns can get. It’s almost funny how reflective the episode can be as the reactions from voters almost feels crazy as people actually do buy into these kinds of campaigns.
The Wunderkind is a welcomed exit from the predictable and unsurprising territory and an excellent reflection on political misdirection and uninformed voters. The Twilight Zone hopefully can carry The Wunderkind’s strong momentum as the misdirection, performances, and surprises displayed are easily the best the series has offered thus far.