The Twilight Zone: Not All Men Review
This week’s turn into The Twilight Zone, Not All Men, is another stumble for the series as it completely fumbles its themes about sexual and domestic abuse.
The episode follows Anne (Taissa Farmiga), a quiet and mild-mannered woman who goes on a date with a co-worker (Luke Kirby) on the night of a meteor shower. When some of the small meteors crash land in the area of her small town, Annie and her date go to see where one of the rocks landed. However, something strange happens and all of the men in the town begin to become obsessed with the rocks and putting them into the water to turn it red. Obsession suddenly turns to aggression, though, and Annie is forced flee from every man in sight until she figures out how to stop their violent behavior before they turn their aggression on her.
Frankly, the acting is probably one of the only saving graces of Not All Men. Farmiga is enjoyable as Annie as she captures her growth from being quiet and unable to fully express her thoughts to being able to take charge and survive. The rest of the cast is pretty solid as well with Ike Barinholtz delivering a fun and creepy performance that’s unlike any other time you’ve seen him. I’ll even say that the dialogue is nice and there’s some solid direction from Christina Choe to create what feels like an aggressive apocalyptic outburst from the men that’s fun to watch.
The real problem with Not All Men comes from the messages about women’s empowerment, sexual assault, and domestic abuse, and the lack of context that presented from the story writing. In concept, Not All Men has messages that can be powerful and sometimes work. There’re some ideas thrown around about importance of choosing to act out with aggression and saying no directly that connect to sexual assault prevention. Some of the things presented here are things that are important to talk about in media and, on paper, I’m sure there was something meaningful there.
However, all of this becomes problematic once the episode’s final twist comes into play and emphasizes the lack of context put in to make everything work. So, I can’t really find a way to directly discuss my issues with the twist without saying, so if you want to see my thoughts with SPOILERS continue to read at your own risk.
Having the meteors not actually affect the men at all and having it be, what I assume is, their repressed aggression that causes them to go crazy really doesn’t make much sense. All this did was make me ask more questions that don’t bring any logical answers. Why are the men so obsessed with the stones if it doesn’t do anything? Why would all the men, all of sudden, have this desire to be more aggressive if they had never acted this before? Why do their eyes become completely bloodshot and their veins cover their faces? If it isn’t the meteor that makes the men specifically act aggressive, why wouldn’t some of the women possibly become aggressive?
Now, that last question I can kind of understand because of the female perspective the episode has, which is fine, but it’s hard to believe that only men, for no reason, would just act out aggressively. Watching it sort of set a tone for me, especially with the clear sexual assault themes, that it only says that men can be aggressors and that they are the only ones with inner aggression. It makes the episode’s perspective feel biased and it completely ruins the idea of choosing to be better because its tough to say that anyone really chose to act that way because we don’t get know any of them.
What could’ve made the concept, themes, and perspective work is if the rocks actually did influence the men and instead the focus was on the men learning about this internal aggression. It could’ve not only still influenced the episode’s desire to talk about choice and could’ve also brought in themes about healthy masculinity. Instead, the episode is constantly shoving its messages in its viewers faces and highlights The Twilight Zone’s problem with its social themes as there’s an incredible lack of subtlety. It’s something that definitely needs to be fixed for future episodes and season because it can really ruin the how viewers can take message and it leaves little to think about.
Hopefully, the rest of the season can either touch on their social themes better than Not All Men or just dump them entirely. Honestly, I’d rather have an episode that’s entertaining and thought-provoking than an episode that’s forcing a social theme down its viewers’ throats and having its story completely fall apart because of it.