The Twilight Zone: The Blue Scorpion Review
Thankfully, The Twilight Zone pulls itself out of its predictable habits and general lack of intrigue with its newest episode, The Blue Scorpion, by being a simple, yet effective thrill-ride that’s fun to watch.
The episode follows Jeff (Chris O’Dowd), an anthropology professor whose father commits suicide with a mysterious gun with a blue scorpion on its handle. While Jeff isn’t sure where the gun came from, it has some strange presence that’s almost supernatural. Upon finding it, Jeff suddenly begins to notice subtle changes in his life and his obsession grows with gun itself and the bullet that literally has his name on it. Now, Jeff must figure out what the presence of the blue scorpion means for him before he ends up like his father.
Now, I will say that I was a little worried within the first few moments of the episode as there’s some shaky moments that somewhat breaks some logic that’s set up. Some of the dialogue of the detective is strange as he’s incredibly unsympathetic towards Jeff after his father commits suicide. I even question the fact that the police would give him the gun he committed suicide with as that seems quite strange to me that that would ever happen.
However, these are really the only gripes I have with The Blue Scorpion as it’s pretty much perfectly executed throughout. The gun actually feels as if it has a presence in the world and it’s interesting to see how it’s grip on Jeff grows stronger. Ironically, the gun doesn’t even have to be fired for it to leave an eerie presence on viewers as it’s need to be kept out of the dark and the way that other people describe it is more than enough to have it leave a creepy impression on you. Even the blue scorpion on the handle is both odd and intriguing and even having Jeff’s name on the bullet he finds with the gun keeps you guessing as to what his fate will be.
O’Dowd also sells Jeff’s growing obsession and paranoia with the gun perfectly and he brings one of the best performances of the season. There’re a lot of great scenes of him marveling over the gun, constantly needing to keep it on his person, and almost treating like it’s his pet when he places a small flashlight next to it every time so that it’s not afraid of the dark. You can even feel the tension and paranoia that Jeff is going through because of O’Dowd’s performance and every time he runs into a new person also named Jeff, it’s almost natural to feel a small chill down your spine. With this growing obsession, though, you can also feel a sense of fear that comes from O’Dowd’s performance of Jeff being scared of what might happen to him. The episode honestly wouldn’t be the same without him and you can tell he’s fully committed throughout the entire episode.
Honestly, everything in The Blue Scorpion is better executed, more satisfying and surprising, and more thought out than anything The Twilight Zone has offered so far. The music and score build up the tension excellently and allow O’Dowd to sell Jeff’s growing obsession without him having to say anything. The direction from Craig William Macneill is strong and the set design and lighting of Jeff’s father’s house is tight, creepy, and effective in creating an intimidating presence. He utilizes the camera well in creating suspense and there’s great scenes where he uses the details in the story to create tense scenes. For instance, one of my favorite scenes is with Jeff talking to his ex-wife (Amy Landecker) and her divorce lawyer, also named Jeff, and he’s pulling something out of his backpack and all we see is the flashlight. It perfectly shows his obsession with the blue scorpion and my gut dropped just a little bit in wondering what he was going to pull out.
Even the writing from Glen Morgan is strong, much stronger than in episodes like A Traveler and Six Degrees of Freedom, and he turns a relatively simple premise into an enticing story filled with uncertainty for Jeff’s fate and dialogue that’s always building to a surprising finale. Even the way small hints are dropped throughout the episode is much better than anything the series has offered thus far and the combined talents of Morgan and Macneill create an atmosphere and story that I wish was present throughout most of the series.
The Blue Scorpion also doesn’t fall into the same trap as the previous episodes as it has a satisfying end, without it needing an over-the-top plot twist, and shoving messages down viewers’ throats. There’s actually a subtle commentary on anthropomorphism, the act of people attributing human traits, emotions, and intentions to non-human entities or inanimate object. Because of its subtle delivery, mostly in one conversation that Jeff has with a student, it left me with something to think about and the importance we place on certain object in our lives. Even the episode’s conclusion left me feeling the most satisfied I’ve felt thus far as it isn’t just some contrived plot twist that changes any of my feelings or the tone of the episode. Rather, the ending is just like story presented: simple and effective. There’s also, perhaps, a small message about gun control that’s snuck into Peele’s closing monologue that could explain why having a gun be the central object is so important.
The Blue Scorpion shows exactly what the series should’ve been focusing on all along: strong and simple narratives, building suspense through great camera work and well-placed details, and messages that are subtle and make viewers interpret themselves. All of this is strongly featured here, and O’Dowd’s great performance is truly the cherry on top. If next week’s season finale, Blurryman, can capture everything that’s brought here, we’re truly in for a treat.