The highly anticipated new season of The Twilight Zone (2019) presented by Jordan Peele continues in the wake of the success of his recent film Us (2019) – a representation of society’s worst flaws, and its predecessor Get Out (2017).
Directed by Greg Yaitanes (Lost and Heroes) and written by Simon Kinberg (X-Men, The Martian), Jordan Peele, and Marco Ramirez (The Defenders) episode two, “Nightmare at 30,000 Feet,” is a take on one of the most popular original The Twilight Zone episodes – Nightmare at 20,000 Feet (1963), based on a short story by Richard Matheson.
The episode follows a young journalist who waits to board flight 1015 from D.C. to Tel-Aviv after a televised debate on civility in the press. Like his predecessor in the 1963 episode, Justin Sanderson (played by Adam Scott) is emotionally distraught − in this case caused by job stress. After trading seats with another passenger the surreal invades when Justin finds a Whipple brand Mp3 player in his seat-back with a single, impossible podcast that predicts events as they occur in the present. Justin becomes more agitated and decidedly uncivil as each event occurs just like the podcast says and a mysterious fate unfolds for the passengers and crew of Flight 1015.
Throughout the episode Kinberg, Peele, and Ramirez turn the stereotypical on its head and point a finger at American flight culture as white, male Justin walks around the plan and challenges passengers of diverse ethnic and cultural backgrounds. He invades the personal space of others and makes them feel unsafe, slowly turning the rest of the passengers and crew against him with increasingly erratic, agitated behavior.
Like the original 20,000 Feet anxiety, stress, and fear are conveyed with crowded public spaces, close-ups, and skewed visual perspectives that turn people into villains and Justin’s surroundings into a tech-enhanced tomb. Mirroring some of the plot of the 1963 episode, the enigmatic twist of the episode is twofold. Though Justin is clearly suspicious of others he turns out to be the threatening and uncivilized stranger on flight 1015. While I don’t intend to reveal the rest of the twist ending I will say that it’s never, ever, EVER advisable to ignore the Temporal Prime Directive, even when listening to creepy, unexplainable podcasts. JUSTIN, I’m looking at you.