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 creepy social commentary on society’s worst flaws. In keeping with Peele’s other works, The Twilight Zone manages to reflect not only on spine-tingling scenarios of unreality but also on cultural challenges faced by people of color in America today.
Directed by Gerard McMurray (The First Purge) and written by producer and writer Selwyn Seyfu Hinds, episode three, “Replay,” plays a rough game with temporality and raises the question of whether or not one’s path is predestined. Throughout the episode, traumatic and triumphant events of the past are superimposed onto the present in order to show the effects of racism then and now on the future of young men and women of color.
Episode three follows a determined African American mother, Nina, (played by Sana Lathan) on a road trip with her son Dorian (played by Damson Idris) that will end when she drops him off to his first semester at Tennyson College near the county where she grew up. Nina carries an old Whipple brand camcorder and records her son during lunch at a roadside diner to mark the occasion. When Nina learns that the camcorder can rewind time she attempts to use the now-outdated tech to avoid a racist police officer who means to do her son harm. Despite her best and most creative efforts and no matter how many times she rewinds Nina is unable to prevent the unwarranted attack.
Throughout the episode parallels are drawn between the complexities of life for brown and black people today and the struggles they faced in America’s conflicted past. As Nina, Dorian, and uncle Neil (played by Steve Harris) make their way to Tennyson there are allusions to “the talk” that African American parents give their children about dealing with the police as well as the Underground Railroad and the ability to traverse the city in spaces in between or hidden from gentrified sections of the community.
As Nina describes the violence that drove her from her home it is clear that only by confronting the past will she be able to deliver her son safely to college and ensure his future and maybe even the future of all young black men and women. Signature skewed perspectives and auditory elements are used throughout the episode to enhance the most cringe-worthy interactions between Nina and the cop and to convey the fear she feels each time the officer comes closer to harming her son. The episode almost ends with the uplifting message that through struggle and perseverance racism doesn’t have to be America’s destiny . . .until one unapologetic child joins the fray. Stay tuned until the very last moments of the episode for a brilliant . . . but maybe expected twist ending.