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'The Twilight Zone' review: Season 2 a decent reboot, but way too timid

Billy Porter  in "The Who of You,"

Billy Porter  in "The Who of You," an episode of Season 2 of "The Twilight Zone." Credit: CBS/Dean Buscher

SERIES "The Twilight Zone" (season 2)

WHEN|WHERE Streaming on CBS All Access.

WHAT IT'S ABOUT CBS All Access offered for review the first three episodes of the 10 that will drop Thursday. They are: "Meet in the Middle," about miserable bachelor Phil (Jimmi Simpson) who finally meets the love of his life, Annie (Gillian Jacobs) but the catch is that she's a voice in his head, or she is at first anyway; "The Who of You," about a failed actor (Ethan Embry, "Grace and Frankie") with a very special talent that he uses toward felonious ends, and the cop (Daniel Sunjata, "Rescue Me") who finally corners him (Emmy winner Billy Porter also guest-stars as a tarot-card-reader-hustler); and "You Might Also Like," about housewife Mrs. Warren (Gretchen Mol) who, like her next-door neighbor (Greta Lee, "Russian Doll"), is really excited to be getting her "Egg," a mysterious product that's supposed to make her wildest dreams come true — then decides she might not want it after all. 

This is the second season of the reboot from Jordan Peele, who still narrates. 

MY SAY Living through a real-life extended "Twilight Zone" episode kinda makes watching this rebooted version almost quaint, or (worse) redundant. What better than a pandemic to betoken the pit of our fears, the summit of our limited knowledge? Maybe the threat of nuclear armageddon, which betokened the pit of Rod Serling's? 

Hardly quaint or entirely redundant, these three are at least good, and the third — written and directed by Oz Perkins — easily the best. But something's still missing and that was the bane of the first season too: Neither sharp-edged nor jagged, they don't stay with you, or haunt you, or vex you in some hard-to-define way, like the best of Serling. These three are clever as opposed to chilling, or they evoke something else — Spike Jonze's "Her," for example, in "Meet in the Middle." 

Moreover, you never get the sense from these three that Jordan is a disturbed guy, or someone trying to work through personal demons the way Serling was. Personal, specific, authorial, the original "Zone" (1959-64) shimmered with an aura of paranoia. We always knew what kept Serling up at night. From these, we have no clue what keeps up Peele. You certainly don't sense that he's about to reveal what that might be either. 

A shame and lost opportunity, too, because the best of Peele absolutely is Serlingesque, notably "Get Out" and a number of "Key & Peele" sketches, like 2015's "Negrotown" (yes, the real name and once seen never forgotten). In fact, that sketch — about a man beaten by police who ends up on a magical mystery tour through an enchanted place where black people enjoy perfect justice — would make a first-rate "Zone" episode. One of the most memorable episodes from last season was about a racist state trooper who hassled (over and over and over, throughout time) a mother and her college-bound son. Why it was memorable and powerful hardly needs to be spelled out right about now.

But this reboot isn't just Peele's. There are many cooks, authors, and showrunners — including Simon Kinberg (the "X-Men" franchise) and Glen Morgan ("The X-Files"). Like Peele, they are all talented, but maybe just a little too complacent. The world is on fire. "Twilight Zone," of all franchises, should reflect back the flames. 

 BOTTOM LINE Still a decent reboot, still far too timid. 

 

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