Sunday, April 21, 2019

REVIEW: 'The Twilight Zone' - A Mysterious Stranger Creates Chaos in a Small Alaskan Town in 'A Traveler'

CBS All Access' The Twilight Zone - Episode 1.04 "A Traveler"

On Christmas Eve in Iglaak, Alaska, a mysterious traveler wishes to be pardoned by Captain Lane Pendleton.

In 2018, there were 495 scripted shows airing amongst the linear channels and streaming services. The way people are consuming content now is so different than it used to be. It happens according to one's own schedule. As such, there is less necessity to provide ample coverage of each specific episode in any given season from a show. Moreover, it is simply impossible to watch everything. As such, this site is making the move to shorter episodic reviews in order to cover as many shows as possible. With all of that being said, here are my thoughts on the next episode of CBS All Access' The Twilight Zone.

"A Traveler" was written by Glen Morgan and directed by Ana Lily Amirpour

This episode amplifies small town eeriness and its global repercussions. It highlights just how susceptible and important these communities can be. They may be living precariously close to off-the-grid with the lack of technology and power available common in big cities. And yet, they're good-natured sensibilities can be taken advantage of because it's hard to discern what's the truth. That is common for a wide swath of humanity especially in the modern era. This episode plays towards the complicated times we are living in and how easy it is to live in one's own bubble and refuse to accept anything outside that as fact. The community of Iglaak, Alaska is very unified with its small town charms. But it doesn't have a complete uniformity of opinions. Sure, the majority rally around Captain Lane Pendleton and his Christmas traditions. They see it as the simplest expression of joy and compassion. He embodies the spirit of what this holiday is about. He is proud to show how he is welcoming of the stranger. Of course, that may make him terribly naive as well. It's easy to play to his ego. And yet, he is the man in charge of this precinct. He delivers this unifying message of hope without really questioning any of the long-simmering tension just underneath the surface of this community. His sergeant, Yuka, is the one who understands how this world has been invaded by people with Pendleton's mentality without really being accepting of the native population. She is working within the system in the hopes that her influence can lead to some good being done. She is inherently more skeptical and less trusting of what people initially say to her. And yet, she too is susceptible to persuasion if the right thing is being said. That's the fundamental story here. It's a much more sly narrative than some of the other plots of the season. Sure, it's all building to an alien invasion because the misdirection leads to complete turmoil in the city. But it's also fascinating to see how all of this takes place. Yuka is unnerved by the sudden appearance of Steven Yeun's traveler in the jail cell. He claims to be a huge fan of the tradition Pendleton has in this town of pardoning one citizen on Christmas Eve. Pendleton makes a huge show out of it. It's him embodying the christian spirit. However, the traveler is doing everything just to blend into this environment and gain the trust of everyone he meets. The town is accepting until he points out the many ways that they should be angry and upset with each other. He promises to give Yuka what she has always wanted. That may be the opportunity to lead this community and do better as captain than Pendleton has. That's the appeal made to her. It makes her question her own judgment because she doesn't know if the stories the traveler is spinning are real or if her motivations are biased. She feels the urge to stop Pendleton from going to the classified site that protects the power grid which controls the nearby military base. But they too are trapped in this cycle of turning against each other instead of identifying the common threat from the traveler and his people. That's how easy it is for a pervasive idea to take over without anyone suspecting it. That's absolutely chilling. There are people - or aliens - out there who understand so much from basic observation of human behavior to know the best way of attack in order to advance their agenda. Being aware of the problem may not be enough to stop the inevitable outcome either - as Yuka and Pendleton discover here.