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Twilight Zone: "Nightmare at 30,000 Feet" S1.E2 [Review]

The science fiction anthology The Twilight Zone has returned to television, technically CBS All Access' streaming service. Originally aired in 1959, The Twilight Zone has been revived twice, and this is the third attempt to recreate the magic of the original series. We'll be reviewing the first season.

"Nightmare at 20,000 Feet" is one of the Twilight Zone's most iconic stories. The original in 1963 and the remake in 1983's Twilight Zone: The Movie both centered on the premise of a nervous man on an airplane who sees a creature (gremlin) tearing apart the engine. He tries to warn everyone, but no one believes him, and think he's going insane. Now the new series remakes it yet again.

Right off the bat, we'll say the biggest change is that there's no gremlin on the wing in this version. Instead, the episode has updated to a more technological and modern fear: a true crime podcast.

In "Nightmare at 30,000 Feet," a journalist Julian Anderson (Adam Scott) boards a flight to Israel and finds an MP3 player tucked into the back of the seat in front of him. When he turns it on, Anderson discovers the player has a recorded podcast about the mystery of a disastrous flight...his own. As his curiosity turns to horror, Anderson realizes the podcast comes from the future, describing everything about his flight, including himself, the passengers, and its strange disappearance at exactly 11:15 PM. As Anderson tries to figure out what causes the disappearance and stop it, his panic pits him against the other passengers and flight crew.

The idea of trying to change the future has been done before, but there's a nice sense of claustrophobia and mystery to the episode. There are also some minorities on the plane including Russians and Sikh that tie into the modern fears of terrorism and security, leading to a brief but clever moment where an attempt to stop the disaster seems like xenophobia against Muslims. I'm glad it didn't go that route too far, though.

It's not perfect. The characters aren't as well-developed as they could be. For instance, there really isn't another notable character other than Anderson and a jaded pilot he allies with. I also missed the creepy horror of the gremlins. Still, the podcast makes a nice substitute and delves into technology that I hope the series leans into more. The ending also has a good twist, although it was kind of telegraphed.

All in all, "Nightmare" was a great improvement over the pilot episode.
What did you think of the series? Have you seen it? Let us know in the comments below!

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