Well, I stand corrected: the social commentary can work. The Twilight Zone has decided to run with that approach now in two episodes and this one was only slightly less in-you-face than Replay yet I appreciated the message. I can also accept it with the former episode, too. In some ways, the former was making a social commentary, while this one goes political. If I’m honest, both work, though I was reluctant to accept it initially. In this case, it takes the classic It’s a Good Life, where a young boy has otherworldly powers, and makes it a bit more real. By putting the child in the role of President of the United States, he basically has that power. His wishes become reality. He can base all of his decisions on a whim and no one will contradict him because he has ultimate power.
Now, that’s not to say its actually believable. I’d go so far as to say it’s intrinsically flawed from the start. To run for President, the incumbent cannot be younger than 35 so making a 10-year-old the President is impossible. But even if, through some fluke, such a thing happened, people do not follow blindly. Well… actually… ha! Allow me a chance to rephrase that: a decorated war general is not going to blindly follow the whim of a 10 year old kid. It implies a level of stupidity that is so off-the-charts, that America would have been destroyed by invaders walking in backwards and saying they were leaving. (I hope I don’t give any would-be invaders any ideas!)
Now, once again, ignoring logic, the episode is disquieting. IF such a thing happened, the general public would be swallowed like Earth when Galactus shows up. We’d be victims of whatever the petulant child in power decides. This is a frightening notion… until you turn on CNN and realize we’re already there. But that brings up a bigger item within the fiction of the series: the news. I noticed it early on, but did not take enough time to recall where it was. The fact is, I saw “Whipple” on one of the first episodes and it tickled my memory because I vaguely recalled a title from Classic Zone, The Brain Center at Whipples. I don’t recall the episode beyond the title, but now Whipple is the news center and (small spoiler, as I’m a week ahead), next week it will feature even more prominently. So what is going on? Is this Twilight Zone taking place in a universe that connects each story? (It will be more cohesive than Doctor Who, at any rate!)
John Cho (Sulu from the rebooted Star Trek movies) plays Raff Hanks, the titular Wunderkind who helps Oliver Foley (Jacob Tremblay) come to power. I like Cho in most things he’s in, but had a hard time warming to him in this. Part of that is watching him drink to oblivion because he failed the current president, only to realize he has an idea, and runs out of the bar (presumably sober enough to drive) because the idea kicked out any of the effects of the alcohol. Hell of an idea, huh? Tremblay is great as the petulant child President but utterly loathsome as a person; which is how we should feel about him. He doesn’t get it, and cries when he doesn’t get his way. One area that hurt the episode for me was John Larroquette, playing the outgoing President. His portrayal was the first time I felt The Twilight Zone was run by the same ignoramuses at CBS as Star Trek: Discovery. See, CBS All Access clearly thinks that “hey, we’re R rated, so we can do things network TV can’t” translates into “let’s throw out as many F bombs as a season of The Sopranos simply because we can!” Larroquette unleashes a string of expletives that would make Tony Soprano blush and, yeah, he’s angry, but he should have been the contrast to the new President, not painted as foolishly as his successor. Let the viewing audience really see how bad things get! But as the President in Star Trek VI says, “just because we can do a thing, does not mean we should do a thing!” Apt, considering the source. Just because you can unleash a string of expletives, does not mean it does anything for the episode. Well, short of bring it down.
Frankly, no one in this episode was likable and when Cho sees the full extent of the horror of his Frankenstein-ian creation, it’s with a sense of relief for the audience that we have purged the gene pool of such a blind fool as Raff Hanks. Yes, the allegory was fun and I did get a kick out of it, realizing that this is doing the same thing as classic Trek: showing us the mistakes of our past and present through allegory but I still am not sure I need ideas bashed over my head with such blunt force. At least I can say Jordan Peele is still knocking it out of the park as the Narrator. Well, I’m ready to go deeper into the Zone… ML