So we are nine days in, and I am going to have to cheat a bit (I did warn this could happen). I thought about different shows and episodes that made me think of Halloween or horror, and this episode of The Twilight Zone sprang to mind. This is one of my all-time favorite episodes in the series, and it taps into some of our societal ills (as did many others).
The episode shows the quaint “white picket fence” neighborhood that is supposed to be perfect America. Everyone is doing their thing when they hear a loud sound and see something odd pass overhead. Following this, nothing in the neighborhood works. A young boy shares his fears over space invaders, and everyone starts to get unsettled. As they start to acknowledge their paranoia is silly, the boy is sharing comic book stories, one car starts to work—the other members of the street turn on that person, and this cycle repeats. Eventually, the entire street turns on each other, and we get The Twilight Zone twist. In fact, there were aliens; however, they don’t engage in direct conflict, and instead, allow people to destroy each other.
This episode is excellently paced and has decent suspense. Most people will work out fairly early on the likely outcome, but the way we get to that destination is well done and compelling. They set up the adults already being unsettled by the time the boy introduces the idea of something scarier happening. The adults initially push back, but their own insecurities and paranoia override their common sense. The build happens just slowly enough to bring suspense but also works well in the confines. The third act, so to speak, is also shockingly angry and violent for the times.
The idea of the alien representing “the other” coming in and tearing apart communities is a well-known one in horror and/or sci-fi. What I love about this episode is that it takes that and says, “there was no other, the fear of the other is what did this.” The aliens never enter the community or do much more than playing with the lights. It is not the other we need to fear but our own paranoia, prejudices, and the uniquely horrible parts of humanity.
It is a well-done episode purely from an entertainment standpoint. Good pacing, solid suspense, decent acting, the ending is powerful, and it brings some fear. It is also a good episode in its message. The Twilight Zone can be a little heavy-handed for modern audiences, but you know what… maybe sometimes we need to be smacked upside the head with these messages?