Sunday, April 05, 2020

The Twilight Zone (2019) -- Season 1 Episode 1 (The Comedian)

I remember seeing the coming attractions for the new Twilight Zone series.  I was excited until I realized that it was going to be on CBS All Access.  Granted, I also wanted to watch Star Trek: Picard, but it still wasn’t enough to get me to pay.  I don’t have a lot of money to spare.  Since the outbreak of Coronavirus, it looks like I have a free month to watch the first season.

Samir Wassan is the titular comedian.  He has an act about The Second Amendment that comes off more like a lecture than a comedy routine.  He gets no laughs.  That’s when he’s approached by a famous comedian, J.C. Wheeler.  J.C. hasn’t been seen for a while, but is apparently good enough that Samir asks for any pointers.

J.C. tells him that he has to put himself out there and he’ll get the laughs he wants.  But it comes with a catch.  He can never get that part of him back.  That might seem like an innocuous warning, but this is The Twilight Zone.  Nothing comes for free.

It starts simply.  Samir makes fun of Rena’s dog, aptly named Cat.  When he returns home to his girlfriend, Rena, she doesn’t recall ever having a dog.  All pictures of Cat are gone from Samir’s phone.  No one recalls Cat.

Therein lies the rub.  If he mentions a person’s name, that person disappears, but Samir delivers a popular routine.  Samir runs up against two further conditions.  First, he has to use the person’s actual name.  Sort of getting it right only to realize it might be an alias doesn’t work.  Second, he can’t use the same person twice.  He has to make a new person disappear each time he’s on stage.

At first, this seems great.  He can get rid of people he doesn’t like.  Fellow comedian Joe Donner hit a mother and child sitting at a bus bench.  When Samir makes Joe go away, the bus bench is restored and the mother and child are presumably still alive.

He goes through a list of people who wronged him, from bullies to a pervy school coach.  Eventually, he starts towards the petty.  He gets rid of Rena’s mentor.  She goes from being a lawyer to being a waitress.  He also makes her nephew disappear.  Not only does Rena not remember the nephew, but her sister is unable to have children.

Samir has an ethical debate.  He’s using people for his own advantage.  They did exist.  He remembers them.  But he’s the only one.  As J.C. points out, there’s no grieving mother.  No one really cares except for Samir.  When Rena finally calls him on it, there’s only one thing for Samir to do.

It might seem that this is exclusively about the Law of Unintended Consequences.  However, not each action has a downside that’s readily apparent.  Samir did save two people, which has to count for something.  Of course, just because we’re not aware of it doesn’t mean it didn’t happen.  We don’t know if Joe had kids or was helping people on the side.

It’s more about responsibility.  Samir points out that The Second Amendment states “well-regulated”, implying that not all restrictions are off limits.  The key here, though, is regulating yourself.  Samir doesn’t ever really try to hold back.  He’s aware of what he’s doing, but he does it anyway.  Sure, some good did come of it.  It’s not until the end that Samir realizes how much harm he’s caused, even if no one else knows it.  This is a solid entry for the new series.


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