Last week the Twilight Zone reboot got its first extraterrestrial story. A mysterious traveler (Steven Yeun) perplexes a small Alaskan State Trooper outpost before revealing he’s a scout for an invading alien force. This week the threats are much closer to home as Jacob Tremblay stars alongside John Cho as a young president candidate and his campaign manager, respectively. The great cinematography that’s been present throughout the rebooted series continues this week as The Twilight Zone reboot gives political satire a try.
If you missed last week’s episode, or just need a refresher, check out our recap for that here.
In this episode, John Cho plays Raff Hanks, a beleaguered campaign manager who tries to redeem himself by getting an 11-year-old elected President. The episode opens on Hanks in a strange futuristic hospital. He can only see the light above him as a voice begins asking him questions before we’re thrown back five years earlier. Raff is celebrating his candidate’s alleged victory alongside his partner. However, they soon learn their man didn’t win and Raff is cast off.
A year or two later, Raff is drinking in a bar alone when a video from Oliver Foley plays on the news. The 11-year-old is announcing that he’s running for President and Raff sees this as his back to the top so, he decides to meet the boy. After having dinner with Oliver and his family, Raff is convinced his plan will work and persuades Oliver’s parents to allow it to happen. He then has the child immediately record a video stating his promises to the American people. It blows up and Oliver seems like he’s gaining some real momentum.
At a campaign stop a few weeks later, Raff’s old managing partner shows up and apologizes for shutting him out. The two reconcile and Raff brings her on board Oliver’s team. As debates close in though it’s clear that Oliver isn’t ready but Raff reassures him. As expected, the first debate goes horrifically for Oliver as he knows next to nothing about foreign policy and taxes. He’s embarrassed and his mother ultimately comes to carry him off stage.
Disgraced, Raff returns to the bar he was at before, content to drink his life away. However, his partner shows up after visiting the Foleys and Raff comes up with a way to save Oliver’s campaign. By using sympathy for Oliver’s dying dog, they regain the edge and win the first caucus. That momentum continues and Oliver ends up winning the whole election. On his first day in office though he begins demanding people do as he says and it becomes clear that this was a bad choice.
As time goes by, Oliver only becomes worse. He forces loyalty on staff and treats everyone like trash. Raff’s worried he made the wrong choice and begins questioning those around him for a consensus. He doesn’t find it though and is blamed for treason instead. Those whispers make their way up the flag pole and Oliver confronts him about it in the White House’s putting room. Raff tries to reason with the boy, stating his worry but the President isn’t having any of it. When Raff refuses to agree with Oliver over one of his ‘putts’ (he dumps an entire basket of balls on the green and calls it a hole-in-one) he has his advisor shot by secret service. Raff wakes up in the hospital we saw in before. The episode ends as he screams while a child operates on him due to one of Oliver’s laws.
Ultimately, the episode wasn’t bad. I do think the metaphor is a little too on the nose and way too heavy-handed in the end. It’s obvious what the episode is alluding to throughout but, I think there wasn’t enough substance other than “Oh look a child running the country looks oddly familiar.” Don’t get me wrong, I’m all in on a good political satire, especially with the current administration in the crosshairs. But the best satire is smart satire. And, for me, there are too many hoops to jump through, without any real criticism for this episode to have a lasting impact.
The Twilight Zone is available exclusively on CBS All-Access.