THE TWILIGHT ZONE Review: “Point Of Origin”

I’m afraid only super smart people will be able to follow the metaphor here.

That subheader is a joke. This episode has all the subtleties of a Muse song. Sometimes such blatant allegories can be fun, and I also think there is usefulness in it as well. If you’re, you know, trying to make the world a better place with your fiction, it’s probably better to err on the side of being properly understood. This episode’s purpose won’t be lost on anyone. Actually sitting through it offers the only hard part.

Ginnifer Goodwin stars as Eve, the matriarch of a family perhaps too coded to represent white affluence. She seems to exist in a world so thoroughly geared toward ‘50s idealism that the site of modern cars and iPhones produce a bit of whiplash. As this suggested anachronism continues even when the episode dips into its sci-fi elements, it would appear this is all by design, telling us things haven’t changed in this country as much as we’d like to think. I get it! I also get the frequent appearances of Woody Guthrie’s “This Land is Your Land” sprinkled throughout.

Before long, Eve’s coddled life is shattered when her family gets arrested and held prisoner in a holding facility for immigrants. Eventually Eve’s family gets to go home but she remains locked up for a crime no one will explain.

I don’t know how sensitive folks are to Twilight Zone spoilers, but if you’d like to keep the episode’s central conceit secret, I recommend you stop reading now. While America has been committing deportation atrocities against those not born on our shores (or however your uncle’s bumper sticker would like to put it), there is a whole separate issue involving beings from another, somewhat worse, dimension who have made a home in ours. Eve doesn’t know it, but she is one of these “pilgrims”. Now that she’s been captured, she is subject to imprisonment and torturous interrogations from shady government operative James Frain, who wants to unlock her hidden memories of a past home of grey, as opposed to our blue, skies.

That premise is essentially the entire episode. Maybe that’s all an episode of The Twilight Zone needs to go for, but it’s also part of why I don’t often gravitate toward these anthology shows. “Point of Origin” sets up a “what if” that offers a sci-fi parallel to real-life horror happening right now as we speak, ideally in order to illustrate those horrors from an entertainment-based perspective and change bigoted minds as a result. It doesn’t, however, offer much beyond what you’d get just reading a synopsis for it. The performances are fine, the writing and cinematography are perfectly serviceable. About the only special element at play is the weird mask they put on Goodwin while she’s being interrogated. Because the episode never extends beyond the simple metaphor at its core, it also never gives us a reason to be taken in by the story. Once you say “Oh, I get it”, you got it.

Scott wrote a great article at the eve of this Twilight Zone reboot about how these things work particularly well for children, an audience the reboot seemly eschews by utilizing swear words in a play for grownup edginess. I am inclined to agree. “Point of Origin” particularly provides a clean episode from that perspective only to drop an unnecessary “motherfucker” in there near the end. I don’t know how many children will miss out on the episode due to language, to be honest. I also don’t know how many children are even going to come across a show streaming exclusively on CBS All Access. So maybe the whole point is moot. Nevertheless, that does seem to be a weird blowing-off of the ideal audience for what The Twilight Zone has to offer. As for me, I need something with more meat on its bones or at least an interesting angle or aesthetic to hook me in.