CBS’s The Twilight Zone
Season 1, Episode 10: “Blurryman”
Directed by Simon Kinberg
Written by Alex Rubens
* For a recap & review of the previous episode, “The Blue Scorpion” – click here
* For a recap & review of the Season 2 premiere, “Meet in the Middle” – click here
Adam Wegman (Seth Rogen) sits at his computer, calling himself a “bad writer.” He rants at himself, disappointed by his seeming lack of talent. He looks over his notes, tearing one marked MUSHROOM CLOUD off his wall. Something hits him. He sits back at the computer typing. When his significant other (Betty Gabriel) gets home, he tells her all about the story. When he looks outside, wanting to go celebrate, he sees nothing but devastation. “It was just a story,” he tells her.
Our Narrator (Jordan Peele) explains the writer’s about to realise there’s “more to art than entertainment” and that “social responsibility” sometimes comes into play. But Peele stops, calling cut. Rogen and Gabriel come out of character, chatting with the producer. A writer called Sophie (Zazie Beetz) shows up to chat with Mr. Peele. They talk about the “art v. entertainment” discussion. They talk about The Twilight Zone‘s purpose. Sophie thinks Rod Serling helped elevate “campfire stories” into something bigger. She considers his role as Narrator part of the elevation— Serling would physically show up in the episodes to tell us there are bigger themes underneath it all.
Peele has Sophie go back to rewrite the narration for this episode, so it isn’t too heavy handed. She struggles to come up with the opening. She’s interrupted when Anna (Caitlin Stryker) video calls. Clearly they don’t talk much because of her high stress job. She has to cut the call very short because someone is ALWAYS asking for SOMETHING from her.
Back on set, the Narrator weaves us into the Twilight Zone. Except he’s talking about Sophie, as if she’s the episode’s subject. He laughs when the take’s done. Everybody chuckles a bit and Rogen thinks it’d be a “better episode.” The problem being, Sophie’s got no clue what the hell’s happening, either.
Sophie tries to tell her boss she didn’t write those cue cards. Peele figures it was just a foolish prank. She tries to go about her day, getting flack from Amy (Camille Hollett-French). Then Amy mentions someone in the background of a shot— a “blurry man.” It was referenced in the cue cards, so, naturally, she assumes it was Sophie.
The writer goes to Julie (Zibby Allen) in the editing room. She’s shown the blurry man in one of the shots. Even Julie believes it was her who did it. Blurry man turns up in shots all the way back to the very first episode, “The Comedian.” It’s troubling Sophie, seeing as how she knows she’s not responsible.
On set that night, Sophie’s by herself. She wanders in the dark, feeling like she’s being stalked. She’s looking for Jordan. She can’t find him anywhere, only hearing noises in the shadows. She talks to Anna over the phone for comfort and gets a lecture about overworking herself. Their connection starts to break down. In the distance, a darkened figure appears.
Sophie’s on the run from the blurry man. He’s able to do eerie things using telekinesis. This keeps her fleeing until she tumbles out onto the street set. She sees a bunch of TV screens in a nearby shop, all full of static. She wonders if the blurry man’s trying to communicate. She sees stills from the previous episodes, all the times the blurry man showed up. After that, a scene of her in the library as the blurry man approaches.
And the screens go blank.
The blurry man’s waiting on the street for her. Sophie’s sure Jordan is behind it all, trying to prove a point to her after what she said about “genre stuff” being bullshit and the commentary in the art being what matters.
“This isn’t some fucking sketch.
It’s peoples lives!”
The blurry man disappears. Sophie stumbles around the set talking to herself, questioning reality. Her inner voice tries to tell her what she’s experiencing is, indeed, real. She continues to deny it. Sophie’s sure she’s having a mental breakdown.
She makes it back to the library, where the blurry man walks towards her slowly. He sends books flying out of the shelves at her until she runs for cover. She looks for a way out. She comes back to the set where Seth and others are, but they don’t even acknowledge she’s there, nor do they look fazed by the blurry man moving among them. Sophie keeps running through the studio. Nobody sees or hears her. Sophie’s inner voice tells her: “You can‘t run from this.” She urges herself to see “what‘s really there.”
When Sophie takes a good, hard look at the blurry man, she confronts a memory from her past. On the television, the original Twilight Zone was playing— “Time Enough at Last” starring Burgess Meredith, one of the greatest episodes! Little Sophie’s parents were arguing over what she was watching. Dad thought it was a waste of time.
This memory’s holding Sophie back. She goes back to Jordan with the new narration she wrote, which her boss digs. She’s returned her world right side up. Now, the show can go on, and the scene rolls once again.
But it’s not over. Not yet.
The world drains of colour. It’s black and white. Sophie finds her way to the same steps where Burgess Meredith’s glasses rest cracked on the way up to the library. She goes inside, lamenting the “cruel twist” and “ironic fate” in the “Time Enough at Last” episode, similar to her own circumstances in that she’s incapable of escape. From out of the dark comes the blurry man, revealing himself as none other than Rod Serling (a composite of CGI using actors’ Jefferson Black’s body and Ryan Hesp’s face).
Serling explains how putting away “childish things” doesn’t always equate to intelligence / maturity, it often signals the destruction of our imagination and our grasp for the unimaginable (take that, Bill Maher, you dickhole). This is where the Twilight Zone exists, within the grey areas of life, death, science, truth, and so much more.
“… we may be closing our eyes
instead of opening them
and perhaps our only hope is to face all reality…”
Others feel differently. Father Gore LOVES this series! And what a fitting way to end this season than to bring Serling back figuratively from the dead? Bring on Season 2. For those who do love it too, it’ll be exciting to see more.