CBS’s The Twilight Zone
2×07: “A Human Face”
Directed by Christina Choe
Written by Alex Rubens
* For a recap & review of 2×06, “8” – click here
* For a recap & review of 2×08, “A Small Town” – click here
A cosmic flare’s passing by, or through, the Earth. No danger, so THEY say.
At home, Robert (Christopher Meloni) is taking apart a bed. He and his wife Barbara (Jenna Elfman) are unpacking their daughter Maggie’s (Tavi Gevinson) room. The flare passes by moments later when they hear something fall over downstairs. The married couple go down to have a look, heading into the basement. (Anyone notice the Dingle Moving boxes? I was made aware it’s from one of the classic episodes, “Mr. Dingle, the Strong.”) Rob and Barb discover a weird creature chewing on wood down there. It’s a strange, blob-like thing with a horrific mouth, and its scream sends the couple running back upstairs.
The Narrator talks about extraterrestrial life, how it may come to us when it finally does, and how we’ll react. Rob and Barb are taking a steep deep into the Twilight Zone to see what it means to step outside of what they believed was normal life.
Barbara’s calling the creature ‘she’ and believes that the thing has their daughter’s eyes. She thinks this thing IS her daughter. Rob tries to talk logically as he can, given there’s an alien in the basement. He attributes this to the cosmic flare. Maybe it somehow transplanted an extraterrestrial life form into their home. Yet Barb refuses to let go of the idea that Maggie’s returned to them. Her husband goes back downstairs with her to take another look at the creature.
When they see the thing again it’s halfway between a blob and their daughter. It tumbles around the room until taking the shape of Maggie right before Rob and Barb’s eyes. But it remains volatile and dangerous. Worse than that it can go straight through the floor. They hide in the bathroom, even though the creature could come in if it wants. Rob knows this alien’s use of their daughter is scary, it’s a “bad thing.” He calls it predatory behaviour, like an animal in the wild. Something in Barbara will not let her stop believing in the potential positive truth that their daughter’s somehow alive again.
Then, Maggie starts knocking on the door, calling to them. She goes through various phrases that don’t connect, repeating things the alien thinks she would say. She talks about getting pizza, the flare, and begs to be let in by her parents. Then the alien calls out like Maggie’s in pain. It tugs at the heartstrings of two grieving parents. Barbara walks to the door and unlocks it. She opens it up and Maggie’s there on the floor in tears.
For now, Barbara treats the alien like it’s actually Maggie, getting cookies for her daughter. She looks to be treating this as a “do–over.” Until the creature disappears from the kitchen. The couple go looking around for the alien-daughter. She’s upstairs, gathering more information on Maggie by looking through the girl’s room, seeing all her personal things, reading the diary Maggie kept while she was alive, creepily listening to old mixtapes by stringing the tape out next to its ears— more ammo to keep using against the parents. Rob finds a gooey substance in the basement and when he picks some up in its hands he witnesses it “run away.” He rushes back to his daughter, trying to get them to safety. This initiates an argument with Barbara over their past mistakes as parents. Barb wants to “be there” for this alien-daughter, but Rob gets angry. The alien Maggie comes down to drive a wedge further, criticising Rob for how he talks down to his wife, and criticising Barbara for her own brand of bad parenting. Is the alien antagonising? Or has it internalised all of Maggie’s inner life and now it’s projecting that for the dead girl’s parents to confront?
The alien says it’s a “biological pacification drone.” It’s a weaponised tool. It can go through various dimensions. She’s part of an “invading force.” All part of the grand alien plan to learn how to efficiently take over the world. This is how they’ll infiltrate Earth entirely. They won’t even necessarily have to use much violence, other than the emotional kind. Perfect strategy, really. And a brave admission by this alien. I guess there’s not much one couple can do in the face of such an intelligent, superior life form. This alien-daughter might have changed once she merged with Maggie, but that doesn’t change the overall objective of these things.
And, in spite of knowing everything, Barb’s going to walk out of there with the alien. Rob desperately tries telling his wife this is all a ruse, that the alien saying it’s “turned off” whatever directive its been given is just another part of it. The alien Maggie keeps pouring on the emotion, doing everything in its power to get Rob on its side. She hugs Rob, then the three of them walk outside with other families, headed off into the sunset, quietly conquered— not with a bang, but with a whimper.
“The past can’t hurt us”
This episode was good for me. Slightly unsettling, but more so it was tragic and deeply sad. An emotional story, which Meloni and Elfman really handled well. They’re underrated talents. Here, they play such a tortured couple who love each other but can’t seem to move on, and that finale— where they move on together as a family again, albeit to an uncertain, dominated future— is as bittersweet as it comes.