Romantic comedies tend to be better at “cute meeting” than “getting to know each other.” There is a reason why so many TV love stories and movies start when the couple hate each other. It is easier for writers, directors, and actors to work with conflict than agreement. Less imagination is required to represent future lovers who spend 45 or so minutes arguing about minor annoyances and divergent personal values. All the creative team has to do is create a character position or trait and then counter it with the opposite. “He is orderly, she is careless,” “one is liberal, one is conservative,” and so on.
In Twilight Zone However, in the episode “Meet In The Middle”, Phil and Annie connect immediately. Phil finds many of the women he hangs out with. Annie feels neglected and invisible. But after they meet at a restaurant, they start spending hours every day together, lamenting the television shows they love and the people they hate. Annie is everything Phil always wanted.
But she may not be real.
When CBS All Access revived Rod Serling Twilight Zone Last year, the new series came with a lot of ballyhoo, but mixed results. There were a couple of brilliant episodes, a few good hours, and a harrowing number of wild rags. Despite Jordan Peele’s involvement as producer and presenter, and despite an admirable effort to make the Serling style and plot twists relevant now, too many episodes of this new Twilight Zone they were too long and many felt they were striving to be meaningful and mature.
So it’s an encouraging sign that Twilight ZoneThe second season begins with a relatively simple and highly observable episode. “Meet In The Middle” only lasts 43 minutes (which is probably still 10 minutes too long, but that’s fine). It has a direct history; and Jimmi Simpson and Gillian Jacobs give engaging performances like Phil and Annie. While the episode definitely has a point to be made, credited co-authors Emily C. Chang and Sara Amini and director Mathias Herndl aren’t too critical of it.
The setting is this: while Phil is stuck on another sad date, with a woman who is obsessed with the cooking show Chef chief, he suddenly hears Annie’s voice in his head for the first time, saying a cautious “hello”. After an initial crisis on both sides, the two begin a telegraphic conversation that continues on and off for weeks, until they finally agree to meet in person, halfway between their home in Ashford City and hers in Diamond Falls.
But here’s the twist: As Phil boards a train to meet the woman of his dreams (perhaps literally), she telepathically warns him that she’s being threatened by a burly man with a beard and plaid shirt. She takes him to the man’s house, but after Phil walks in and beat him to death, he finds Annie sitting on the steps with her daughter, crying because the man she just killed was her husband. The police arrest Phil; And as they take him away, he hears Annie in his head again, essentially admitting that she tricked him into committing murder.
But maybe this is just what Phil wants believe. Perhaps the only way you can deal with the crime you just committed is to tell yourself that you were harassed.
Again, the gap between the setting and the turn in “Meet In The Middle” is too long. Chang and Amini continue the romantic comedy tradition of “the boy loses the girl,” as Phil cyber-bullies Annie before their big encounter, and shoves her away after he discovers she’s married. It’s a little too
And the episode has an even bigger flaw … or maybe it’s something that bothered me because it’s a personal pet nuisance. As good as Simpson is like Phil, mixing genuine vulnerability and sweetness with a bit of creepy entitlement and self-deception, he’s presumably been directed to react to the thoughts in his head like he’s having a real silent conversation. Makes your performance more visually dynamic, but it only looks strange, see a boy sitting in a cafeteria laughing and nodding to nothing, with other people around.
That said, Phil is supposed to be bit strange. We see him in therapy from the beginning, talking about his delusions and dissatisfactions; And although he seems like a good guy, there are indications that he has some problems with women. He is distracted when his date has kinkier hair than his profile picture suggests. (She also doesn’t understand the dishes she wants to order, suggesting that she may not like her ladies or her meals too. ethnic.) He promises to guide Annie through her favorite music and favorite science fiction, to enhance her taste.
Maybe this episode isn’t about a woman manipulating a lonely man to free her from an abusive marriage. Perhaps this is a man who cannot find meaningful relationships in the real world because she cannot accept people for who they are. He will meet a woman in the middle, of course … so he can drag her to his side.
- CBS sent critics a Twilight Zone Gift box full of snacks, which included clues about Easter eggs and callbacks that we can expect this season. The clue for this episode is: “You are seeing a kind of flimsy little two-legged animal with extremely small heads, whose name is Man.” It is an excerpt from Rod Serling’s narration in “People are the same everywhere“, An original from the first season Twilight Zone in which a beautiful woman telepathically attracts astronauts exploring Mars to her new home … a zoo!
- Nice touch to play “I can’t take my eyes off you,” with the phrase “you’re too good to be true,” during Phil IRL’s meeting with Annie.
- Welcome back to The AV Club‘s Twilight Zone comments! Unlike the first season, this last race is falling all at once; so instead of these reviews being published weekly, look for a review every morning for about the next 10 days. Mainly follow the order of the episode as it is CBS All AccessBut be careful: CBS only sent three episodes in advance and I’ll do them first regardless of where they fall.. Next up is “The Who Of You” followed by “You Might Also Like”. I’ll let you know down here at the end of each review, what will be next.