The Twilight Zone (2019): The Twilight Zone: A Traveler
April 23, 2019 12:25 PM - Season 1, Episode 4 - Subscribe

On Christmas Eve in the small Alaskan town of Iglaak, a mysterious man in a suit appears in a jail cell with no explanation and asks the chief of police for a pardon. [Starring Marika Sila, Greg Kinnear, Steven Yeun, and Patrick Gallagher]

A clever Christmas Twilight Zone explains the effectiveness of “fake news" (Noel Murray for TV/AV Club)
The first three episodes of the new Twilight Zone have all seen writers and directors wrestling with the legacy of Rod Serling’s original series, trying to figure out how to make a science-fiction anthology show that’s relevant to today, yet also true to what “the Twilight Zone” really means. This week’s “A Traveler,” on the other hand, more effortlessly feels like an old Twilight Zone episode. Or, to put it a better way, it’s Serling as filtered through the sensibility of veteran X-Files writer Glen Morgan, and the promising young A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night director Ana Lily Amirpour, two people who’ve clearly internalized his cultural influence.
"A Traveler," The Steven Yeun led hour of The Twilight Zone reboot, is the story of one man's heroic quest for a slice of pie. (Alec Bojalad for Den of Geek)
The Twilight Zone has taken us to Iglaak, Alaska. It’s Christmas Eve and Yuka has booked her brother on public intoxication and is bringing him back to the police station to sober up in a holding cell. It’s all OK though because police chief Pendleton (Greg Kinnear) has a Christmas tradition of pardoning a prisoner every Christmas. Jack will be eating pie with the rest of the station (and assembled townspeople) in no time.

Even once they arrive at the station, “A Traveler” keeps up its unusually natural expository dialogue. Captain Pendleton further explains his Christmas ritual of pardons and in such few words perfectly encapsulates the tension between the white Americans like him who have “tamed” Alaska and the native locals like Yuka and Jack who must tolerate their presence…and the military Chainey Listening Station they brought with them.
... and then things get weird.
posted by filthy light thief (8 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I was very impressed by this episode. And Steven Yeung was amazing.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 5:47 PM on April 23, 2019

Easter eggs under the Christmas tree: Talky Tina and the wing gremlin doll.
posted by sageleaf at 7:22 PM on April 23, 2019

So... Was the snail on the road from the previous episode an Easter egg for A.Travelers' antennae?
posted by jkaczor at 7:52 PM on April 23, 2019

This episode felt extremely Christmasy and creepy at the same time. That was neat.

I felt frustrated by the cops' failure to ask how A. Traveler got into the cell for something like ten minutes of episode time after he was discovered. Seems like an obvious and important question, and they didn't investigate that. Instead, they let him talk and talk and talk and they kept listening. I guess that goes with the metaphor, that no one will walk away or meaningfully question his origins. Yet that didn't feel real to me and I found it unpleasant to sit through.

Before the turn, there was that longish scene upstairs when Mongoyak calls around and checks for APBs. That was very procedural, and not the kind of thing they normally show so much of in a story about cops. It made me think for a moment that the episode was about immigration, and that the traveler was totally innocent and we were all jerks for being suspicious (and on Christmas, no less). I suppose it was actually there to contrast the careless acceptance of his allegations.

I thought this episode was OK overall. I can't help but to compare it to Kinnear's alien episode of Electric Dreams last year, which was so much scarier.
posted by heatvision at 3:27 AM on April 24, 2019

I felt frustrated by the cops' failure to ask how A. Traveler got into the cell for something like ten minutes of episode time after he was discovered.

Sergeant Yuka Mongoyak takes Captain Lane Pendleton down to see the stranger, and Lane thinks it's a prank, but then lets it slide when then the Traveler feeds his ego, which leads Lane to reiterate the Traveler's story of being a YouTube celebrity*, which in turn helps mask his mysterious appearance to everyone else, except Yuka (Marika Sila is of Inuvialuit heritage, which was nice to see a native actor in this role, and she did a great job of it, too).

* If CBS really wanted to promote this series and its walled garden of content, they should have made The Aggro Traveler's Bucket List an actual YouTube channel, with Steven Yeun riding a train to the top of Jungfraujoch (Wikipedia), diving off Stari Most bridge (Bridges DB), kissing Dee Dee Ramone's tombstone (Roadside America) at Hollywood Forever Cemetery, and riding the Trans-Siberian Railway nonstop for eight days, from Moscow to Vladivostok, with a comment at the end saying "next stop: Iglaak, Alaska, to be pardoned by Captain Lane Pendleton on Christmas Eve." Bonus points if they posted that train trip in December.

On further thought -- I realize his "aggro traveler" backstory was another lie, but he did have the drivers license of A. Traveler, with a residence of 1010 Hacker Way in Menlo Park, CA, which itself is a nod to the address of Facebook HQ (Google Maps).
posted by filthy light thief at 7:12 AM on April 24, 2019 [2 favorites]

... and that ties back to the idea that Facebook is an aggregator of personal information AND a spreader of divisive half-truths and lies, just like the Traveler, making it easier to pit people against each-other.

And the claim of being a YouTube celebrity itself is a loaded statement, given the number of YouTube celebrities who are garbage people, or create their own followings around divisive content and conspiracy theories.
posted by filthy light thief at 7:20 AM on April 24, 2019 [2 favorites]

Didn't love this. I thought it was an excellent X-Files episode, though.
posted by emelenjr at 10:01 AM on April 24, 2019 [3 favorites]

This was the weakest episode so far by a long, long way. The gauntlet-dropping satirical urgency of the previous three episodes have way to something altogether less resonant.

I mean, if I tilt my head to the side and squint real hard I can sort of see an argument that this had subtext about how conservative white America is digging its own grave by choosing to believe that which flatters and suits it rather than the truth. But it was not handled that well. And if the actors hadn't been so on point, I doubt it wouldn't even held together as middling.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 1:01 PM on April 25, 2019 [1 favorite]

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