What Jordan Peele’s New ‘The Twilight Zone’ Teaches about God and Imagination
The epiphany of this article came to me on the night I killed.
My heart pounded as I rose from my bent position over the carcass which I had destroyed, my weapon dangling from the tips of my fingers. Rivulets of sweat trailed down my face and with a shaky hand, I wiped away at the moisture.
“This is my house,” I repeated softly. “You don’t belong here.”
I let the sandal fall to the floor. Sarah stared up at me, her face filled with confusion. She couldn’t understand that I had to do it. I can’t let a known intruder continue to stay in my house. It was either him or me. I made the choice it was me and fought with everything to ensure that it was me. Wearily, I went into the bathroom and looked at my face. It was now the face of a warrior. Wrapping the tissue around my hand in a giant wad, I went back into the bedroom to dispose of the spider’s flattened body.
Did you think I killed a real person? Shame on you! What kind of monster do you think I am!
Yet, what would be the fun in just saying, “Hey, ya’ll! Parker killed a spider.” Where’s the storytelling? The imagination?
The story continues after my epic battle. When I got back to bed, I continued to write for a couple of hours until I was exhausted. Then, I stayed up to watch my latest binge: Jordan Peele’s take on The Twilight Zone.
“God could have introduced himself to us in anyway. When we meet the God of the Bible, we meet Him as Creator.”
How Jordan Peele’s The Twilight Zone is unique
This take on The Twilight Zone is unique in several ways.
First, Jordan Peele actively chose to highlight minorities in these stories. Except for maybe one or two episodes out of ten, the main protagonists are women, people of color, or fall under some category of identity politics.
Secondly, unlike the original Twilight Zone, this version is interdimensional, and each chapter is part of a single story. This is seen when elements from one episode appear in another. For example, the main character, a comedian from the first episode, shows up on the magazine cover in the next one. A mission to Mars poster in the second episode foreshadows an actual mission in episode six. In episode six, one of the crew members of the Mars mission holds a toy figurine emblazed with the name of the fated plane referenced in episode two.
Not to mention, we see several occurrences of the number “1015.” It shows up as a phone number, an entry code, a license plate number, and in other ways. Speculation rages as to what the 1015 means.1
Yet, although I would love to gab over this conspiracy of the show, it’s the very last episode that brings me to my conclusion of how this unique take on The Twilight Zone points to God and imagination.
To do that, I must give away major spoilers of this episode, including the ending.
Deeper into The Twilight Zone
This episode, called “The Blurryman,” has a great opening sequence. Jordan Peele begins to narrate:
“Witness Adam Wegman, a writer who, up until tonight, has never paid much mind to the idea of an artist’s social responsibility. He’s about to learn that there’s more to art than entertainment. He’s about to—you know what? I think we can beat this.”
We break away to see The Twilight Zone set and people who work behind it. It’s riddled with guest stars, but it focuses on the script writer, Sophie Gelson, who is tasked with rewriting the narration of the episode they are filming. She talks with Jordan Peele about reworking the opening. She makes a point saying, “But this is The Twilight Zone. If we’re not making a point about something important, then it’s just campfire stories.”
To this Peele replies, “You don’t like campfire stories?”
She responds, “I did when I was a little girl. Look, what Rod Serling did is he took the silly kid genre stuff and he elevated it. He made art with it for grownups and the reason why he’s in every episode—”
“Until now. Right?” Peele interrupts.
She goes on to say, that as a little girl watching the show, she’d wondered: What is The Twilight Zone and when do we get there? Gelson says she didn’t get the show until Rod Serling came on and told us about it.
Peele ends their chat by saying, “Take out the entertainment stuff and make it simple.”
She rewrites the script and it’s placed on cue cards.
Then, when Peele begins to read it, it becomes about Gelson entering The Twilight Zone.
The rest of the story follows in true Twilight Zone fashion as Gelson becomes part of the episode. She is chased by a character who is simply called “The Blurryman,” and he shows up in every single episode they’ve filmed. (It’s really cool to go back and watch them and see him). The Blurryman follows her and she futilely tries to escape him. Finally, in a conversation with herself, she allows the Blurryman to overtake her, and she’s taken back to her childhood when she watched the show. She has an epiphany and the new narration works. But then, it’s not over as she transported to the set world (in glorious black and white) of the original series episode “Time Enough at Last.” There, she encounters the Blurryman. See remarkis about the ironic twist on which many episodes end, and this was her end.
As she laments this, the Blurryman reveals himself to be none other than: Rod Serling.2 Rod Serling begins to talk to her: “I take it I have your attention. Good.”
She questions, “What is this place?”
He tells her: “I think you know.”
The episode ends with them walking into the Twilight Zone and Rod Serling’s ending thoughts:
“What do we do when our world is turned upside down? When everything we thought to be true is ripped away and we’re forced to face a new reality? Sophie Gelson has just awoken to the fact that when we put away childish things, we may be closing our eyes instead of opening them. And that perhaps our only hope is to face all reality. A multitude of truths, not shrinking from that vital, arrogant, fatal, dominant X beyond imagination but to embrace it. To open ourselves to the unknown. Not the end of the story but a new beginning for the Twilight Zone.”
A meta-commentary on the art’s creator
I sat back from the computer in awe at the brilliance of the story, a strange goosebump-like sensation riddling over my body. Peele had taken the us back to the genesis of The Twilight Zone itself, to the man who had created it.
In a book I recently read called The Land of the Purple Ring, Deborah J. Natelson, she writes via the book’s hero:
Imaginarium is the land of imagining happy fluffy clouds, rainbow unicorns, and princesses in towers—but it is also the land of imagining yourself a fluffy cloud who eats rainbow unicorns and locks princesses in towers, for lunatics are no more imaginative than sanetics; no, nor any less.
So as a sanetic, or possibly a lunatic (the jury’s still out on that one), let me use my imagination to bring it all together by using the elements of the iconic show.
When God created us, we were born to continue his work as creators. The very nature of creation brings community. In the Garden, the Lord placed Adam and Eve there to work and keep working in it. Who knows what things they created in those wistful days we’ll never see?
Then, a calamitous event happened, the oddity that wasn’t supposed to be there. Not the snake, but the idea that we could be like God. Thus, the downfall of our imagination was birthed. It was God who had to rescue us by throwing us out of the Garden and into … the Twilight Zone.
This is a millennia-long episode riddled with horrible things happening to sinful people. But imagination is the genius of humanity. Without imagination, we wouldn’t strive. For though we have killed millions, we have given birth to billions. Though we have experienced the dredges of poverty, we’ve experienced the heights of decadent wealth. Bridges of communication are broken, but they are also rebuilt by the gripping of one hand to another.
This place is “the middle ground between light and shadow, between science and superstition, and it lies between the pit of man’s fears and the summit of his knowledge.”
Yet, we seek the narrator to understand the episode, the message behind it. Like Peele’s endeavor to create a single story among the episodes, God left us his word so we could understand his purpose for us. Like the Blurryman, he is an integral part, understanding the elements of the story far better than we ever could.
For God can see the overarching story, and without his intervention, we are doomed to never leave the Twilight Zone.
Jesus himself steps into the ‘episode’
Unlike Rod Serling’s narrator, who postulates the problem and then gives the conclusion of the narrative, God chose to step into the Twilight Zone with us, to become like us and subject himself to the same machinations without being affected by them. Unlike the audience, he never just watched and commented on the show. He got involved by getting past the surface message and into the hearts of the viewer—showing us that we are sinners who need to be saved and rescued. He did that by dying for our sins and rising again to give us access to leave the Twilight Zone.
One thing Rod Serling said is that Twilight Zone was the place of our imagination. But our imagination is limited by sin. We can only go so far.
Yet, rescued by the limitations of sinful nature, the place of light and shadow, we can go to the X beyond that boundary of our imagination.
Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.
—1 Corinthians 2:9
People think of Heaven as if it’s “just” a place. Yet Heaven so much more than that. It’s a relationship with the Creator of all who became like us to save us. God’s imagination is far more advanced than any of us could understand. In Judgement, he will destroy this place of light and shadow and close the door and open our eyes, ears, mind, and hearts to a place outside of the Twilight Zone.
- As I sit here in full conspiracy mode, my idea is this: 1015 is a date, October 15. This is the day that Earth was destroyed by nuclear war and there are several episodes that show what happened after that event. It’s all part of one story, broken up and told from different times and perspectives. ↩
- Yes, I had an emotional connection with seeing his face in glorious black and white. ↩
Great article, Parker! That is a brilliant episode concept. Makes me want to watch it badly, hah!
I’m all for imagination, but I have a feeling Peele’s intent was not to point to God, but away. That rhetoric about imagination and facing all of reality, not searching for the x at the end, is true, but can also be used to promote a worldview of no absolutes, where all of morality is decided by groupthink (which, as we know, is ironic, to say the least–but happens to be the narrative of our current mob culture).
It’s nice seeing a Twilight Zone with diversity. Peele being at the helm makes it feel more natural and less forced. I was a big fan of Rod Serling, and Peele is a talented writer taking his place.
Thank you for reading my contribution. I agree with you. Peele’s intent was not to point to God. Time and space did not permit me to go deeper into it. A lot of what is spoken is New Age thought. Also, it’s funny how a title makes a difference. The original title to this post was What Jordan’s Peele’s TAKE on the Twilight Zone teaches us abut God and Imagination. To conserve space it had to be updated. Which is totally fine.
Also, the diversity element was nice as well. The majority of the show does fall within the frame work identity politics which may turn off some Christian viewers who tend to have knee-jerk reaction. When I watched it, I was thinking about how we’re in the Twilight Zone. And mind you, I LOVED seeing Rod Serling at the end. I mean, this the guy who used the Twilight Zone to show us his thoughts about our world being upended by extraordinary things. Mr. Serling was traumatized by the events of World War 2 and writing became his balm. The Twilight Zone is a result of that.
However, imagination is this world can only go so far, which, at the end, shows us how limited it is. Jesus’ is going to reveal and show us things we can’t even begin to imagine.
I’m curious at a practical level how the show “resurrected” Serling? Animation, most likely?
Yes. Computer animation. Also, I think they took his face from the old shows and animated it. They also had a body double and someone who impersonated his voice. They did a great job of it, too.
Sounds very interesting. And it’s sort of fascinating to consider how each generation might reboot a series to fit with current technology, social issues, stylistic choices, etc.
Your post is a good example of how important stories are. At the very least, they are excellent for getting around personal and external barriers. Like, I’m not very active on social media for a variety of reasons, like the fact that it’s kinda toxic(Specfaith is one of the few places I actively post). I’ve always had trouble with social interaction and articulating my beliefs on things. Although I still work on articulating myself well in real life, I’ve learned that in a lot of cases it’s better just to show people, rather than tell them. Or if we tell them, we should wait for the right moments when certain words are going to sink in the most. Writing seems like one of the best ways to articulate things and show people, that way they can actually see and experience the truth with the characters. Everyone has their own social issues to specialize in, and their own ways of addressing those issues. But everyone has something important to add, even if it’s just one piece of information or insight. Two important issues for me have been redemption, and how to thrive even in a completely hostile society. Something like that can have important bearing how how people learn to face and break through prejudice.
Social media posts are still good, if that’s how people express themselves. But often enough a story, or even discussions of stories(like your post) can be more enduring and hit a little deeper. It sounds like this new Twilight Zone has done that for you 🙂
Thank you for responding. Stories build bridges and are the universal language if you will. How many of us have been somewhere, making coffee, picking up groceries, at the bank, what have you and you hear someone say, “You won’t believe what happened.” We instinctively listen even if we turn away the next moment or drown it out.
Not me! I’m all ears.
But with Twilight Zone, it wasn’t that it’s pointing to Jesus or anything like that. Hardly. But it made me think we’re in the Twilight zone, immersed in various stories, looking for a way out. You aren’t missing a thing with social media. Stay away. Stay away!
A fantastic analysis by Parker J. Cole where she clearly outlines the shadow that is cast from The Twilight Zone series to imagination and God.
For we stand between the worlds of chaos and harmony, to have knowledge of good and evil. In this, God gave humans imagination to create and destroy. It is the dichotomy of grace and sin that is in front of everyone.
We can all rejoice by the series showcasing minorities because they are like us, and we are like them. In true Twilight Zone fashion, there is more here than meets the eye. While on one level we may see differences of race or gender, veiled underneath is what makes us all identical: the soul.
What captures the soul of the audience is fear, love, and hope. And while our imagination may fear the show’s metaphor of a Boogyman or the Blurryman, the shadow is cast for the fear of death. From 1 Corinthians 15, we read: “Death is swallowed up in victory. O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?”
And yet, as the clock ticks, so too do our lives. We shall all, at some point, meet the maker of time. To wake up from the Twilight Zone, we must open the door of God’s imagination: Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.
Thank you so much, RD! My dear friend! Not every one will like it but hopefully, those that do will like the new take. I’m so glad you understood where I was going with my analogy.
I think I started to watch the show, but the language turned me off. I think I’ll try again and try to ignore the coarse language.
It’s not for everyone. I enjoyed it but what I like others may not so be mindful of that. My palette’s different so…
Thanks. I thought Get Out was brilliant and but had some trepidation about his helming this fourth iteration of TZ simply because rebooting the series had been tried before with mixed results. Your review encourages me to watch Peele’s work with the material. Thanks.
Thank you for responding. I hope you enjoy it.
Wow! This is a fascinating analysis – and a great pleasure to read. I haven’t watched the new Twilight Zone, and have only seen a few episodes of the old one. But as a writer, I appreciate it as a show that goes a little beyond. And I love how this article goes far beyond even that!
Hi Abigail. Thanks so much for responding. it’s not everyone’s cup of tea but I loved it.