Super Recaps: The Twilight Zone (To Protect and Serve)

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The Twilight Zone and all the images you see in this recap are owned by Warner Bros Television and based on the series created by Rod Serling

Episode directed by Joe Chappelle

We’re back with another episode of The Twilight Groan, and boy do we have a rough one here today!  So last time around we got a GOOD example of the show taking a chance on darker subject matter and I definitely appreciate the show’s attempt to put a bit of edge back into the series.  Today’s episode however is NOT a good example of them using dark subject matter, at least in my opinion, and it’s not even in a particularly compelling way as so much of it is just a total downer.  But we’re not here to feel sorry for ourselves and lament the difficulty of recapping something so unabashedly sad, now are we!?  We are here to show appreciation for a series that passed a lot of people over and make a few cheap jokes along the way, so let’s get started!!

The episode begins on a rather dark note for such a lightweight series, but whatever tension is built here is somewhat undercut by just how cheesy it all is.  Okay, watching a dude emotionally berate and physically threaten a woman isn’t a breeze to sit through, but the dude doing the threatening is the most clichéd pimp imaginable with a leather duster, a crushed velvet shirt, and a spring loaded knife to intimidate his top earner with.  The guy playing him (Dione Johnstone) is doing a darn fine job and looks almost EXACTLY like Denzel Washington which is fun in its own right, but there’s a bit of a disparity here in terms of tone.  Luckily this tension is cut, not with a knife, but with HOT LEAD as super cop Eric Boggs (Usher; yes THAT Usher) comes onto the scene and shoots A Pimp Named Throwback right in the heart; proving that his proclamations of being The Power, The Glory, The Darkness, The Hyperbolic, were perhaps somewhat overstated.  OR WERE THEY!?  In the aftermath, while the EMTs are carting the body away, Office Boggs gets a call from The Pimp mocking him for not finishing the job and promising a swift return from the land of the dead!  TWILIGHT SHOCK!!

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“SEVEN DAYS, SUCKA!!”     “Until what, you blow hot air while I fill you full of buckshot?”

Well dang!  That’s unsettling to say the least, even if his most notably qualities are speechifying and attracting bullets!  Eh, let’s put that on the backburner for now!  So the thing about this episode is that it’s… not very entertaining?  By all accounts it SHOULD be considering we’ve got a ghost pimp to bust, but this is definitely one of the more serious and high minded episodes so far and yet doesn’t seem to have much going on under the hood.  I mean I GUESS you can make the case that this is an allegory for PTSD which seems to be the direction his partner Angela (Gabrielle Miller) keeps trying to steer their conversations, but the rest of the episode doesn’t really fit with that and the implications at the end are rather troubling if that’s the case, but we’ll get to that soon enough.  Boggs is not ready to deal with any of that yet and just heads home to sit contemplatively on his couch until the phone rings with yet another warning from the pimp.  Worried that this is all some elaborate scheme, he goes to the morgue to make sure that dead body is in fact dead which is basically the last straw for his partner who shows up to confront him about his cagey behavior tonight.  We also learn that the pimp was ALSO a practitioner of Black Magic and Satanic Rituals, the latter of which I’m pretty sure consists of watching South Park and tweeting angrily at normies under a full moon, which definitely feels like a red herring to try and throw us off of Boggs himself being the culprit behind his own anguish.

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“Did you see Child’s Play?”     “Wasn’t that about a killer doll?”     “Yes… who was criminal that came back to life through Voodoo magic.  If it happened in a movie, why can’t it happen in real life!?”     “Well you’ve got me that I guess…”

Here’s where things start to get REALLY depressing, so don’t say I didn’t warn you.  The prostitute (named Carla played by Samantha Esteban) Boggs saved at the beginning of the episode?  Yeah, he tries to warn her that she MIGHT be in danger which she doesn’t believe and sure enough she ends up dead a few hours later; slashed ear to ear as the voice on the phone had said.  Everyone believes it was one of her clients, but Boggs isn’t the slightest bit convinced and the show just wallows in his sense of self-loathing as we see an impromptu memorial set up for her which frankly is pretty effective but it’s still not amounting to much as far as I’m concerned.  The threads are there for a message, particular with Bogg’s savior complex, and I appreciate that everything happening right now is SUPPOSED to be out of his control to get that across, but it’s putting forth a lot of negativity without much direction which sadly will not improve as we head into the climax.

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“She died as she lived; being menaced by a knife wielding ghost.”     “Wait, really?”     “Yeah, it was kind of her thing.”

Boggs just heads back to his apartment to brood some more, but his torment isn’t over yet.  He immediately starts getting phone calls from Carla begging him for help and screaming in pain.  WHAT THE HECK!?  I know that THE TWILIGHT ZONE isn’t always exactly a just arbiter, but what the heck did Boggs do to get these calls in the first place!?  He gets a phone call soon after that from one of the tech dudes in the police department that he had look into the weird phone calls, and shock of all shocks the calls are coming from the alley where he shot the pimp; from a pay phone that’s been out of service for MONTHS that you’d think someone other than Boggs would want to look into.  No one does though, not even the tech who only finds it somewhat unusual, and so he goes down there to finally meet his destiny.  He goes inside the phone booth, picks up the phone, and the pimp starts taunting him again, only this time he and Carla have materialized outside of the booth and the scene from the beginning of the episode starts to repeat itself.

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“This is not my beautiful ho!  This is not my beautiful knife!  How did I get here!?”     “If it wasn’t bad enough I had to kill this guy again, he just HAD to come back with jokes…”

Boggs however, is unafraid and faces the pimp with nothing but determination and righteous fury.  He steps closer and closer as the pimp stares harder and harder.  The tension between them electric as both know where this is ultimately headed while Carla is still terrified of what will happen to her.  In a flash, the pimp throws Carla to the side, jabs his knife in Bogg’s general direction, and we cut to black on the sound of a gunshot!

*BANG*

Okay, so let’s do a thought experiment!  If you were the one writing this episode and you got up to this point in the story, how would you end it?  What is the thematic backbone of the episode up to this point, and what would be considered a satisfying conclusion to the narrative?  What lessons are we to learn from all of this, or personal insights that we should reflect upon?  Now whatever you came up with, I’m sure it’s WAY better than what we actually got which is Boggs winding up dead on the street; shot by his own gun which is clear indication of suicide.  BUT WAIT!  That’s not the end because Bogg’s partner is on the scene and suddenly gets a phone call from none other than… BOGGS!  TWILIGHT SHOCK!!  He called to say that EVERYTHING IS FINE and that he’s gonna protect Carla in the afterlife or something.

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“Oh, and don’t sell my apartment yet.  I haven’t figured out all this ghost stuff yet, so I might need a place to stay if I ever become corporeal.”

Wait, is he saying that Usher joined the RIPD!?  Is THAT where this story is landing!?  Please explain this to me, Forest Whitaker!!

“Office Eric Boggs became a policeman to protect and serve the innocent.  A duty he took very seriously, which is why he is still on patrol.  His new beat?  The Twilight Zone.”

Good grief, was this a mess of an episode.  Credit where it’s due I suppose for them trying to get serious with this instead of campy or bland, but the story is just not there to justify the misery on screen; particularly that ending which completely muddles whatever message we were SUPPOSED to get out of this.  The big theme I’m getting out of all this is how guilt coupled with a hero complex is a messy combination; especially in a field as rife with danger and bad situations as law enforcement.  Boggs clearly wants to be a hero which the pimp continually mocks him for, referring to him as Galahad, and the fact that he won’t take the steps necessary to take care of himself is only making things worse for him.  He won’t talk to anyone about his experience which his partner continually presses him on, and he takes every defeat, misstep, and tragic outcome VERY personally which is a spiral that is hard to break out of.  Heck, I’m just a dude who writes stuff on the internet between my day job, and I often feel like a total failure for the little mistakes I make, so having that kind of psychological state manifest as a series of threatening and prodding phone calls is an apt enough metaphor to get that message across.  The problems though come in once that setup is established as the execution is alternatively very wonky and outright offensive.  The entire episode just has a lethargic pace to it and it feels completely unstructured.  Things keep happening, but they don’t really connect to each other and could have easily been rearranged in a different order.  The visit to the morgue doesn’t establish anything that couldn’t have been established at any other point in the episode.  The pimp’s tactics never escalate until the very end and most of the phone calls made are just reiterating the point rather than advancing the narrative.  Once the episode DOES finally gain a bit of forward momentum in the third act though, it feels entirely wasted with a very ambiguous ending that lends itself towards some very unfavorable interpretations.  Like, what are we supposed to take away from Boggs killing himself, but it’s actually okay for some reason?  What is the conclusion we’re supposed to draw from the fact that his guilt drove him to taking his own life which is then framed as a HEROIC ACT because in doing so he saves the woman he couldn’t before?  Is it some sort of blood penance for his own failures?  He forfeited his right to live because he couldn’t save her!?  This could have either leaned into the absurdity of its premise about a ghost pimp, or fleshed out the guilt narrative beyond the initial setup to create a satisfying journey, but the episode does neither and ends up being a downbeat slog to sit through with an ending that puts the final nail in the coffin of what COULD have been a much better episode.  Chosen is starting to feel like an outlier with such lousy episodes before and after it, and while I know that there are some great episodes coming up, I hope they get here sooner rather than later.

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If you like this recap and plan on buying the show, then use the Amazon link below!  I’ll get a percentage of the order it helps keep things going for me here at The Reviewers Unite!  In fact, you don’t even need to buy the item listed!  Just use the link, shop normally, and when you check out it will still give us that sweet, sweet, percentage!  You can even bookmark the link and use it every time you shop!  HOW AWESOME IS THAT!?

The Twilight Zone – The Complete Series

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