The Twilight Zone’s ‘Replay’ offers a look at the Black experience

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Damson Idris and Glenn Fleshler appear in The Twilight Zone (2019) episode Replay.

The Twilight Zone (CBS/Monkeypaw Pro­ductions)

Episode: Replay (2019)

Genre: Sci-fi

Streaming service: CBS All Access

Rating: Ages 14+ (language, violence)

Summary: While at a roadside diner with her college-bound son Dorian, Nina Harrison discovers that her old family camcorder has the power to turn back time when she presses the re­wind button and that she is the only one aware of it. No matter how many times she rewinds the tape, she cannot avoid a violent exchange between Dorian and a racist state trooper.

Synopsis: A few weeks ago, my husband borrowed season one of The Twilight Zone reboot from the library. The third episode, “Replay,” caught my attention. It played out like a recurring nightmare, where no matter what path you choose, you cannot reach your destination. The officer appears to be distrusting of and/or fearful of Black individuals, like Nina and Dorian. No matter how the woman or her son behave — whether they befriend the patrol officer, face him down or attempt to outrun him — he always finds them. The infractions are always minor or perceived. This cycle continues until Nina finds strength in numbers — people who are willing to help stand up to the injustice and hold the trooper accountable. A Black Lives Matter sign is visible in the background. There is a twist at the end but I’ll leave that for you to figure out.

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It is worth noting that the short-lived Twilight Zone reboot was executive produced by Jordan Peele, the first Black individual to win an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay. He is known for writing (and sometimes directing) horror films that highlight social demons, including “Get Out,” “Us” and “Nope.” While he did not write this episode, “Replay” feels very Peele-esque. It confronts uncomfortable truths about the way Black persons and white persons sometimes view each other and the consequences that can result from that perception.

Also worth noting: This episode was produced before the death of George Floyd brought the Black Lives Movement to the forefront of American consciousness.

I understand that this episode may appear to some as anti-law enforcement or anti-white. However, the trooper seems more representative of an idea than an actual person. He is the manifestation of the fears Black Americans have about law enforcement and oppression; mainly, that even if they do everything right, they may still be treated as if they have done wrong. Fear or prejudice can have devastating, intergenerational consequences.

“Replay” is likely to be validating for some viewers and unsettling for others. However, I believe pieces like this have the potential to spark discussion and understanding among races.

Discussion questions:

Why did this program center on the mother helping her son get to college, as opposed to some other destination?

In your opinion, what is this episode asking of its viewers?

Have you experienced or observed racism first hand? What did you do about it?

What are some ways you can combat racism and promote tolerance in your community?

(Editor’s note: Lindsay Steele is a reporter for The Catholic Messenger. Contact her at steele@davenportdiocese.org or by phone at (563) 888-4248.)


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