Worst to Best
The Twilight Zone
2002-2003 Season

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5 Chosen

Jake Busey (son of Gary) makes a likeable lead as goofball failure Vince Hansen, a man perpetually down on his luck. He and most of his neighbourhood have been "chosen" by two mysterious people dressed in black, and there's lots of nicely sketched characters and some amusing lines. Although some elements, such as a pornographic magazine, are a world away from the original show, there seems a relative freshness about events, helped by Busey's own enthusiasm in the main role. However, the ending, while effective, is perhaps a little too heavy for an episode so fundamentally light.

4 Gabe's Story

In some way reminiscent of the classic 80s episode A Matter of Minutes, whereby the main characters (or, in this case, character, the titular Gabe) discover something happening "behind the scenes" of reality, out of the usual perception of ordinary people. Likeable Gabe (Christopher Titus) discovers a man in an orange jumpsuit is following him around, disrupting his life, only to be told the man is usually unseen by him, and his life is ordered to be that of a failure.
     Christopher Titus gives an engaging performance, and had just finished his own 54-episode sitcom, Titus, four months before this aired. During the course of the episode he learns that everyone's life is written for them by a higher power, and argues for the right to make his own destiny. A quirky, offbeat episode, this one has a certain kind of intrigue and charm that many of the other episodes in this series lack.

3 The Path

Method Man from The Wu Tang Clan (who, five months after this episode aired, would make his debut as "Cheese" in The Wire) appears as a coffee house fortune teller, enchanting writer Ali Warner (Linda Cardellini). Rather oddly, the coffee house is known as "Mocha Junkie"... perhaps it's really Cheese in disguise, looking for a strong connect for Prop Joe. (With apologies to any readers not an addict of The Wire, who will have no idea what I'm talking about).
     One way in which the series is very modern is with the introduction of gay characters. It's still very slight, and subtle, and while it's not explicitly stated that Ali's best friend Seth is gay, he's clearly coded that way. Like a modern-day Nick of Time, Ali finds herself addicted to the fortune teller, unable to make decisions without his guidance. Despite Seth's urgings, she's unable to pull away from her addiction and, unlike Nick of Time, she finds herself without a happy ending.

2 Cold Fusion

Sean Patrick Flanery, Nancy Sorel and Ian McShane are three of the stars in this tale about a mysterious project in the Arctic. The Gemini device (ironically McShane had appeared in a little-seen TV movie in the 1970s entitled Left Hand of Gemini) is being sought by all at the base, held by McShane behind a sealed door. Despite some bad lines ("gave himself a 9mm coronary bypass") and a pre-Deadwood McShane giving a slightly hammy performance, this is one that begins as standard fare, but gets more psychological and intriguing as it goes along. Ultimately, while not without flaws, it's one of the few episodes from the 2002-2003 season that is possible to imagine as a play in its own right, rather than just a standard filler or an episode of the programme.

1 Night Route

Ione Skye stars as Melina Kroner, a woman plagued by visions of a phantom night bus in one of the genuinely most unsettling instalments of the series. Over the course of the episode, Melina begins to forget her own past, and reality around her is questioned. There are very few websites dedicated to this version of The Twilight Zone, but the ones I have seen all rightfully praise this episode. However, none of them seem to have a problem with the somewhat contradictory ending (which I won't discuss here, so as to avoid spoilers of a strong episode), which means either it's not important or that I didn't fully understand it. The twist of the episode seems to be realised by the lead character herself 12 minutes in, and what follows seem to not make sense with the basic premise. Irregardless, this is a fine instalment, even if nothing in the episode is, like a lot of the season, particularly original.

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