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Recap / The Twilight Zone (2019) S1 E2 "Nightmare At 30,000 Feet"

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"We're running out of time..."
Jordan Peele: Settling for a thirteen hour trans-Atlantic flight to a land rife with ancient mysteries is Justin Sanderson. Mr. Sanderson's occupation is to uncover unbiased truth. But with an hour left before certain doom, he must ask the right questions of the right people. Landing at the truth this time will require an unscheduled stopover... in the Twilight Zone.

A PTSD-suffering investigative journalist (Adam Scott) traveling to a new job in Tel Aviv finds an MP3 player with a true crime podcast that details how the commercial airplane he is currently on will disappear.

Tropes for this episode include:

  • Accidental Public Confession: Justin confronts one of the passengers, accusing him of being a Russian named Igor Orlov who was under witness protection. When the passenger denies this, Justin loudly argues with him, causing the real Orlov (seated nearby) to bolt from his seat in a panic.
  • Arc Number: 1015. It's the flight number, the time the plane takes off, the day the plane takes off (October 15) and also the passcode that allows Joe Beaumont to hijack the plane to it's doom.
  • Arc Words: "The past is the past." It's the motto Justin was taught, his personal mantra, and ultimately the reason that pushes Joe Beaumont to hijack the plane.
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  • Artifact of Death: The MP3 player. The device doesn't seem to be inherently malevolent but it still causes the death of Justin Sanderson.
  • The Cassandra: Justin Sanderson.
  • Bottle Episode: Most of the episode takes place on board the airliner.
  • Continuity Nod: Samir's image is seen on a magazine at the airport.
  • Cruel Twist Ending: The series' very first. After inadvertently bringing about the plane crash, Justin discovers there is a second part to the podcast, which details how all the survivors except him were eventually rescued by a cargo freighter. The angry passengers then proceed to beat Justin to death for all the trouble he's caused.
  • Darker and Edgier: When it ends with the protagonist being lynched, it sure can be said to be this to the original episode.
  • Death Seeker: Joe Beaumont. He hints of a past incident that ended his career as a pilot, and eventually hijacks the airplane in order to crash it.
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  • Doing In the Wizard: For all the talk and buildup of how the plane mysteriously disappeared, there's no gremlins to blame this time, just a rogue pilot who shut off all the electronics on the plane, meaning no radio towers could pick up its location. That said, it still doesn't explain the podcast that predicted every event before it could happen which was on the plane before Justin himself got on.
  • Downer Ending: The plane crashes and while everyone save the pilot is spared, they all blame Justin for the crash and kill him.
  • Early-Bird Cameo: Oliver Foley, the central child from "The Wunderkind", makes one on an newstand magazine.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • Joe Beaumont mentions early on that he's gotten in trouble with his bosses before, and clearly has issues with alcohol. He also specifically mentions "one too many mistakes", and that he doesn't think people should fly on planes.
    • The background of the scene that Jordan Peele first appears in is the atoll that the plane crashes on.
  • Karma Houdini: The passengers, the same people Justin tried to save, get away with killing him and it's implied they lie to authorities by saying Justin just didn't survive. Unless they now have to live with the eventual guilt of killing someone.
  • Mistaken for Terrorist: Justin's repeated harassment of other passengers earns him the ire of the pilots and flight attendants, but his misinterpreted warnings that the plane will suddenly disappear based off their behavior is what acts as their breaking point and subsequently, gets him arrested.
  • Mundanger: While there is a supernatural element, the threat itself is entirely mundane.
  • My Greatest Failure: Joe Beaumont briefly hints that something in his past caused him to stop flying.
    "I don't fly anymore. One too many mistakes I can't take back."
  • Mythology Gag:
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!: Justin. The crash occurs only because of his actions, most notably giving Joe the PIN that allows access to the cockpit.
  • No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: All of Justin's efforts to get someone to believe him and try to save the plane get him accosted, arrested, blamed for the crash, and ultimately murdered by all the passengers who didn't want to listen.
  • Ominous Music Box Tune: The Enigmatique podcast uses such a melody as its background music.
  • Poor Communication Kills: Justin's downfall. After the first failed attempt, he gives up any attempt of having others listen to the podcast and never explains his reason to anyone else, instead showing knowledge he shouldn't have and resorting to ominous warnings that earns him suspicion. The one person he actually listens to turns out to be the only one he should have ignored. He also jumps to action while listening to the podcast instead of just listening to the end, and ends up acting on incomplete information.
  • Retraux: The MP3 player looks less like a modern iPod or similar device and more like a handheld radio.
  • Self-Fulfilling Prophecy: Justin ultimately ends up causing the crash he tried so desperately to prevent.
  • Shout-Out: The pilot, Joe Beaumont, shares a surname with Charles Beaumont, who wrote many episodes of the original series.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: The revelation that Joe is the pilot who ultimately dooms the aircraft, with Justin helpless to do anything by this point, is all set to Frank Sinatra's cover of "Fly Me to the Moon".
  • Spiritual Successor: To the classic episode "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet" and as such, does not involve a Gremlin.
  • Suddenly Always Knew That: When Joe tells Jordan that he cannot get into the flight deck, Jordan gets an epiphany and realizes it's "1015". He gets Joe to use it by lying that he learned it from the podcast.
  • The Tape Knew You Would Say That: The podcast includes a clip of what Justin had said moments before.
  • You Can't Fight Fate: No matter what Justin does, he can't stop the plane from going down exactly as the podcast said it would.

Jordan Peele: In his final moments, Justin Sanderson made the case that he did everything he could to avert disaster. But in the end, he was an investigative reporter unwilling to investigate himself until it was too late. Justin discovered that the flight path to hell is paved with good intentions. And it passes directly through the Twilight Zone.

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