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Recap / The Twilight Zone 2019 S 1 E 5 The Wunderkind

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If adults couldn't lead this country, should we elect children?
Jordan Peele: Meet Raff Hanks, a 'wunderkind'. Once the most successful campaign manager of his generation. Now Raff finds himself in a valley of booze and regret. One filled with bad choices and even worse polling. He's about to embark on a misguided road to redemption. And on his way back to the top, he'll have to take a dark detour through The Twilight Zone.

After failing at a reelection campaign, Raff Hanks (John Cho) finds out about and decides to back Oliver Foley, a child YouTube star who wants to run for president. After Oliver is successfully elected, the bratty official turns out to be too much for Raff, who regrets his decision.

Tropes for this episode include:

  • A Child Shall Lead Them: The premise.
  • Afraid of Doctors: Oliver hates doctors, which has repercussions for Raff at the end.
  • Alcohol-Induced Idiocy: Raff made the decision to back Oliver while under the influence of alcohol when he took up another bar-goer's suggestion to endorse Oliver.
  • Appeal to Pity: Oliver's dog is dying! Elect him! And Oliver reveals that this is a lie.
  • Awesome, but Impractical: Oliver's ideas tend to fall into this, and his advisers largely fail to convince him of the second part.
  • Advertisement:
  • Bland-Name Product: Averted. Oliver name-drops YouTube, Fortnite, Minecraft and Star Wars.
  • Blatant Lies: Oliver's family saying that his dog has cancer. The dog is visibly healthy and happily panting and wagging its tail instead of lying down waiting and hoping for the pain to go away. Oliver later admits the 'dog with cancer' story is false after realizing Raff is beginning to show signs of subversion.
  • Blind Obedience: Everyone on Oliver's staff save for Raff.
  • Continuity Nod:
    • A portion of a YouTube thumbnail features the disappearance of Flight 1015.
    • Oliver has a cup from the Busy Bee cafe from the episode Replay.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Oliver's demand for no old doctors spells bad news for Raff's medical situation.
  • Create Your Own Villain:
    • Raff is the one who gets Oliver elected as President.
    • Oliver's parents can also fit this trope, as they spoiled him rotten and let him take over the house.
  • Advertisement:
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Oliver has Raff accused of treason and shot for arguing with him. Then he lies to the press that Raff tried to assassinate him.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: A precedent breaker surprisingly wins the presidency who much of the populous loves, referencing the 2016 election of Donald Trump. Any further comparisons should be carefully thought over.
  • Double-Meaning Title: The Wunderkind is not only the term for Oliver Foley, but the name of Hanks' book.
  • Downer Ending: Raff eventually realizes Oliver is a monster, but fails to convince anyone of this and Oliver has him shot. Raff is taken for surgery, but Oliver has replaced the doctor with an apathetic kid who cares more about playing video games. The kid proceeds to hack into Raff's chest with a knife while Raff screams in agony and while his fate is unknown, it doesn't look good. And when Raff dies, the United States is doomed to collapse from its newfound incompetent leadership neglecting to tackle any of its issues such as foreign threats, crime, environment and economy.
  • Drowning My Sorrows: Raff is implied to have become an out-of-work alcoholic in the last 2 years after his presidential campaign failed and his rival candidate won the election before running the country into the ground.
  • Enfant Terrible: Oliver.
  • For Want of a Nail: For want of paying his rent after failing his last job as a presidential campaign manager, Raff helped launch Oliver into the White House.
  • Global Warming: Climate change is brought up as one of the many topics that the last adult president was polling badly in.
  • Gory Discretion Shot:
    • When Raff is shot, his blood splatters onto a painting of Thomas Jefferson.
    • We also don't see the kid doctor hacking Raff's chest with a knife. All we hear are his screams.
  • How We Got Here: The episode starts with Raff waking up in an operating theater.
  • Informed Ability: Raff is constantly talked up as a brilliant political mover and shaker, but we only ever see him screw up, while his one actual victory in actually getting Oliver elected happens offscreen with zero explanation of what he did.
  • Mythology Gag:
    • Oliver's mother is Helen Foley, who shares her name with the main character from Nightmare As A Child and the It's a Good Life segment of Twilight Zone: The Movie.
    • Kanamit Lager returns from The Comedian.
    • Whipple is not only the news channel, but also on a Pinball Machine.
    • The reveal of the child surgeon is reminiscent of the twist ending of Eye of the Beholder, where a plastic surgery team working on an incurably ugly patient are revealed to all be hideous monsters, while the patient is a beautiful woman.
    • President James Stevens is played by John Larroquette, who had a role in Twilight Zone: The Movie.
  • Only Sane Man: Raff is horrified when everybody starts listening to Oliver's commands like they were the word of God in spite of his immaturity and selfishness. We then learn that Oliver won over the electorate's support (after initially lagging in the national polls) just by giving them all free video games.
  • Screw the Rules, I Make Them!: How Oliver Foley rules, disregarding precedents and established standards, even with playing golf.
  • Shout-Out: Oliver's story about his dog recalls Richard Nixon saving himself from what looked like political freefall with a highly sentimental speech about his new dog Checkers.
  • Spiritual Successor: To It's a Good Life. A child gains great power without any one controlling him and those who oppose him suffer terrible consequences.
  • Spoiled Brat: Oliver. He has very little interest in running the country (he doesn't have any stance on taxes or foreign policy) and cares more about video games, golf, ice cream and dogs.
  • Take That!: Oliver calls for less Star Wars movies.
  • Villain with Good Publicity: Oliver Foley when elected President gets a 100% Adoration Rating. Even his own staff greatly revere him after at first trying to oppose his immediate ideas.
  • Wounded Gazelle Gambit: Oliver's dog dying turns out to be a lie.
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: Oliver orders Raff, his own campaign manager and first supporter, shot with gunfire for disagreeing with him over golf before handing him over to a negligent, inexperienced doctor holding a scalpel.

Jordan Peele: Society is a fragile ecosystem. Razzle and dazzle people with the right lies and eventually they'll go blind to the madness right in front of their faces. Raff Hanks made a living selling the American dream. But, once sold, he created a true nightmare that he couldn't buy back. Especially not here in The Twilight Zone.

Example of: