In the wake of a suspicious meteor shower, the seemingly quaint town of Newbury descends into absolute chaos. Half the population—the men, to be specific—is acting peculiar. Angrier. Although Annie Miller (Taissa Farmiga, The Nun) notices the change in behavior before everyone else around her does, she still doesn’t know what’s causing it. That is until she remembers the meteor rocks that fell from the sky, scattering across the community. What was meant to be a night of celebration ends up being a fight for survival in The Twilight Zone.
In “Not All Men,” Annie is only two months into her job as a project manager at a pharmaceutical company. After she agrees to helm part of a drug trial, her new co-worker Dylan (Luke Kirby, Halloween Resurrection) chides her for being such a pushover. She states she feels awkward when saying “no” to assignments, and she doesn’t want people to think she isn’t a “team player.” This leads into Dylan asking Annie out on a date. Despite being uncomfortable by her peer’s advances, Annie reluctantly accepts.
Later that evening, the two watch the scheduled meteor shower at Dylan‘s place. When some of the meteorites land nearby, the pair explores the grounds in hopes of finding one of the fragments. Dylan spots a piece in the woods and brings it back to his house. He and Annie then start to kiss until Dylan gets handsy. She decides to call it a night, but he doesn’t accept her rejection. Dylan grabs Annie forcefully by her arms before she can escape to safety and away from this awful date.
The next morning at work, Annie‘s boss Phil (Peter Kelamis, Cabin in the Woods) tells her that Dylan will conduct the placebo trial instead. This news on top of Phil‘s uninformed praise of Dylan doesn’t sit well with Annie, but she bites her tongue. Following a tense session of yoga, Annie‘s stress is only aggravated by the masculine hostility around her. One man repeatedly slams his car trunk outside, and another jabs his cup with a straw over and over. Annie‘s finally shaken from her daze by a disgruntled driver wanting to claim her parking spot. Annie goes on with her day, thinking what just happened is inconsequential. Unfortunately for her and every other woman in Newbury, there’s something more insidious at play.
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It’s Martha‘s (Rhea Seehorn) birthday and her loved ones have gathered at her home for an intimate dinner. Besides her husband and son, the guests are Martha‘s sister Annie, and Phil and his wife Olivia (Steph Song). The fun is all at once interrupted by the commotion next door. Save for Martha‘s teenage son Cole (Percy Hynes White), the men help an irritable neighbor out with his lawnmower while the women retreat to a local bar.
When Martha spots Dylan at the bar, she makes some suggestive jokes that leave Annie uneasy. Though what really ruins the night is the male patrons erupting into an all-out brawl. The sisters flee from the disorder at hand, but not without being followed home by Annie‘s suddenly contemptuous co-worker Perry (Jeff Gladstone). Martha‘s husband Mike (Ike Barinholtz), who is usually so gentle and affable, handles the problem by pummeling Perry to death. And then he comes inside, bloodied and seething, to cut the birthday cake with his wife. By now, Annie has already shared her theory that the men—and only the men—are acting violently because of the meteor shower. Knowing that, the pair subdues Martha‘s husband before leaving for safety. Yet they won’t find anything resembling that outside as it’s every man for himself in The Twilight Zone.
First off, this is a beautiful-looking episode. Director Christina Choe has an eye for conveying lushness in a way that’s somehow both warm and disconcerting. From the roadside, vegetative area where Dylan retrieves a meteorite to the misty surroundings of Martha‘s surburbic abode—you can’t decide whether you should be lulled into quietude or remain cautious. The visual softness of the episode is a complete contrast to the scenes of unbridled aggression and barbarity.
Without seeing the entirety of “Not All Men,” it may appear that the inherent madness going on is an effect of the meteor shower. Right off, this basic plot is in danger of reflecting the notion that “boys will be boys.” As in males are innately misbehaved or worse, and all it takes to unlock said behavior is a key or a trigger. Essentially, men are then absolved of their exploits because it’s in their nature to act that way. However, the episode significantly deviates from the source material of Raccoona Sheldon’s “The Screwfly Solution.” The twist revealed by the end is that while the meteorites do have an effect on the men who touch them, a man still has the ability to stave off the rock’s influence. This is proven whenever Martha‘s son comes in contact with a meteorite. Through sheer choice, he denies the object’s thrall and later proclaims, “It’s not all of us.” The delivery of this revelation is handled with the grace of a pratfall, but it’s a sobering reminder of how at the end of the day, we are still responsible for our actions.
“Not All Men” is another example of how The Twilight Zone is responding directly to pressing social issues today. The title alone is a dead giveaway for what it’s about, too. After all, one of the most recurring Internet memes today is #NotAllMen, which is a mockery of those who deflect from sexism and related topics. But for those decrying the series for its lack of subtlety, they should remember that even the classic Twilight Zone wasn’t always low-key about its themes. A more apt criticism would be the reboot’s showrunners’ inability to follow through with their ideas.
Choe and writer Heather Anne Campbell’s offering will be met with eyerolls and pushback. In their defense, the detriments of misogyny are not something that can be translated perfectly in a mere forty minutes. So for what it is, “Not All Men” creditably captures a fear women carry with them every single day. Could the presentation have been smoother? Definitely. Moreover, the biggest takeway from the episode is that we’re presented an excessive situation that isn’t implausible at its core. And that in itself is what’s truly scary.
“Not All Men” is either sparse on easter eggs or they’re really well hidden in this episode!
- A medic watching Whipple News on his laptop. Whipple has by and large been a recurrent brand throughout the series in many forms.
- The drink cup being jabbed at with a straw is from Busy Bee Diner.