The fifth episode of Jordan Peele’s reboot of The Twilight Zone, entitled “Wunderkind” was an interesting follow up to the previous episode. Peele takes an insane concept and somehow manages to make it work.
DISCLAIMER: This recap contains spoilers, please proceed with caution!
OPENING NARRATION: “Meet Raff Hanks, a wunderkind. Once the most successful campaign manager of his generation. Now Raff find himself in the 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.”
The episode begins with Raff Hanks (John Cho) inside some sort of futuristic observation room. A voice coming from a speaker asks Raff if he knows his own name, and he does. We flash back to five years earlier, showing that Raff is managing a presidential campaign that he is convinced he will win. Raff continues to brag about how they will win to a staffer, who believes he has jinxed things with his boasts.
Raff is called to meet his client, the incumbent president. The President is beside himself with anger as the results start to come in, projecting that he would lose the presidency. Raff attempts to defend himself but the President continues to berate him for the situation.
Sometime later Raff is at a bar drinking and talking to the political commentators on the television. Raff later notices a video of a child on the television who is announcing his candidacy for the Presidency. The video has gotten 8 million views and the patrons in the bar express support for the child.
Returning from the intro we again see Raff in the observation room before we flashback once again. Raff is now at the child’s house having dinner with the family. Raff is there exploring the option of actually having the child, Oliver (Jacob Tremblay), run for president. The parents express their trepidation by explaining it’s a joke that happened to take off.
Raff uses all the stops in his attempt to convince them, however the father calls him out on his past failure and boozing afterward. Raff explains that he is completely sober and admits to using their son for a comeback. Raff also explains that Oliver has tapped into something that has the nations attention.
Oliver interrupts the conversation explaining that he and his sister were about to make a new video. Later, Oliver is repeating the points of the video at a rally, and Raff tells him of the numerous interviews he must do with the national media. Oliver expresses interest in making a music video as his videos all have been going viral and Raff promises to work on it.
Back in the observation room, Raff is told by the voice on the speaker that they will need to operate on him because of his unstable condition. We then flashback to Raff overseeing the filming of the music video that Oliver wanted. When the video ends filming, Oliver’s parents tell him about an upcoming doctors appointment to which he complains and throws a fit, ultimately walking away with his hands over his ears.
We then see a collage of Oliver’s music video inter cut with interviews of people who plan to actually vote for him in the election. A little bit later, Oliver is undergoing debate prep in which he completely fails at causing the prep coach to crack and call Oliver a joke. After Raff fires the coach, Oliver asks if the guy was right and that he is a joke, and Raff reassures him that isn’t the case.
During the debate, Oliver is shown that he is out of his depth and is destroyed during the debates. Raff tries to explain that Oliver will get his sea legs but they have had enough of the sideshow. Oliver is then shown on national television calling for his mom, who ultimately comes out on stage and leaves with her son.
Later we again see Raff in a bar watching the news report on his failure. Raff’s former friend and co-worker arrives at the bar to see how he is doing, but upon seeing him realizes that he isn’t doing well. Raff then vents about what he should have done with Oliver’s campaign to which she replies it’s too late. She also tells him that the family dog contracted cancer and Oliver was wondering if it was okay to post a blog about his dog. Raff believes that this is great for Oliver and rushes over to his home.
Oliver is then featured in a commercial that starts off about his dying dog, but then his family comes into the frame and he launches into an election speech. The video proves to be a genius stroke as Oliver begins winning key states in the election. Oliver ultimately wins the presidency and is ushered into the oval office where he makes a joke about bombing Russia. Oliver wants to begin fulfilling his campaign promises such as free video games for all to which his mother tries to object.
As his advisers try to explain why it isn’t possible, Oliver cuts them off telling them that they have to as he made a promise. If they don’t he is going to surcharge the companies and put them out of business. Raff attempts to reason with Oliver who retorts that if they don’t do what he says he will hire other people who obey.
It’s at this point that Raff begins to understand the mistake that his vanity forced him to make. Oliver is then shown in his new oval office complete with video games, posters, and a basketball hoop. Raff attempts to speak with a cabinet official about the President being a child and his conduct being an issue. The official responds that he doesn’t care about the age and that Oliver’s approval rating is through the roof due to his video game law and that Raff shouldn’t be talking treason.
Raff then tries to get the President’s mother to intervene but she turns his previous words on him explaining that Oliver has a way with the people and needs to continue what he is doing. Raff then meets with Oliver who is playing mini golf inside of the White House. As Raff and Oliver talk, the President reveals that he knows about the treason and commands that they continue to play.
Oliver explains that he is hurt that Raff isn’t backing him, and that Raff needs to back him unconditionally. Oliver then reveals that his dog was never dying and it was a ploy to get Raff on his team. Raff then challenges the President over cheating during the mini golf game. Raff stands up to Oliver which causes the President to scream that Raff has a gun, causing the secret service to shoot him.
News reports of citizens claiming that Raff got what he deserved as they believe he attacked the President. Back in the observation room a man is telling Raff that the doctor will arrive shortly to operate on him. Raff questions the man asking if he is the doctor but the man explains that he isn’t permitted by law to be a doctor. The doctor then arrives and it is revealed to be a boy no older than fifteen who wants to get the surgery over to get back to his video games.
CLOSING NARRATION: “Societies 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.”
The Twilight Zone is streaming now on CBS All-Access.