“Among the Downtrodden” is the twisty, darkly ironic Twilight Zone we deserve

What if one of the Mean Girls had psychic powers? Sounds like a great premise, right? That’s pretty much what you would expect from “Among the Downtrodden,” an episode that features Madison, the perpetual mean girl, who discovers she has mental gifts when she reluctantly makes the acquaintance of perpetual nerd, Irene.

At first glance, this episode made me think that they were doing a rehash of “It’s a Good Life” with the kid who could warp realty to whatever his devious little mind wanted, but “Among the Downtrodden” is actually devious on its own, giving the audience a very depth bait-and-switch plot where you think it’s going to be about one thing, and then becomes about something else entirely.

I guess you could say that this episode is a cry for help in the forest where you cannot be entirely sure where the cry for help is coming from. To be honest, I thought the episode was rather brilliant. It takes an often used trope, the story of the powerful, horrible, popular girl, and turns it on its ear in just the final few moments. I enjoy stories like this, where everything is recontextualized at the last minute, where you can go back and watch the entire episode again knowing what you know and pick up on things you didn’t notice the first time.

It was a pretty great episode. A little cringey as I do think that Madison’s mean girls cohorts dragged the story down for being absolutely two-dimensional evil which was disappointing as Madison was so well developed and acted, but completely forgiveable.

It’s amazing to me how The Twilight Zone’s second season is swinging back and forth so dramatically in quality. It’s like a rollercoaster of highs and lows, of great episodes and not-great episodes.

I guess I better brace myself for next week then.

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