“8” is a fun Twilight Zone creature feature with an unfortunately bungled ending

Scientists at a research base in Antarctica are searching for new life under the ice and, when one of those new lives makes its way into the station in the form of a very smart and very vicious octopus, the scientists must scramble to figure out what to do next.

Okay, I’ll say it… this episode is not that good, but it is a heck of a lot of fun. It’s an old fashioned monster movie in a closed environment, sort of like The Thing or Alien. The parts of an excellent episode is there, but “8” takes those pieces, assembles them, and then, when the puzzle is almost completed, it promptly urinates on it.

The result is an episode that isn’t going to be a classic, but it is still fun. The fun remains meaning that, as far as cinematic comparisons go, it’s less The Thing and more like Virus… or the 2011 version of The Thing. Not great, but still kind of fun.

First of all, I liked the cold calculating viciousness of the octopus and nowhere is that more effectively communicated than with the attack on Frisch when (spoiler alert) Frisch cuts off the octopus’ tentacle and the severed tentacle continues to choke him, the octopus resuming his attack and ripping out his eyeball. It was so gory and visceral and communicated so much about the creature. I loved it, even if it was gratuitous and shocking.

This is purely surface level, of course, but that’s not always a bad thing. The episode largely relies on the monster in the dark formula and the episode, for the most part, exploits it very well.

Where the episode fails, however, is with the rushed and overly exposition-laden ending where “8” commits the cardinal sin of telling and not showing, where Joel McHale quickly and breathlessly explains what the octopus did and how it won. This episode could have ended with mystery, McHale saying something about how the octopus was editing its own genes, and then showed octopi crawling out of the ocean and onto the surface. It would have been a more effective, ambiguous, and scary ending.

It doesn’t help that Joel McHale seems oddly detached from the episode, as if this was just a job he didn’t care very much about.

So, yes… I actually liked this episode as a surface level creature feature, but as an episode of The Twilight Zone, it tripped at the finish line and fell right on its face, skidding on its nose to an embarrassing stop.

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