‘The Twilight Zone’: “Point of Origin” tackles immigration and privilege

Originally published at People’s World

Editor’s note: A review and analysis of Jordan Peele’s “The Twilight Zone” episode eight. Spoilers ahead.

“This is America. Everything is an attorney thing.” – The Twilight Zone

Jordan Peele’s The Twilight Zone is currently airing weekly on the streaming service CBS All Access. Not every story has a happy or hopeful ending, and episode eight, titled “Point of Origin,” showcases as much. The tale told in this episode is a bleak one, that is clearly symbolic of our current reality’s issue of immigration, ICE detainment, and the treatment that some of those that migrate to the United States experience when trying to achieve better lives. Even in the fantasy world of The Twilight Zone prejudice, discrimination, and misled righteousness are as deadly and detrimental as ever.

The episode stars Ginnifer Goodwin (Once Upon a Time), James Frain (Star Trek: Discovery), Zabryna Guevara (New Amsterdam), Michael Eklund (Altered Carbon), and Toby Levins (The Age of Adaline). It is directed by Mathias Herndl (Genius) and written by John Griffin. Goodwin stars as Eve Martin, a wealthy housewife who finds her status and security threatened when she is detained as an illegal immigrant. What makes the story unique to The Twilight Zone is that Eve may be an immigrant from another dimension. The episode follows the upheaval of Eve’s privileged life and the ordeal she faces trying to get back to her family.

Visually the episode is haunting and beautiful. This is not to say that previous episodes of Peele’s Twilight Zone haven’t been nice to look at, but in this particular episode, the use of color and perception stand out and are made key to telling the story. This may be due to the fact that director Herndl has a career of doing a good amount of cinematography. This shows through as the episode, although having poignant dialogue, relies heavily on visual storytelling as well to display the crisis Eve finds herself in.

Goodwin gives a standout performance as a well-off housewife who has known nothing but security most of her life, who now is faced with the ordeal of being seen as the ‘other.’ James Frain gives a sinister and chilling performance as the head officer at the detention facility, as he aims to break Eve down and expose her secret. While Zabryna Guevara gives a subtle but strong performance as Eve’s housekeeper, who is seemingly detained for being an immigrant from another country, which allows her a deeper understanding of the way the system and discrimination works.

The anticipated Twilight Zone twist itself is not what the story completely relies on. Yes, Eve may be from another dimension, but the real issue is the way in which the government deals with people from other places, and the justification for that treatment. The episode uses the fantasy of inter-dimensional interaction to reflect the very real issue of immigration and ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) detention that we deal with here in the United States. The picture it paints is not a pleasant one either.

One major theme in the episode is immigration policy and who is affected by it. In the beginning of the episode Eve’s housekeeper, Anna, is detained by the government right after she asks Eve for help in getting her grandson into the prestigious charter school. Eve is distraught as she and her upper-middle-class friends talk about the dangers of immigration over lunch. All four ladies seem to be sympathetic towards the undocumented workers they employ, yet what is also displayed is a distance from truly understanding the real struggles any of those people face. One friend of Eve comments, “they know the risk when they come here.”

Later, when Eve ends up in the same holding facility as Anna, the two have a poignant conversation that summarizes aptly the desensitization that many American citizens experience towards the treatment of undocumented workers. Eve hugs Anna and comments that she had no idea that they would send Anna to such a grim and bleak place (the holding facility). Yet, Anna challenges this comment by explaining to Eve that she actually did have an idea. “Did you think they’d be sending us to the Four Seasons,” Anna remarks. She makes a point to say to Eve that it was easier for Eve and others not to think about it when it was just on television because they weren’t made to experience the same hardship for themselves.

When Eve is being interrogated by agent Allendale he explains the situation of the inter-dimensional interaction. Allendale tells Eve of how a “caravan” came to their dimension 30 years ago and tried to blend in with other humans. What stands out about the exposition Allendale gives is that he calls the dimension Eve comes from as “lesser,” and that those from the lesser dimension are being seen as hindering the evolution of those from this dimension. This dialogue could be seen as addressing the fact that immigration policy here in the United States is not the same for all immigrants.

When it comes to the rhetoric in the United States in advocating for stricter immigration policy, and building a wall to keep out undocumented immigrants, often it is associated with those from Latin American countries who are non-white. Our current president, Donald Trump, has called Mexicans rapists and criminals on more than one occasion. Just last year it was reported that Trump complained about accepting immigrants from “sh*thole” countries, such as Haiti and places in Africa. The president then went on to remark that the U.S. should be accepting more immigrants from places like Norway, which is predominantly white. “Point of Origin” used the idea of the lesser dimension, and the hostility the government has towards it, to showcase the uneven treatment against immigrants from certain countries.

The other major theme in the episode deals with the idea of privilege. Before Eve is detained and finds out about her real origins, all she knew was a life of security and wealth. She has a lawyer husband, a large beautiful home, a housekeeper, and is seemingly living the American dream. She declares when being held in the ICE-like detention facility that she is a good person. This is despite the fact that up until that point she’d never gone shopping for herself, and hardly knew anything about the life of her housekeeper Anna, who she had employed for over a decade. Eve lived with the privilege of never having had to think about the hardships that undocumented workers and their families faced. It is only when she is put in the position of being considered the “other” herself that she is able to grasp the sense of despair and lack of protection.

The switching of status puts forth the idea that perhaps if those with the privilege of not being considered the ‘other’ had to experience the hardship first hand, then maybe the abolishment of ICE, and the unethical policies against undocumented workers, would no longer be debatable, but given.

The episode ends on a dark and powerful note. Eve’s husband seemingly abandons her and she is taken back into government custody. Her high society friends do not help her, and the audience is left not knowing what her future will be. Eve is seemingly lost in the system, just as many undocumented workers are in our own society when taken into custody with little to no rights given. As Peele notes in his closing monologue in the episode, we are all immigrants from somewhere. Yet, it would appear that even in The Twilight Zone, as in our own reality, discrimination and an unjust system makes it so not all are welcomed, or allowed to feel truly at home.

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