Originally published at People’s World.
Editor’s note: A review and analysis of Jordan Peele’s “The Twilight Zone” episode nine. Spoilers ahead.
Jordan Peele’s The Twilight Zone is currently airing weekly on the streaming service CBS All Access. The ninth episode of the series, titled “The Blue Scorpion,” may be the most polarizing one, given the subject matter it subtly addresses. The story uses supernatural chills to put a spotlight on the topic of gun regulation and the obsession with firearms here in the United States. The messaging is not as overt as in previous episodes, save for Peele’s ending monologue, but through the main character’s journey the topic of gun legislation shines through, taking a shot (pun intended) at addressing why the issue is a divisive one in a number of ways.
The episode stars Chris O’Dowd (Get Shorty), Amy Landecker (A Kid Like Jake), and Adam Korson (Hot in Cleveland). It is directed by Craig William Macneill (Lizzie) and written by Glen Morgan (Final Destination 3). O’Dowd stars as Professor Jeff Storck, an anthropology scientist who discovers the body of his father, Otis, who has just committed suicide with a mysterious gun. Through a series of events, it would appear that the gun, named Blue Scorpion, has supernatural abilities, along with a single bullet that displays the name of the next person to be shot by it. The audience watches as Storck’s obsession with the Blue Scorpion grows while trying to figure out the gun’s next target.
This somber episode contains some comedic elements planted throughout so as not to be completely depressing. The opening scene gets the plot going quickly, as Jeff is on the phone with his wife who is pressuring him for a divorce he doesn’t want, right before he stumbles upon his father’s dead body. The bullet shot from the gun at the death scene has the name “Otis” printed on it, before it seemingly disappears. Once Jeff is given possession of the gun the main bullet now has the name “Jeff” on it, and from there the audience is made to wonder if the professor will suffer the same fate as his father.
The mystery of the episode goes beyond the expected Twilight Zone twist. None of the weird happenings are presented in a neat package. Some mysteries aren’t even explained by the end of the episode, which may frustrate some viewers while delightfully terrifying others.
O’Dowd is the driving force behind this episode. Most of the story is spent from Storck’s perspective as the viewer is made to witness his grief and bewilderment over his father’s death, his frustration with his wife, who has seemingly moved on with another man, and his sense of hopelessness. O’Dowd makes Jeff’s descent into a kind of madness-fueled love story with the inanimate object that is the Blue Scorpion believable, where it could have easily felt contrived and awkward.
The other interesting plot point is the fact that Jeff is a rather generic name, so as our Jeff sees his name printed on the magical bullet, he also meets a high volume of other Jeffs throughout the story. This heightens the sense of terror throughout the episode, as viewers are left wondering if they will have to witness a murder or a suicide.
This point brings us to the major theme in the episode, which is that of gun regulation and firearm obsession in our society. One may wonder what a magical gun made in Cuba during the socialist revolution (yay for the Che Guevara reference in the episode) has to do with the American obsession with guns, but there’s plenty in the story that lends itself to the debate.
Jeff is shown to be going through an unstable time in his life. Initially, he wants to get rid of the gun, but soon, as he wallows in his grief and helplessness, he comes to see it as a source of power and begins taking it with him to different events. There are a number of chilling moments, such as when he’s meeting with his wife and her attorney (also named Jeff), where it is clear he has the gun, and it is also clear that there is a chance that he may very well use it on others.
These moments, where Jeff may take his frustrations with the world out on others, are not far removed from instances of mass shootings, such as those last year alone. Scenes that involve Jeff’s estranged wife, and Jeff seemingly reaching for the gun, also leave room for the connection to the chilling fact that almost 50% of all murdered women are killed by romantic partners, and 54% of those murders are gun deaths.
Jeff may very well be obsessed with a magical gun, but his reliance on the gun—and the danger of him using it on others, especially given his demographic as a white male—is not extraordinary, nor confined to the Twilight Zone, as it may appear on the surface.
In the end, it is not our Jeff who is shot, but another Jeff who is a low-level criminal.
From there Jeff Storck’s life takes a turn for the better, as he’s seen as a hero in his town for killing the robber. He’s offered a higher position at work and is able to amicably separate from his wife. What subverts this seemingly happy ending is that Jeff had been outside his wife’s house that night, seemingly to kill her and her new lover (another Jeff). So a Jeff was indeed killed. Yes, he was a thief, but one could argue that didn’t exactly merit his death.
In the end, Jeff hurls the Blue Scorpion into the ocean, only for it to be found by two young boys who begin playing with it as if it were a toy. One of the boys notices the magic bullet even has his name on it. It’s clearly a tragic event waiting to happen, as accidental gun deaths involving children is a real issue, with at least 73 occurrences last year.
Peele’s ending speech leaves little mystery about the story’s view on gun control and obsession. The narrator notes, “Human beings have a funny way of treating things like people. But today, you’ll learn that as long as objects are valued more than lives, tragedy will forever be manufactured.”
Jeff was able to break away from his obsession with the Blue Scorpion, but its mystical power is only handed over to plenty of others in the U.S. In this country with an average of 88 guns per 100 people, 114,994 people are shot each year.
While not the best episode of the series, the story makes a respectable and bold choice of using supernatural elements to touch upon a very real issue plaguing our nation.