“Among the Untrodden” reworks Carrie with some fun inversions on the idea of high-school politics in probably the best episode of the second season thus far.
This recap of The Twilight Zone season 2, episode 5, “Among the Untrodden”, contains spoilers. You can check out our thoughts on the previous episode by clicking these words.
It’s hard to watch “Among the Untrodden” and not think of Stephen King’s Carrie, which is obviously intentional – Jordan Peele, a noted connoisseur of the horror genre, isn’t going to tell a story about an eccentric high-school girl and psychic powers and expect people not to notice. But what makes The Twilight Zone season 2, episode 5 a standout of this season thus far is how Peele reworks Carrie to present a compelling adjacent what-if and then upends it all at the last minute to reverse an enduring high-school archetype.
That what-if is simple: What if it wasn’t the quiet, unusual girl who had the physic powers, but the awful school bully? That’s how “Among the Untrodden” begins, with new-girl Irene introducing popular, bitchy queen-bee Madison to the idea that she might have psychic superpowers. It begins innocently enough, with Madison predicting the symbols on a set of cards, but as the girls practice in an abandoned bathroom it quickly becomes clear that Madison can read minds and conjure objects.
Far from humbling Madison, her abilities only make her even more of a stuck-up bully, the belief that she’s special encouraging her to exhibit her perceived uniqueness more and more. But she reserves a soft spot for Irene, even as her friends continue to despise and belittle her. This comes to a head on the school balcony, where a drunk, high, and eager-to-please Irene topples from her perch, presumably to her death.
But Irene sits up from her deadly fall like the Undertaker in his prime, teeing up a bluff twist that “Among the Untrodden” eggs on. Having damaged her relationship with Madison in exchange for the cool-girl popularity she so desperately covets, Irene realizes what the audience and Madison already knew – any “friendship” Irene had was just a ruse to ridicule her further. Upon seeing a cruel science project dubbed “Anatomy of a Loser”, which chronicles all Irene’s embarrassingly try-hard attempts at fitting in, Irene lets out a bloodcurdling scream which shatters the monitors of the science project and hospitalizes – or perhaps kills – all of Madison’s former allies.
With the obligatory Carrie moment having happened, The Twilight Zone season 2, episode 5 doesn’t end there, however. What we’re supposed to believe is what Madison accuses Irene of; that she was the one with the powers all along, and she allowed Madison to believe that she was the special one in order to befriend her. This is a perfectly fitting ending – except it isn’t the ending. When Irene finally convinces Madison to believe they’re friends, and that all her pain is a result of her unwillingness to admit that she’s different, the girls hug, and Irene turns to stone and subsequently rubble.
That’s the real twist. It was Madison with the powers all along, and she had psychically conjured Irene in the hopes of finding a real friend. The so-called popular girl was more alone than anyone. As the episode ends, another new girl walks into the classroom as Madison once again scratches her name into the desk, this time alongside Irene’s, and the cycle begins anew.
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Jonathon is the Co-Founder of Ready Steady Cut and has been Senior Editor and Chief Critic of the outlet since 2017.