Through the horrors of ropey CGI and predictable jump-scares, “A Human Face” attempts to tackle grief to very mixed effect.
This recap of The Twilight Zone season 2, episode 7, “A Human Face”, contains spoilers. You can check out our thoughts on the previous episode by clicking these words.
The word of the day is “grief”, and “A Human Face” explores what one couple – and, by the end, many more couples – might do in order to overcome it and regain what has been lost to them. The only problem is that doing so requires pretending that an alien is your dead kid, and being okay with said alien posing as that child for the foreseeable future, despite having explained in quite clear terms that it’s here to conquer you.
For The Twilight Zone season 2, episode 7, logic is something to be enthusiastically abandoned.
But in a way that’s the point. The episode’s focal couple, Robert and Barbara, are supposed to symbolize that grief overpowers logic; that in our fallible human forms, our emotions guide us, above all. The love of a parent for their child is the strongest bond we know, and many of us would be willing to overlook almost anything in order to maintain that bond.
That’s the idea, anyway, but the execution in “A Human Face” is a bit off, to say the least. Thanks to radio warnings about an incoming cosmic flare, Barbara and Robert determine quickly that the sucker-faced fleshy monstrosity eating their table is an alien. But Barbara, somewhat improbably, instantly decides that the creature is their late daughter, Maggie; Robert, the rationalist, argues otherwise.
Here we see two competing modes of thought – emotion versus rationality – and the story builds to the idea that the latter, in the right circumstances, will always surrender to the former. It’s Robert who has the most obvious arc throughout the episode, as he goes from being a staunch non-believer to, eventually, being somewhat okay with the idea of adopting this alien as their daughter. The alien, meanwhile, adopts Maggie’s voice and appearance, poring over her belongings in order to learn her memories and personality.
An idea that The Twilight Zone season 2, episode 7 toys with, albeit briefly, is that Robert is abusive to his wife; not physically, but verbally, and emotionally. He’s aggressive, where his wife is meek, and once the alien gets a better sense of Maggie, it’s compelled to intervene when it hears them arguing. This is a good idea – that the alien is inheriting not just Maggie’s memories but their emotional context – that is quickly taken in another direction, as Maggie, or the alien wearing her, explains how she is a “Biological Pacification Tool” and is posing as their dead daughter in order to conquer them.
There is something of a twist to “A Human Face”, however, since the alien was so compelled by human emotion that it decided to turn off its core invasion directive – or at least claims to have done so. Once Jordan Peele’s Narrator arrives to cap things off, he more or less confirms this, but I’d have preferred the episode to end on a more ambiguous note, with the audience still unsure if the aliens’ decision to live among humankind was just a part of their plot to conquer them – a fate we, let’s be frank, richly deserve.
But no dice. We instead get a happy-clappy conclusion of love conquering all, very reminiscent of the ludicrous third act of Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar. For its final image, “A Human Face” elects to have various families, parents and their children, all walk out into the street in unison. Is the implication here that everyone on this street lost a child and is perfectly happy to replace that child with an alien doppelganger? If you say so.
Still, at least The Twilight Zone season 2, episode 7 has some things on its mind, even if sharing them in quite this way seems misguided. I appreciate the sentiment, but the execution leaves a lot to be desired.
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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.