The Twilight Zone continues to ignore humanity in favor of checking boxes off its lists of social issues, this time taking on immigration in “Point of Origin,” a mostly inert episode that nevertheless remains interesting for how its approach to presenting a moral lesson structurally backfires. In a wannabe-ominous “It could happen to you!” scenario, the tables are turned when a well-to-do American woman is taken from her family by government agents, only to be indefinitely housed at a prison-like detention center and told that she is under suspicion of being here illegally. This sort of reversal of fortune is pretty standard stuff for classic TZ, but here the plot is hinged on a particular detail that creates a definite sense of creepiness — one that may intrude on clearly desired feelings of guilt and magnanimity.
It’s hard to warm up to Eve Martin as she tiptoes in heels across her lavish home, two party planners salivating at heel in order to lap up some of the wealth. There’s a function to prepare for (only the finest people will attend, I’m sure), and Eve is trying to decide how best to show off her taste while simultaneous keeping the riffraff from soiling it. Meanwhile, she yips commands at her “part of the family” housekeeper, Anna, with an air of superior politeness even during supposedly caring conversations of a personal nature. When Anna is nabbed at the door by G-men and taken away to presumably be deported, Eve sure feigns compassion, especially to her elitist clique of tea-time pals who bemoan how hard it is to find good help these days. Subtle, this ain’t.
Not too long after after Eve is shown by her children how to use a credit card at the grocery store (rich people must hate shopping), she herself is busted by the Men in Black, given an orange jumpsuit, and stuck in a cell, indefinitely. In a genuinely humorous moment, her upper-crust hubby insists that there’s nothing in America that can’t be solved by a lawyer, but a chilling agent named Allendale shrugs this off. Perhaps they’ll just leave the law out of this one. So why is Eve being detained? Nobody wants to answer her directly, and the idea that one could be swooped up and held without any sort of due process or communication with the outside world to prepare a defense certainly is frightening. Had the offense remained a mystery, “Point of Origin” might have had a better shot at eliciting the terror (and subsequent sympathy) it so desires. Unfortunately, it makes a tactical error.
You see, the reason that Uncle Sam doesn’t think Eve belongs under America’s fair blue skies is because they suspect that she’s not of this world — or maybe even this universe. It’s a fascinating tack to take, as infiltration by a more literal alien more often than not gives audiences the creeps (see this season’s own “A Traveler”). From the doppelgangers of “Mirror Image” to three-eyed, three-handed beings among us in “Will the Real Martian Please Stand Up,” such breaches have been used to great effect to fill past Twilight Zone viewers with suspicion and dread about their supposedly secure surroundings. But this time audiences are supposed to feel bad that a “caravan” of inter-dimensionals who ruined their own version of Earth and have sneakily blended into this one are being rounded up? Hmm.
It’s certainly an interesting attempt at an analogy, but “Point of Origin” doesn’t make much of an attempt at humanizing these immigrants. Outside the amnesic Eve, they have about as much character as the undercover aliens in They Live, skulking in the shadows and holding secret meetings, lying about their identities and pasts, and projecting a clannish vibe. When one of the proclaims that this place is “ours too, not just theirs,” the dimly lit room and forceful tone comes off more as threatening than reasonable. Even Anna goes dark, acting like she’s glad her former boss has landed in the hole, angry for some reason that this asshole doesn’t know her kids’ names, and didn’t actually treat her like “family.” Eve herself is also given very few moments to earn sympathy; writer John Griffin has a tendency to slather the “privilege” on so thick that many will surely cheer her comeuppance.
What this amounts to is a confusing message. Maybe audiences are supposed to feel guilt at how Eve is treated by her captors; but then why take so much delight in making her unlikable? Maybe they’re supposed to care about the plight of immigrants, no matter where they are from (even outer space or another dimension); but then why add the detail that they polluted and destroyed their own planet? That doesn’t exactly make them feel like welcome guests. All the while, the overuse of “This Land is Your Land” wants to convey sinister undertones lurking beneath perceived wholesomeness, but the blunt critique can’t find a proper target.
Unfortunately, there’s not much else interesting about “Point of Origin” — not much happening, plot-wise. Once again, an outside threat is given more focus than internal flaws or conflict (Eve has no arc), and a good deal of time is spent just watching Eve mill about her cell or struggle at coming to terms with her memory loss, wondering, why me? Only in the last act is there some forward momentum, but it’s quickly cut off by a rushed ending that’s not the least bit surprising. Go watch South Park‘s “Goobacks” episode instead.