“Try, Try” is one of the best episodes of The Twilight Zone reboot, offering an inspired take on the familiar story of being stuck in a time loop.
The Twilight Zone season 2 offers an inspired take on time loops with episode 9, “Try, Try”, one of the reboot’s best episodes. The story starts with Claudia (Kylie Bunbury) almost getting killed by an incoming vehicle. Thankfully, she’s recused by Marc (Topher Grace). Once he realizes that they’re headed to the same museum, he pays for her entry before she can object. Claudia is charmed by Marc, for reasons which go beyond the fact that he saved her life. He’s attentive, he shares her interests, and he even shares the name of one of Claudia’s first crushes. Still, something seems strange about the guy.
That’s because Marc is stuck in a time loop. He reveals this to Claudia after she grows suspicious of his ability to accurately predict every event of the day before it happens. Claudia is initially skeptical, but she becomes convinces once he reveals how well he knows Claudia. He’s lived through several versions of this museum date, learning about her and her most intimate details. “Try, Try” has fun with this conceit, initially. It shows, for example, how in his many attempts to save Claudia’s life, he actually inadvertently caused her death on at least one occasion. It also shows that a seemingly effortless joke by Marc, which made Claudia laugh out loud, took a number of tries to perfect.
“Try, Try” dispenses with the lightheartedness fairly quickly, though. The twist of the episode, what makes it work so well is that it features a time loop from the perspective of someone who demonstrates barely any desire to get out of it. His main focus, by his own admission, is to make Claudia his soulmate. He doesn’t appreciate the fact that she doesn’t share his sentiments, gradually turning violent and emotionally abusive. Pop culture, across mediums and genres, and surely influenced by the success of Groundhog Day, has presented time loops in the narrative form of a hero’s journey. It’s both a gift and a nuisance, designed to help the main character evolve into a better person. This holds true for everything from Edge of Tomorrow to Russian Doll and Happy Death Day.
In the case of “Try, Try” however, the time loop only seems to have nurtured Marc’s worst qualities. Viewed charitably, his predicament has caused him to go mad. Viewed a little less charitably, he’s always been an awful human being. Either way, he drops his veneer of niceness as the episode approaches its conclusion. He tells Claudia that she’s not even real, taunting her about the fact that he can do whatever he wants. The new version of her that will arrive when the date resets won’t even remember.
Marc is exposed as a truly repellent individual, casually boasting about the fact that he’s slept with Claudia in at least a few previous time loops. “Try, Try” offers Claudia a measure of revenge when she easily ends Marc’s bravado by punching him in the face and getting him thrown out of the museum. This is significant, since the episode also shows how creepy it would be to be stalked and pursued through several time loops. Jordan Peele’s closing narration notes that Claudia will go on living many days, while Marc remains stuck experiencing the same one. But the ending is fairly ambiguous beyond that.
The last scene of “Try, Try” is a repeat of the first. Marc watches as Claudia is about to cross the street, on her way to the museum. They share a smile, but he makes no effort to introduce himself to her. The camera lingers on Marc’s face, his expression a mix of embarrassment and anger. Jennifer McGowan, who directed the episode, and writer Alex Rubens leave the implications open to the viewer’s interpretation. It’s possible that Marc has learned his lesson after being humiliated by Claudia in the previous loop. Or it could just be that he’s decided to transfer his obsession elsewhere, to some other person. “Try, Try” is better for not offering a clear answer, distinguishing itself as a brilliantly thought-provoking and well-acted installment of The Twilight Zone which stands out as one of the reboot’s finest.