WARNING: The following contains spoilers for The Twilight Zone, Episode 7: "Not All Men."
The Twilight Zone's "Not All Men" is one of the most thought-provoking episodes of the reboot so far, focusing on the small town of Newbury as it's hit with a meteor shower. The red rocks end up infecting the male population, sending them mad with rage and leading to acts of violence that could best be described as the Hulk unleashed, but in Bruce Banner's body.
But as the story unfolds, we find out this particular Jekyll and Hyde story really isn't about men losing control due to radiation or alien poisoning -- it all comes down to the ever-present toxic masculinity permeating within these individuals.
The episode focuses on Taissa Farmiga's Annie as she struggles to move up the corporate ladder in her medical research company despite being one of the best workers. She faces chauvinism and misogyny on a daily basis, so much so that a male colleague, Dylan (Luke Kirby), nearly sexually assaults her. But as is the case with society, she's gaslit herself, not realizing this is part of the rape culture males somehow pass off as "locker room behavior."
But as Annie starts to witness men literally tearing the town apart, fighting in bars, brawling in streets and basically committing murder a la The Purge, she thinks it has to be the meteorites. After all, the rocks have infected the waterways and some dumb guys have even used it to flavor alcohol, so she uses logic to connect this to the swelling bloodshed.
She concludes there's indeed a viral outbreak when the government starts quarantining their town, separating the homicidal maniacs from the women and kids. However, the big twist comes in the final act when she, her sister Martha (Rhea Seehorn) and nephew Cole (Percy Hynes White) run into a chain-wielding Dylan at a pier.
The trio end up in a violent altercation, with Dylan trying to kill them for Annie rebuffing his sexual advances. Sadly, Cole, who had a rock in his pocket not knowing it was infecting guys, goes into berserker mode as well, only to break out of it wilfully. It takes some work, but he opts to be a decent human being, although they're left with no choice but to kill Dylan in self-defense. Initially confused as to how Cole snapped out of his hostile spell, though, Annie figures out that the meteorites inject the men with extreme aggression, but they are not victims of this outbreak. All men have a choice, and it's up to them to rebuke the rage if they want.
Most do not, giving in as an excuse to ignore boundaries and paint the town red with chaos. When the "infected" and the "resistant" are picked up by the military and blood work's taken, it turns out Annie's hypothesis is correct. The rocks rile men, but they don't really alter their chemical balance to the point they can't revert. Cole chose to remain on the light side, so to speak, and while we don't get a definite conclusion to the disaster in what we thought was yet another outer space attack, it's apparent The Twilight Zone is reminding us of this issue plaguing society, namely men and those who always have an excuse to cover up toxicity, from politicians to the average Joe.
All these rocks end up being are placebos, emphasized when one of the soldiers at the base tells Annie she "should smile more." She scolds him, echoing the sentiment of those who defended Brie Larson's attackers when she was chastised for not smiling in Captain Marvel trailers. This final scene reiterates women should continue standing up for their rights, not smiling for the sake of dudes who think they're superior and are nothing but egotistical.
This places into context so many things that occurred earlier, with Annie trying to excuse Dylan's antics, wondering if she gave "mixed signals," avoidance of the truth and other common occurrences that heap the burden of harassment on innocents and survivors as opposed to the perpetrators. And as "Not All Men" ends, sure, we can agree not all guys are like that, but the stats show a large number are, and from all the times Dylan calls Annie "bitch," it's a norm that needs to be reduced drastically.
There's no justification for employing fear tactics, emotional or physical abuse and ignoring consent, not to mention going into a mob or riot mentality when things don't go your way. As Annie finally understands, this needs to be directly dealt with, not passively, and no matter what, it's time to stop finding excuses for this abhorrent mentality so many men have.
Hosted and produced by Jordan Peele, new episodes of The Twilight Zone Season 1 air every Thursday on CBS All Access.