Amazing Stories 2020: Episode 4 - Signs of Life (2020) - Reviewed

After the heartwarming and uplifting third episode (still my favorite) of the new 2020 reboot of Steven Spielberg’s television series Amazing Stories, where do you go next?  With the fourth installment, Signs of Life, directed by television directing veteran Michael Dinner (The Crew) and written by Once Upon a Time screenwriter Leah Fong, the series shifts gears for something chillier and heavier than the first three episodes offered. 

Following in the footsteps of Stephen King’s The Dead Zone, the episode concerns a teenage girl named Alia (Sasha Lane) whose mother Sara (Michelle Wilson) mysteriously reawakens from a six year coma.  Amnesiac with no memory of her daughter, Sara comes back to the living with a strange gift and an even more mercurial secret mission she herself seems possessed by.  As Alia tries to piece together the events leading to her mother’s peculiar behavior, a mystery man named Wayne (Josh Holloway) with an unexplained purpose enters and forever alters the course of their lives. 

Going for a more sterilized look than the schmaltzier warmth of the previous episode, Signs of Life might be the least engaging entry in this new Amazing Stories revival for having a premise we can barely keep up with or gain concrete understanding of.  Other than something resembling another unique spin on the superhero origins myth, we’re really not sure where this one is going with the exposition lasting up until the very end.  Where the first three episodes laid out the rules clearly and quickly, this one isn’t sure where and when to stop, leaving the viewer confused which I’m not sure was intentional.

Performances by the three leading actors are good, with Michelle Wilson in particular making the once animated maternal figure now monotone and robotic in her movements.  Most of the heavy lifting is done by Sasha Lane who has to emote intensely for the camera, providing the episode with a much needed dose of human warmth.  That said, for all the tears shed on this episode, something about it still wasn’t completely clicking with me and I came away feeling frustrated by it. 

Somewhere in Signs of Life is a good episode with enough intense acting onscreen to fill the piece to the brim with emotional resonance.  The ingredients are all in place and promise old fashioned Spielberg cinemagic.  And yet as it stands, it’s the one entry in this new iteration of Amazing Stories that left me feeling cold and flat.  Overall this has been a good new season of the revival of Spielberg’s show but I would be lying if I said this particular episode doesn’t leave one feeling underwhelmed.

--Andrew Kotwicki