An experiment in a bedroom, with a glowing climate control device pointed towards a radiator and reflecting on a globe

The Outer Limits: S1E28 “The Special One”

The Outer Limits is streaming for free on the Roku Channel.

Roy and Aggie are presented with an amazing opportunity. The government has sent a private tutor to work with their gifted son, Kenny, on better meeting his needs. Their child is so extraordinary that the government is including him a program to foster the future leaders of America. However, the lessons being taught go far beyond the scope of normal science and technology.

“The Special One” is the first episode of The Outer Limits actually focused on a child. While Kenneth is not the main character in the story, he is the core of the narrative. His parents are trying to do their best for him while Mr. Zeno is focused on controlling his lessons.

The danger here is not a direct threat against the child but the unknown. Mr. Zeno arrives day or night without warning to the family. Kenny always knows when he will arrive. He’s also learning about potential science, such as an additional 25 undiscovered elements on the periodic table. Kenny can’t explain why these things will happen, and any attempts to engage further lead to him walking away to study before Mr. Zeno arrives.

“The Special One” is the rare episode not featuring an opening narration. The introduction to the topic is a worst case scenario for dealing with Mr. Zeno. A man tries to protect his child from Mr. Zeno after learning more about his practices as an educator. Instead of losing a student, Mr. Zeno forces the man to leap from a window. This monster looks like an average person, but can force people to act against their will.

While this episode is suspenseful, this is one of the rare episodes of the series to not have a clear thesis. It’s dealing with education, sure, and work/life balance in students, but to what end? Kenny’s dad is concerned about his studies, but Kenny himself seems fine. He’s a typical, happy, teenage boy getting extra attention and praise for his intelligence and ability.

The father’s fears are based on what is being taught through the Department of Education, but the episode itself isn’t anti-public education. The family is proud of what Kenny does in school and extracurricular activities. If anything, the episode is critical of parents becoming too involved in their children’s education, but that’s undercut by Mr. Zeno’s ability to appear and disappear at will in their home. There are real dangers at play and the family has every reason to be concerned.

“The Special One” is a good horror story that stands out from the rest of the series so far. The focus is not a greater social message or a showcase of special effects, but telling a scary story. The result is an interesting spin on education horror.

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content warning: death by suicide


Up Next: S1E29 “A Feasibility Study.”