Thursday, January 25, 2018

The Twilight Zone (1959) -- Season 1 Episode 16 (The Hitch-Hiker)

An antagonist is generally defined as someone who stands in opposition to the protagonist.  You have someone who’s trying to accomplish something and someone that’s actively trying to thwart them.   Nan Adams definitely fit’s the profile of a protagonist.  She’s on vacation, driving from New York to Los Angeles.  It’s fairly simple, except that one of her tires blows out.  The mechanic tells her that it should have killed her.  She’s lucky that she got out of it so easily.

She seems to have drawn the attention of a hitchhiker.  Nan doesn’t know how, but he keeps getting ahead of her.  She’s driving, but he has no apparent means of going faster than her.  She doesn’t know why, but the Hitchhiker makes her increasingly afraid.  Every time she sees him, she feels more compelled to get away from him.

This is where the label of antagonist seems inappropriate, as he hasn’t done anything overtly threatening.  He hasn’t approached the car or yelled at her.  He‘s not a particularly intimidating person, yet she’s overcome with emotion at each encounter.  She can’t explain why.  It’s not until she calls her mother that everything becomes clear.

The episode is unusual in that the main character also narrates in addition to Rod Serling.  The may be because the episode was based on a radio play by Louise Fletcher.  It’s not at all distracting.  I just found it a little odd.  I don’t recall many other Twilight Zone episodes doing this.

I could see a writing class using this episode as an example of good writing.  As I said, the Hitchhiker doesn’t present as much of a threat.  Antagonists don’t necessarily have to be menacing to be effective.  In fact, the Hitchhiker doesn’t even say that much.

I’m curious how much has changed culturally over the last 50 years.  It’s understandable in today’s context to understand why a woman driving alone would be afraid of someone like the Hitchhiker.  However, she’s trusting enough to pick up a sailor who helped her out.  Certain things may have been lost on me.

I’d say that it’s generally safe for teenagers and above.  The only thing I’d consider is talking to them about talking to strangers.  As I said, Nan exhibits two extreme reactions to dealing with people she doesn’t know.  She trusts one person without question, yet fears another without much reason.  As for younger children, Nan does show a good deal of fear, which could be scary.  (IMDb shows a rating of TV-PG.)

If you have Netflix and they still have this streaming, I’d say watch it.  It’s definitely one of those episodes that will leave you wondering what really happened.

IMDb page

1 comment :

Alex Diaz-Granados said...

Awesome review, Brian!