Wednesday, February 21, 2018

The Twilight Zone (1959) -- Season 1 Episode 27 (The Big Tall Wish)

Bolie Jackson has a long career as a boxer.  He certainly has the scars to prove it.  His better days are behind him and he knows it, but he’s still willing to get into the ring with an opponent.  Henry Temple is a boy who lives in the same building as Bolie.  Henry would seem to be Bolie’s biggest fan.

While talking about the fight, Henry tells Bolie that he’ll be making a big tall wish that Bolie wins.  He even says that it won’t hurt at all.  Bolie would pass it off as a kid’s wishful thinking, except that Henry’s mother, Frances, had received a $15 check right after Henry made one of his big tall wishes.  The funny thing is, that was exactly the amount that she needed.

Before the fight, Bolie breaks four of his knuckles, putting him at a disadvantage.  He fights anyway, as that’s what he came to do, but finds himself laying on the mat.  He’s just about down for the count when time freezes.  After a few moments, it’s his opponent that’s on the wrong end of the ref’s count.  Bolie stands victorious, not sure how I happened.

Everyone tells Bolie what a great match it was.  They all say that he never went down.  When he asks Henry about it, Henry admits to having used his wish to make Bolie the winner.  Bolie denies this; he must have won all on his own.  They go back and forth, with Henry saying that Bolie has to believe and Bolie saying that magic isn’t real.

The camera fades back to the ring.  Bolie again finds himself looking at the ceiling of the boxing venue.  He’s been counted out.  When he goes home for a second time, Henry still seems to admire him, although he admits that maybe there’s no place for magic wishes.  Bolie admits that maybe more people should make room for such things.

The episode is a good one.  I’m surprised that I’ve never seen it before.  It actually works on many levels.  On one, you have a child who still believes in magic and an adult who’s been around long enough to know better.  Even when Bolie is given his second chance, he can’t really accept it, either physically or mentally.  Did he really win the match?  Even if he did take the win, what about the next match?  What about the one after that?  Even though it would crush Henry’s belief, he has to reject it.

Both characters are relatable.  Those that have been around long enough can relate to someone who’s better days are behind them.  At some point, we have to move on from the things we want.  I would think that many of us have had Henry’s optimism at some point.  Some of us still do, although we’ve probably found out that optimism will only get you so far.  There are certain things you can’t wish in to existence.

Having seen the previous episodes, it strikes me that The Twilight Zone waited this long to have a majority of African-American characters.  Granted, the episode first aired in April of 1960.  Such a thing would have been groundbreaking, even for one episode.  Still, for someone born more than a decade after the original run of the series, it’s glaring how many of the actors throughout the series were Caucasian.  (Some could argue that this is still a problem in television and movies.  I can’t say I would disagree with them.)

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