Sunday, February 25, 2018

The Twilight Zone (1959) -- Season 1 Episode 30 (A Stop at Willoughby)

WARNING:  I’m going to give away the ending of the episode.  I’ll understand if you want to watch the episode before reading this review.

There are some things that change with time.  Sometimes, it’s not the thing that changes, but your understanding of it may evolve.  When I first saw A Stop at Willoughby, I thought it was about a man who found a way out and took it, which it is.  I didn’t quite get the deeper meaning until later.

Gart Williams is an ad executive on the verge of a nervous breakdown.  Misrell, his boss, won’t let up because Gart’s protégé left the agency and took an important client with him.  When he gets home, his wife is no better.  Janie Williams won’t let up about how he has no ambition.  The guy can’t catch a break.

He falls asleep on the train ride home one night and dreams of a place called Willoughby.  From the window, it looks like a nice place.  Before he can get off, the train jerks forward and Gart finds himself in the real world once again.  He asks the conductor if there’s a stop called Willoughby, but the conductor hasn’t heard of one.

The second time Gart dreams of Willoughby, the same thing happens.  He wants to get off, but can’t make it in time.  He resolves to get off if he’s ever given a chance to.  Things are getting worse for him.  Misrell won’t let up, nor will his clients.  It’s implied that Gart is getting no sympathy from Janie.  That night, on the train home, Gart falls asleep.

He gets off and finds that all the people in Willoughby are pleasant and welcoming.  They all know his name and are happy to see him.  Back in the real world, it turns out that Gart jumped off the train, screaming something about Willoughby.  The kicker?  His body is taken away in a car with Willoughby & Son Funeral Home on the back doors.

With a previous episode, Time Enough At Last, I wondered how the main character could have put himself in his position.  I find myself asking a similar question here.  I could see Janie being more pleasant back before they married, but I wonder if Gart didn’t see her as ambitious when they first married.

His entire career seems to have been at her insistence.   Her eyes always seem focused on the next rung up the social ladder whereas Gart sees the value in maybe relaxing once in a while.  I always wonder if there was some point when Gart may have had doubts about marrying her.

One has to wonder if Gart realized that going to Willoughby meant his death in real life.  One can’t blame him.  He went from cold and unwelcoming to warm and inviting.  Who could resist that?  If you had a pushy boss and a controlling wife as one option and a nice, friendly group of people as the other option, which would you go for?

Previous episodes of The Twilight Zone have always shown getting what you want as being either impossible or very costly.  It almost never works out, at least not the way that the main character intended.  Then again, another interpretation could be that you can get what you want, but it may mean paying the ultimate price.

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