Tuesday, April 10, 2018

The Twilight Zone (1959) -- Season 1 Episode 34 (The After Hours)

WARNING:  This review gives away major details, including the ending.

During the first season, The Twilight Zone had some very good episodes.  Some made you think.  Others had that plot twist the series became associated with.  This wasn’t one of those episodes for me.  The plot is strange, but it seems somewhat uncharacteristic of the series.

The episodes would seem to be about Marsha White.  She’s in a department store looking for a gold thimble for her mother.  She’s directed by the elevator operator to the store’s ninth floor.   The problem is that the elevator would seem to only go to the eighth floor.

Marsha is let out on a deserted floor.  There are empty display cases and unused mannequins, but there don’t seem to be any employees or product at first.  She is eventually greeted by a rather hostile female employee who sells her a gold thimble for $25.

It isn’t until Marsha is back on the elevator that she notices damage to the thimble.  The elevator operator directs her to customer service.  Customer service is insistent that there is no ninth floor and that thimbles are sold on the third floor, but Marsha has a very clear memory of what happened.

She’s allowed to lie down for a whole, but is eventually locked in the store.  She can’t get out of the building, but manages to find her way back to the ninth floor.  She’s understandably agitated and afraid.  It doesn’t help when the mannequins start talking to her.  It turns out that she’s a mannequin.

Each mannequin is allowed a month on the outside and Marsha’s month was up yesterday.  She comes to accept this and returns to her normal ‘job’.  The next mannequin to go out is the ‘sales lady’ that sold her the gold thimble.  The episode ends with the customer service manager seeing Marsha as a mannequin, wondering what the heck just happened.

The episode seems to work more with suspense.  We see two store employees (the sales lady and the elevator operator) who seem rather hostile.  Both help her, but both seem short with her.  Even if you’ve never seen a Twilight Zone episode before, you get the sense that something is up.  It’s just a question of what.

The thing that becomes distracting is some of the questions I ended up having.  If she’s a mannequin, does she really have a mother?  Where does she live during the month?  Do the mannequins have an apartment or house that they use?  If so, how do they pay for it?  Do they have to get a job?  Do they eat like a normal person?  How is it that the store never notices the rotation of a missing mannequin?  These are all questions I had while viewing the episode recently.

I’m not saying that it’s a bad episode.  It’s just kind of weak.  The story doesn’t seem to have a clear moral, except maybe that you can’t run from your responsibilities forever.  I’ve seen it in Twilight Zone marathons.  The funny thing is that if I had to choose episodes for a marathon, I’d probably leave this one out. 

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