Saturday, October 24, 2020

The Twilight Zone (1959) -- Season 2 Episode 12 (Dust)

Luis is someone who, at first glance, might seem irredeemable.  He killed a child.  Yes, it was accidental, but he’s still found guilty and sentenced to death.  His father pleads for Luis’s life.  Luis was drunk and despondent, which doesn’t make the death of the girl any easier.  However, the father is now faced with the impending loss of his own grown son.

Enter Sykes, the man who sold the sheriff a five-strand rope for the hanging.  He offers the condemned’s father some magic dust that, if used properly, might cause the family to feel sympathetic towards Luis.  The father is desperate enough to buy it.

When the time comes, the rope fails.  Did the dust work?  We know that it’s ordinary dust because we saw Sykes gather it from the ground.  Then again, it comes from the same person who sold the rope to the sheriff.

The twist ending here isn’t typical of The Twilight Zone, but it is something to make you think.  What really did happen?  Maybe the dust didn’t work.  Maybe it was just a placebo.  However, there are issues of punishment and suffering.  How is it right to increase suffering when it won’t bring back the victim?

The episode is weak for the episode, as it’s not necessarily magical.  Sykes sells defective products.  There’s no surprise that the rope didn’t work.  In fact, I don’t even feel guilty about giving that bit of information away.  It does work on an emotional level, even if it is still a little weak.

Luis admits what he did.  He is actually guilty in this case.  The fact that the victim is a child only serves to make the crime that much more tragic.  How do you convince the parents to forgive someone when their daughter’s life was cut short so soon?  Also, drunkenness and despondency aren’t particularly good excuses.  However, I don’t think the episode was meant to focus too heavily on that.

I have to admit that I didn’t really feel too much for Luis.  He’s not a particularly sympathetic character.  Neither is Sykes.  The sheriff does show some empathy, but the character we’re supposed to identify with is the father, who mostly comes across as desperate.  The episode comes across as a morality play.  In the end, Sykes learns his lesson and everything is a little better than it was at the start.


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