Episode #08 - Time Enough at Last

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Episode #08 - Time Enough at Last

Post  BoG on Fri Dec 31, 2010 6:47 pm

Air Date: 11/20/59  Arrow  written by Rod Serling, based on story by Lyn Venable  Arrow  Directed by John Brahm
PLOT: a timid bank clerk named Henry Bemis (Burgess Meredith) who loves to read finds himself as the sole survivor after a nuclear war...

No matter how many times I watch this episode and the ending, it always gets to me. I'm guessing that it might have also been quite personal to Rod Serling (who adapted it from a short story), being on the subject of reading and quirky individualism. I'm not sure what to make of the scene where Bemis is accused by his boss of being "a reader" as if it's a crime. It, I suppose, bluntly emphasizes how Bemis is at odds with the rest of society - he's the oddball, the odd man out. Usually, society has no use for such individuals and the individual, being in the minority, loses out. But, in this one, Bemis seems to beat the odds. Well, seems to... this the Zone, after all.

There's no parallel to Meredith's rendition of Bemis here, even in TZ. His mannerisms and the unique personality he projects are one-of-a-kind. This was Meredith at his peak; he was in 3 other TZ episodes and so in some ways is the TZ actor. Therefore, in some ways, this becomes the ultimate TZ episode. You can't forget Bemis and his trajectory during the course of the story and, if you haven't seen it before, you are baffled by where this is all going. Most of my favorite Zone episodes involve group interaction - several actors playing off each other; this is the rare one with a single actor carrying the ball.
But, it's that sucker punch of an ending - the quintessential TZ style but more: usually, these endings are designed to be a comeuppance for some unethical individual; we cheer those, too, of course. In this one, the character is a harmless, even likable poor joe. That's what makes it so gut-wrenching - life really is not fair, also in the Zone this reminds us, and bad things also happen to good people, unlike the preachy, predictable tales of most TV fare. This one rises above all that standard stuff; so, in so many ways, this is the ultimate TZ episode. BoG's Score: 9.5 out of 10

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