Features and Columns · TV

Exploring The Twilight Zone #97: The Gift

By  · Published on November 2nd, 2011

With the entire original run of The Twilight Zone available to watch instantly, we’re partnering with Twitch Film to cover all of the show’s 156 episodes. Are you brave enough to watch them all with us?

The Twilight Zone (Episode #97): “The Gift” (airdate 4/27/62)

The Plot: An alien lands in Mexico with a gift, but an accidental death casts a shadow over his intentions and drives the villagers mad.

The Goods: There are few adult drama stories in The Twilight Zone series as simmering as this one. It’s so slow burn that you might think they forgot to light the fuse.

The plot sweats along as the visitor who calls himself Mr. Williams and looks like a poor man’s Marlon Brando (Geoffrey Horne) accidentally kills a police officer during his descent and is shot twice by another cop on the scene. He staggers into a bar where a doctor removes the bullet wounds, a young boy named Pedro (Edmund Vargas) takes an interest in him, and a bartender holds him captive until more police can arrive.

The success of the story comes directly from the grinding teeth of the acting and the rolling thunder of a script that spends most of its time getting to know a man’s intentions while the people around him turn frantic with fear. It’s so well executed that it hobbles the sci-fi aspect and the what-a-twist ending completely. It may be one of the only episodes that would have worked far better without its own cleverness.

Of course the gift that Williams brought along with him is obvious. It’s the opposite of a cook book. What the villagers do in the midst of their heightened fervor is also no surprise, so it all stands as a sad top off to an otherwise wonderful character study.

What’s of slight interest is that this episode is the first (probably) in the series to show that other cultures beyond white suburbanites (or farmers) can make terrible decisions based on hatred, fear of The Other, and flat out racism. In a way, it plays out a lot like The Monsters Are Due On Avenida de Los Insurgentes.

What do you think?

The Trivia: You know the magnetic star of this episode, Geoffrey Horne, as the old man who steals Adam Sandler’s girlfriend to go work at Hooters in Big Daddy. It was his final film.

On the Next Episode: A talking piece of wood with a face turns out to be evil.

Catch-Up: Episodes covered by Twitch / Episodes covered by FSR

We’re running through all 156 of the original Twilight Zone episodes over the next several weeks, and we won’t be doing it alone! Our friends at Twitch will be entering the Zone as well on alternating weeks. So definitely tune in over at Twitch and feel free to also follow along on our Twitter accounts @twitchfilm and @rejectnation.

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