Welcome back to my Twilight Zone Marathon! Today, I’ll be looking at the classic episode featuring Burgess Meredith, “Time Enough at Last.” As will be the case with all of these episodes, the twist ending will not be spoiled, although I did know it in advance.
The story begins with Henry Bemis, a bank teller who constantly reads on the job. His boss gets fed up about this and tells him to stop. Henry admits his reading is because his overbearing wife never allows him to read at home. The next day at work, Henry uses his lunch break to read in private in the bank vault. An H-bomb destroys the world, leaving only Henry alive. Will his passion for books comfort him in his time of crisis?
I’ll admit, during the first couple minutes of the episode, I didn’t like Henry. I thought he was a little TOO passionate about books to the point of irritation. However, once it showed his home life with his nagging wife (who foils his reading at every turn), I started to understand him better. I also liked that his conversation with his boss set up his love of reading in the vault, which played the big part in his survival later.
The rest of the episode can be summed up with one word: Despair. Once the bomb goes off, the whole episode has an air of despair and desperation to it that was pretty sombering in hindsight. Henry wandering through a desolate wasteland with a bit of narration from Serling really captured the feeling of complete solitude. Henry even tries to rationalize the good of being alone, but he can’t help but despair over having no one to talk to and nothing to do. It’s only near the end before the twist that he finds a sliver of happiness with some books.
As I said, I won’t give away the twist, but it really made me feel for Henry even more. I even began to realize that his extreme passion for books seemed to have become an obsession thanks to his wife dissuading him. My boyfriend LOVES books, and even he’s not quite that obsessed. So, when he found books, it was a great moment because he had something to live for.
“Time Enough at Last” isn’t very suspenseful and definitely not your typical dose of scary, but it’s an interesting take on the “end of civilization” story. I don’t think this episode would be for everyone, but if you like stories of survival, give this one a try. It may even appeal to all those book lovers out there.