Twilight Zone Marathon: “The Obsolete Man”

ImageWelcome back to my Twilight Zone Marathon! Today marks the final day of official Twilight Zone episodes, as I have something different planned to wrap up the month tomorrow. In the meantime, today’s episode features Burgess Meredith and in essence books once again. There are a lot of themes in this one, so let’s get right to it. Let’s look at “The Obsolete Man.”

Librarian Romney Wordsworth has only two days left before execution. He lives in a totalitarian state which considers his occupation obsolete and criminal. This is due to literacy having been eliminated by them. Romney must now choose his method of execution. Will he somehow manage to get out of it, or will he go out in a dignified manner?

This was a brilliant episode. It’s not scary or overly tense, but it looks at humankind in terms of politics, religion and purpose in life. It’s an episode with many themes that I thought would end up making me bored, but the actors carry it out so well that I was invested from start to finish. The ending is a bit of a twist and a karmic one at that, and I can easily say it’s one of the best of its kind I’ve seen to date.

The main characters are the Chancellor, a representative of the state, and Romney himself. The Chancellor and in essence the state are horrible, disbelieving in literature and even God. The Chancellor goes so far to say that guys like Hitler and Stalin had the right idea but didn’t go far enough, which is the basis of this new government. But the Chancellor himself is revealed to be a pathetic man, and I had no sympathy for him by the end.

Compared to Meredith’s previous performance, I preferred him here. Romney is smart, resourceful and clever. He turns the Chancellor’s own words against him when he ultimately has him trapped in a bomb-laden room with him. While in court in the beginning, he stands up for himself as a human being and defends his beliefs in literature and God despite protests. I really liked this character and Meredith’s performance kept me invested the whole way.

This is a story that’s simplistic (yes, the running word for this month) in plot and execution, but it’s done effectively. The story takes place between court and Romney’s room, and the strength of it comes from the characters and dialogue. The ending was a perfect cap to it and the characters as well. I honestly can’t think of any complaints I had with this one.

Overall, “The Obsolete Man” is a great story with an interesting take on politics and government. Even if you’re like me and aren’t interested in that stuff, this is an enjoyable, thought-provoking episode regardless. I would recommend this to anyone.

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