Recap / Tales From The Crypt S 1 E 1 The Man Who Was Death

Niles Talbot works as the executioner at a state prison, throwing the switch to put convicts to death in the electric chair. He's an easygoing, genial sort of fellow, commenting on the prisoners' behavior when their time comes and touting the virtues of electricity as a method of execution.

When the state legislature suddenly votes to abolish the death penalty, Niles loses his job and his musings become more bitter as he wanders the city's less reputable districts. He begins to administer his own brand of justice, electrocuting people who were brought to trial on murder charges but never convicted - first a biker, then a pair of lovers. A strip club dancer is next on his list, but when he throws the switch, nothing happens. The police arrive and arrest him, having found and cut his wires, and Niles learns that the state has just voted the death penalty back in.

The episode ends as it began, with a prisoner being dragged to the chair as he screams about the governor calling to pardon him - only now the prisoner is Niles. The call never comes, just as it never did while he was on the job, and he is executed.

Tropes:

  • Artistic License Law: Niles receives the death penalty for murders that he committed while it had been rescinded by the state legislature. This is an ex post facto law, which is prohibited at both the federal and state levels under the United States Constitution.
  • Asshole Victim: After listening to and watching Niles for a half-hour, it's REALLY cathartic to see him get lead to the chair.
  • Book Ends: The episode opens as a prisoner, Charlie Ledbetter, is dragged to and strapped into the electric chair. The episode's closing scene shows Talbot being dragged to and strapped into the chair as the same music that played over the opening scene ambles on.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: Niles does it all the time.
  • Ironic Echo: In the episode's opening scene, Talbot revels as a prisoner shouts that the governor is going to call to give him a stay of execution as he is strapped into the electric chair. Talbot states that this phone call has never happened. The episode concludes with Talbot being strapped into the chair, repeating the prisoner's desperate cries.
    • Talbot comments at one point, "I have seen a few heads smoke after it's all over. A smokin' head ain't very pretty." Following his own execution, he says, "I didn't want no haircut. They said that was a mistake 'cause my head might catch on fire from the electricity when they juiced me. I told 'em, 'Don't worry. Governor gonna call.'" Cue a shot of Talbot's body in the chair, smoke dribbling up from the electrodes on his temples.
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