Recap: The Twilight Zone S 1 E 2 One For The Angels

Rod Serling: Street scene: Summer. The present. Man on a sidewalk named Lou Bookman, age sixtyish. Occupation: pitchman. Lou Bookman, a fixture of the summer, a rather minor component to a hot July, a nondescript, commonplace little man whose life is a treadmill built out of sidewalks. And in just a moment, Lou Bookman will have to concern himself with survival - because as of three o'clock this hot July afternoon, he'll be stalked by Mr. Death.

Lou Bookman is a street corner salesman. Hocking slightly shoddy products on the passersby, and is rather friendly with the kids that live in the same apartment building as him. One day however, he gets a rather unusual customer. A snappily dressed man, who just happens to be Death.

Death informs Lou that at midnight that day, he is set to die. Lou isn't ready to go yet. As he explains, he hasn't made that one great pitch. "A pitch for the angels" as he puts it. Death agrees to not take Lou until he makes this great pitch. Lou then says he intends to retire from sales, rather happy that he seems to have found a way to cheat Death.

But just because he's outsmarted Death, doesn't mean he's done. Someone has to die at midnight. And Death chooses one of Lou's many young friends, who is hit by a truck.

As Death awaits midnight to strike, Lou falls back on his one skill: Sales. He manages to create a pitch so enthralling and distracting, that he actually makes Death miss his appointment. The pitch for the angels.
Death: One minute past twelve, Mr. Bookman. And you made me miss my appointment.

Though his little friend will live, Lou has given up his own life to save her. But as Death informs him, Lou has nothing to worry about. He's going straight up.
Bookman: Oh, excuse me, I forgot something. I'll be back in a minute. [gathers up his box full of merchandise] You never know who might need something, up there... Up there?
Death: Up there, Mr. Bookman. You made it.

And so, Lou Bookman peacefully makes his way to the afterlife, Death by his side.

Rod Serling: Louis J. Bookman, age sixtyish. Occupation: pitchman. Formerly a fixture of the summer, formerly a rather minor component to a hot July. But, throughout his life, a man beloved by children, and therefore a most important man. Couldn't happen, you say? Probably not in most places - but it did happen in the Twilight Zone.

Tropes featured in this episode:

  • Balancing Death's Books: Someone has to die at midnight, and agreeing to give Lou a pass and Lou planning on not giving another pitch means Death will be taking someone else in his place.
  • Batman Gambit: A possible one: If you consider that Death wouldn't actually need anything Bookman is selling (and thus would be unlikely to be moved by any pitch), one interpretation of his actions is that he never really intended to take the girl and only targeted her because he knew it would motivate Bookman to make his big pitch. (It was in Death's dossier that Bookman was a Friend to All Children, after all.)
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: Mr. Death looks up sharply during the teaser when Serling names him.
  • Don't Fear the Reaper: Death isn't actively malicious or scary in appearance. He's just doing his job. He can even fall for really good sales pitches.
  • Exact Words: Played with Lou when he gets Death to agree to allow him to stay on earth until he makes "a pitch for the angels."
    • Lou notes, once the deal is done, if he never makes a pitch, death won't come. Death is less than pleased with this realization.
    • Inverted once Lou learns his friend will be dead because of his refusal to make a pitch, Mr Death refuses to take him anyway because Death won't break the terms of their deal. This leads to ...
    • Lou ends up stalling Death from going to take the young girl by making him pitch after pitch. He is making them to an an angel of death.
  • Friend to All Children: Lou. It is even known by Death he is friends with the kids.
  • Happy Ending: Something that would become rather rare in this show. Lou makes his great pitch, saves the life of his young friends, comes to term with his demise, and even earns his way into heaven.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Lou gives himself up, so Death will spare the little girl he chose to die instead of him.
  • Invisible to Normals: Death is invisible and unheard by anyone who isn't on his list to die. Lou gets scared quickly when his injured friend can now see Death when she couldn't before.
  • Loophole Abuse: What Lou exploits to try and save himself. Death isn't having any of it, and targets a little girl in his place.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: When Lou's child friend is struck by a car and he realizes she is to replace him on Death's list, he immediately goes into this mode and tries to cancle the original deal with Death.
  • Offscreen Teleportation: Death has a habit of appearing about in various places when Lou wasn't looking or even jumping ahead of him when Lou tries to flee.
  • Sharp-Dressed Man: Death.
  • Values Dissonance: Our hero is an eccentric old salesman in the big city who likes to buy ice cream for the local kids. Yeah, the early 1960's were a different time. In his defense, all those kids live in the same building as him, so their parents should know Lou pretty well.