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Awesome / The Twilight Zone (1959)

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  • On a more technical scale, the cinematography of the original series is some of the absolutely breathtaking examples of black-and-white television, especially considering the era. Most notable episodes include "Judgement Night", which rivals even On the Waterfront in its beauty.
  • The climax of "One More Pallbearer", when Mrs. Langsford, Reverend Hughes, and Colonel Hawthorne refuse to gratify Paul Radin's egotistical demands in exchange for his shelter, choosing to retain their honor and compassion, wing it and spend their last minutes of life with friends and family before the (staged) nuclear war occurs. And after all the prolonged berating the petty Radin gave them, they manage to break him with comparatively fewer words.
    Radin: "You're too blind or you're too stupid, because none of you seem to understand. All you have to do—literally, all you have to do—is to say a sentence. Just a string of silly, stupid words. Like a command, colonel, or like a lesson, teacher, or like a prayer, reverend. All you have to say is you're sorry. All right, you want to die, fine. But you'll be back inside five minutes. There's the elevator! Take it! Take the farce to its conclusion. Go up into the street and see the panic and the frenzy and the horror. And then come back down here to your salvation. Or you can watch it all down here on that screen. You can see it all happen, the whole thing. Watch the world being shoveled into a grave. It's your last chance. It's your last chance, I mean it. Tell me, reverend, is life so stinking cheap that you can throw it down a drain?"
    Hughes: "Life is very dear, Mr. Radin, infinitely valuable. But there are other things that come even higher. Honor is one of them—perhaps the most expensive of them all."
    Hawthrone: "Amen."
    Langsford: "Try not to get too lonely, Mr. Radin. Use mirrors. They may help. Put them all around the room. Then you'll have the company of a world full of Radins. It'll be a fantasy, of course, but then your whole life has been a fantasy, a parade of illusions- illusions about what people have done to you, illusions about what justice is, illusions about what is the dignity of even the lowest of us. A fantasy, Mr. Radin, and you can have it all to yourself."
    • Mrs. Langsford gets a solo one just before that as well. Immediately after Radin presents his gloating demands—a prolonged, humiliating apology in exchange for a place in his shelter—she interrupts and cuts him down by pointing out that he's doing exactly what spoiled brats do when they want something: asking "pretty please." The Colonel and Reverend follow her example by not even entertaining Radin's offer for a moment.
    Langsford: "Pretty please with sugar on it."
    Radin: "How's that? Speak up, teacher."
    Langsford: "Pretty please with sugar on it. It's what children say to exact a favor. I don't want your favor, Mr. Radin! Let me out of here! If I'm to spend my last quarter hour on Earth I'd rather spend it with a stray cat or alone in Central Park or in a city full of strangers whose names I'll never know."
  • Jason Foster's blistering "The Reason You Suck" Speech in "The Masks":
    You're CARICATURES, ALL of you! Even without your masks, you're all CARICATURES!
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    • Then comes the Karmic Twist Ending. Looks like Mr. Foster got the last laugh.
  • Mr. Dickerson's "The Reason You Suck" Speech to Wallace V. Whipple in "The Brain Center at Whipple's".
    • Not to mention Dickerson knocking Whipple on his ass.
  • "Death's-Head Revisited". Pretty much everything from "The trial is over" to "Your final judgment will come from God".
  • Lou Bookman making a sales pitch that captivates Death himself in "One For The Angels", saving a girl's life in the process.
    • Not only that, but he actually manages to convince Death to buy mutiple items from him. Death likely has no need for personal possessions, but Bookman managed to sell a spool of thread and (presumably) a number of other things to him all the same. That is one hell of a pitchman. The last part of the pitch basically balances the books, allowing Bookman to trade his own life for that of the child, which is stated to guarantee him a spot "up there", in heaven. One for the angels, indeed.
  • "The Jeopardy Room". A Soviet defector is being toyed with by 2 spies in his room. He must find a bomb in 3 hours (it's in the phone which will explode if he picks it up after it rings). He takes his chances and escapes. The spies enter the room. The phone rings and one of the spies answers it. The defector was on the other line and he is on his way to New York City.
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  • The World War I British pilot Decker's Heroic Sacrifice as revealed at the end of "The Last Flight". It could also double as a Redemption Equals Death, since he was always a coward and originally he left his friend and fellow pilot Mackaye for dead.
  • Romney Wordsworth's death from "The Obsolete Man". Turning the tables against a totalitarian state on live television, all on its own terms.
    • Wordsworth got to pick his own method of execution, and he chose a bomb exploding in a room. This leads to added awesomeness because he traps the chancellor that helped condemn him in the room with a half-hour to go. Wordsworth faces death with dignity, but his foe doesn't. In the last few moments, just as Wordsworth expected, the chancellor cracks and pleads to be released "in the name of God". A pleased Wordsworth agrees and the chancellor escapes the room just in time. Problem is, since the execution was televised, everyone witnessed the chancellor's weakness and the state deems him obsolete - something Wordsworth almost assuredly knew would happen. As well as speaking God's name, in which religion is considered obsolete. The ending implies he is given the much more painful death of being torn apart by a furious mob.
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    • Bonus points for Wordsworth being played by Burgess Meredith, who played another bookworm in "Time Enough At Last."
    • Further more is the closing narration implies that Wordsworth's act may have potentially set things in motion that not only did he take the Chancellor with him, but may eventually take the State with him as well.
  • Jeff Myrtlebank beating up Orgram and later scaring off the townspeople in "The Last Rites of Jeff Myrtlebank".
  • The fight between the man and woman in "Two" (and the woman is Elizabeth Montgomery. Yes, it's Charles Bronson vs. Samantha Stevens!).
  • In "He's Alive", Ernst, an elderly Holocaust survivor, finds that his young roommate has become a Neo-Nazi and is giving a speech to some impressionable youngsters. The old man declares, "Never again!" and delivers an epic "The Reason You Suck" Speech to him in front of all his followers.
    Ernst: I can tell them what you were saying. I've heard it before. On a hundred different street corners. It was drivel then and it is drivel now...
    Well, what is this one here? The new model? A 1963 Führer right off the assembly line? Well, this one is not so new. He's not so fresh. This one is nothing but a cheap copy!
    ... Well, let me tell you about this one.
    About the breed, the species.
    They're all alike. They are all alike...
    Problem children. Sick, sad neurotics who take applause like a needle...
    Listen to me, Peter. And let them listen. Or else I'll tell them about a quaking, whimpering boy who cried on my couch; who still cries on my couch...
    Yeah, put me down, put me down. Shut me up. Stifle me— why don't you? WHY CAN'T YOU?
    [grabs Peter's armband] Because this is your courage right here. This is your strength. And the torchlights and the crowd and the Sieg heil!
    [Peter hits him] The rebuttal. The only sort of answer your kind knows how to give.
    [turning to audience] This is your Führer. He's yours. I give him to you. A gift from the sewers.
  • Colonel Sloan's speech to the colonists at the end of "On Thursday We Leave For Home". The leader of the colonists, Captain Benteen, formerly kept the colonists together with the idea that a ship would come to take them back to Earth, because the world they had found was practically uninhabitable, but when the rescue arrives, he's less than willing to give up his authority. He tries to convince them that Earth is a terrible place, and death is certain for all of them if they go. This is how Colonel Sloan responds:
    Sloan: Captain Benteen! Why don't you let your children vote on it?!
    Benteen: Only if they know what's waiting for them! Only if they know the Earth is not a garden. It never was a garden! And it never will be a garden!
    Sloan: Fair enough! Fair enough. Then I'll tell you what Earth is. It's a race of men, struggling for survival. Just as you have survived. And Captain Benteen is quite right when he tells you it isn't a place of all beauty. We may yet have wars, and there still remains prejudice, and I suppose as long as men walk, there will be angry men, jealous men, unforgiving men. But it has one thing that you don't have! One thing. It lets every man be his own master. There won't be any Captain Benteens down there for you. There won't be anybody to tell you when to eat and when to sleep and when to meet. There won't be anyone to tell you when to dance or when to sing or how to play. And instead of the thirst, you may feel hunger! Instead of heat, you may feel cold! But you'll be men and women, you won't be sheep! You won't be a kindergarten! And when you pray to God, his name won't be Benteen!
    • Earlier, back before the ship arrived, Benteen's leadership is admittedly what got his people through the hard times. At one point during a funeral, one of his crew members decided to forgo the rules. It's Benteen's own speech that reminds his people that they can't lose hope just yet, and if they do, the ship and its crew will arrive only to find a people without honor. He then rallies his people to chant a Not-so-Madness Mantra about how the ship will come.
  • "Nervous Man in a Four-Dollar Room" is a half-hour "The Reason You Suck" Speech...that also completely reforms a low-level gangster into someone willing to stand up for himself, be his own person, and live an honest life.
  • "A Short Drink from a Certain Fountain" has a woman who married a wealthy man solely for his money, but the man hates being much older than his wife so he confides in his brother to make a youth serum. He takes too much and by the end regresses to a toddler. The woman is ready to ditch him, but then his brother gets his CMOA where he points out if she leaves she'll have nothing, so she'll be forced to raise her regressed husband, and as he ages, so will she, so basically the roles will be reversed, and if she leaves him alone for one minute, she loses everything.
    • To twist the knife, the brother implies that once the husband grows to be a young man, he'll have his heart stolen by "someone younger waiting to come in, always waiting to come in".
  • The way Mister Pedott doles out a Karmic Twist Ending in "What You Need." He has the power to give someone exactly what they need to help them out at any given time, but faced with an angry gambler who wants to extort him for his power? He pulls out what he needs - a new pair of shoes that cause the gambler to slip on the ice and be run over by a car.
  • "Uncle Simon," period. He set up the will precisely to use his niece's Gold Digger tendencies against her, while making Loophole Abuse impossible. He didn't set a time limit on her obligation to the robot he built. But he made it clear that reneging on this obligation would forfeit everything to the state university. That's right, the university is going to wind up with the money Barbara was angling for, while she does all the dirty work! He went Jason Foster ("The Masks") one or more better!
  • Burgess Meredith lights his cigar by snapping his fingers in "Printer's Devil". The special effect was accomplished by having two electric wires attached to a battery running up Meredith's coat and concealed on his fingers. Meredith held his fingers in a can of ice water until they were numb, and then a crew member put lighter fluid on his fingers. Bringing the wires together created a spark that ignited the fluid so he could light the cigar. How many actors do you know that would be willing to pull a trick like that, even with the science behind it?
  • In "The Prime Mover", the plot is kicked off when Jimbo uses his Mind over Matter powers to save some innocent people in a car crash. In the following scene it's mentioned that they were taken to the hospital with nothing worse than a few broken bones.
  • "Execution" has Rod Serling Lamp Shading the ending, how both Joe Caswell and Paul Johnson met their end by asphyxiation, albeit in each other's times. Caswell may have avoided getting hanged, but he's eventually strangled by Paul in what is essentially the future. And Paul is sent back to Caswell's time and hung in his place at the execution. As Serling so put it, "Justice can span years and retribution is not subject to a calendar.
  • "A Quality of Mercy" is about the Twilight Zone teaching a ruthless young lieutenant how heartless it is to attack a cave full of starving Japanese soldiers by putting him in the shoes of a Japanese commander in another war. And the clincher? He's under the command of a Japanese Captain who shares the lieutenant's cold-blooded views on war and killing. In the end, the lieutenant is rightly humbled by the experience, and subtly relieved when the war ends right then and there.
  • In "The Hunt", the hunter's dog essentially saves him from literally walking right into Hell.
  • "In Praise of Pip" has Max, upon learning that his son Pip is dying, turn his life around and stand up to the loan sharks he works for. And then he gives them this little speech about how working for them wasn't worthwhile like he said earlier: "Twenty years ago, I should've spit in your eye! Twenty years ago, I should've realized how little time a man has to raise his son!"
  • All throughout the episode "A Piano in the House", Gerald has misused the piano to expose other people's true feelings for his own amusement. And he went too far with exposing the jolly Marge's true colors as a dancer who wishes to find love. In a small act of retribution on Marge's behalf, Esther uses the piano against him and secretly switches out the music he chooses for a lullaby, exposing Gerald's personality as a frightened Manchild.
    • What's more, earlier, Gerald points out that the trick to using the piano to expose people's "true face" is to "know what particular face you're looking for". And guess what? Esther was spot on what kind of person Gerald is deep down.
    • In a more compassionate example, there's Marge herself being the one to identify the piano's effects on Gerald and, instead of gloating or exacting a cruel revenge, realizes just how sad and pathetic he really is and decides that it's not worth it. She looks at him with sorrow and tells all of the guests at Fortune's party that they should go. They agree and file out without comment, leaving Gerald all alone.
  • "The Invaders" qualifies in multiple ways:
    • A rustic woman, whose lonely farmhouse doesn't have electricity, gas, or any modern conveniences, takes on two tiny but powerful aliens with the tools around her house. They're armed with laser guns and one of her own knives—all she has is a collection of wooden utensils and an axe. She's able to successfully defeat them and destroy their ship. Of course, The Reveal that said ship was from the United States, meaning the woman was actually a gigantic humanoid alien, might turn this around for viewers: instead, the awesome moments might go to the two Earthlings who successfully fended her off for a short while. Granted, they provoked her first, but still.
    • On a more meta level, Agnes Moorehead delivers an absolutely epic performance in this episode, all without saying a word. Her reactions, especially as she moves from terror to pain as the aliens attack to grim determination as she fights back, are whole monologues.
    • The cinematography and orchestra deserve points here, too—as there is virtually no dialogue in the episode whatsoever, the feeling of tension and dread as the aliens pursue the woman, and she desperately fends them off, rely heavily on their presence. And it works—the entire thing is one of the scariest, most suspenseful games of cat and mouse seen on TV.
  • "The Last Flight" has a Dirty Coward having a Heel Realization, facing his fears, and dying a hero.
  • "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet:" Robert Wilson spends the whole episode desperately trying to convince anyone else that there's a monster tearing up the wing of the plane he's in before it crashes. After one failure after another he finally takes matters into his own hands by stealing a gun, opening the door, and nailing the monster perfectly even under the effects of decompression. And the ending monologue implies that while he's currently being carted off to a mental institution, the damage on the wing will soon be discovered and prove he was right.

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