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Recap / The Twilight Zone S 2 E 48 Dust

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A town in desperate need of an outlet mall.
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The story takes place in a village "built of crumbling clay and rotting wood", a particularly ratty-looking little village in the Wild West. Into this little town rides Sykes, a particularly nasty, mean-spirited merchant and peddler of goods. The town is having a hanging that day: a man named Luís Gallegos got drunk, went out for a ride in his wagon, and struck and killed a little girl. The whole town, which is about two dozen people, has turned out for the execution. After Sykes cruelly taunts the condemned man, he does something even more cruel. After Gallegos's father begs the townspeople for mercy, Sykes offers to sell him some "magic dust"—actually dust Sykes scooped up from the ground—which will supposedly turn hate into love and bring the spirit of forgiveness to the sad little town.

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Tropes:

  • Big "NO!": Gallegos Sr. gives one in the climax.
  • Blatant Lies: Part of what drives the plot is how Sykes exploits Gallegos Senior's gullible nature by telling him he can sell him "magic dust" that will save his condemned son.
  • Dying Town: Serling's narration describes it as a town that's "waiting to die". It does look particularly dilapidated even for a Wild West town; it seems that an extended drought has basically ruined everyone.
  • Establishing Character Moment: Sykes makes it pretty clear how mean-spirited he is when he sadistically taunts the convicted Luís Gallegos for running over a child, even by accident.
  • Failed Execution, No Sentence: Luís Gallegos survives his execution by hanging because the rope breaks at the precise moment that he falls. This is the moment that everybody in town decides (on top of everything else that has happened throughout the episode that was making them undecided about whether following through with this whole charade was actually a good idea) to let him go.
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  • Friend to All Children: Gallegos Sr. implies that his son Luís is this.
  • Harmful to Minors: Sheriff Koch lampshades how questionable it is to deliberately let children watch an execution to "teach" them the concept of justice.
  • Heel–Face Turn: In the end, Sykes has a change of heart and gives the gold coins he dishonestly earned to the village children.
  • Jerkass: Sykes is this, at least until the end.
  • Humans Are Flawed: A major theme of the episode, culminating in a Humans Are Good moral.
  • Humans Are Good: Part of the episode's moral.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: Another part of the episode's moral is to wonder: was the dust really magical all along, or is the human heart much deeper than we give credit?
  • Pet the Dog: Two instances towards the end. First, the parents of the child Luís Gellegos accidentally ran over decide in the end to forgo the execution, seeing that Gallegos Sr. loves his son Luís just as much as they loved their daughter. Second, Sykes gives his gold coins to some poor children, with no strings attached.
  • The Punishment Is the Crime: The mother of the deceased child insists on letting Luís Gellagos go. Her husband John reminds her that he killed their child. She responds that through running over an innocent child he has killed part of himself, and the overwhelming guilt has made him suffer enough.
  • The Sheriff: Sheriff Koch is sympathetic to Luís Gallegos. He chastises Sykes for taunting him and protects his father from the angry crowd. Koch is depressed by the thought of Gallegos being hanged and clearly believes that he does not deserve to be hanged but still performs his duty as laid down by the law.
  • This Cannot Be!: When the noose tied around Luís Gallegos' neck inexplicably breaks, Sykes—the man who sold the rope—is shocked, as he can vouch it's supposed to be unbreakable.
  • The Wild West: A "misery-laden village" somewhere out in the Wild West, where people still travel in wagons and conduct public hangings.
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