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Recap / The Twilight Zone S3 E73 "It's a Good Life"

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Boy, is it ever.

Rod Serling: Tonight's story on The Twilight Zone is somewhat unique and calls for a different kind of introduction. This, as you may recognize, is a map of the United States, and there's a little town there called Peaksville. On a given morning not too long ago, the rest of the world disappeared and Peaksville was left all alone. Its inhabitants were never sure whether the world was destroyed and only Peaksville left untouched or whether the village had somehow been taken away. They were, on the other hand, sure of one thing: the cause. A monster had arrived in the village. Just by using his mind, he took away the automobiles, the electricity, the machines—because they displeased him—and he moved an entire community back into the dark ages—just by using his mind. Now I'd like to introduce you to some of the people in Peaksville, Ohio. This is Mr. Fremont. It's in his farmhouse that the monster resides. This is Mrs. Fremont. And this is Aunt Amy, who probably had more control over the monster in the beginning than almost anyone. But one day she forgot. She began to sing aloud. Now, the monster doesn't like singing, so his mind snapped at her, turned her into the smiling, vacant thing you're looking at now. She sings no more. And you'll note that the people in Peaksville, Ohio, have to smile. They have to think happy thoughts and say happy things because once displeased, the monster can wish them into a cornfield or change them into a grotesque, walking horror. This particular monster can read minds, you see. He knows every thought, he can feel every emotion. Oh yes, I did forget something, didn't I? I forgot to introduce you to the monster. This is the monster. His name is Anthony Fremont. He's six years old, with a cute little-boy face and blue, guileless eyes. But when those eyes look at you, you'd better start thinking happy thoughts, because the mind behind them is absolutely in charge. This is the Twilight Zone.

The town of Peaksville, Ohio is home to an omnipotent child named Anthony Fremont. He can change anything he wants and banish anyone he wants into the cornfield.

The town gathers to celebrate "television night" in which Anthony makes television for everyone and to celebrate the birthday of Dan Hollis. However when Dan dips too much into booze, he ends up thinking some very bad thoughts.

Rod Serling: No comment here, no comment at all. We only wanted to introduce you to one of our very special citizens, little Anthony Fremont, age 6, who lives in a village called Peaksville in a place that used to be Ohio. And if by some strange chance you should run across him, you had best think only good thoughts. Anything less than that is handled at your own risk, because if you do meet Anthony, you can be sure of one thing: you have entered the Twilight Zone.

For tropes on the original short story, see It's a Good Life.

It's a good thing that we're going to list the tropes here:

  • Age Lift: Anthony was three in the short story, while six here. (Also qualifies as Pragmatic Adaptation, since a three-year-old wouldn't be able to learn lines or take direction.)
  • And I Must Scream: Anthony's mother briefly considers at the end that while Anthony could "wish away" any of them one day, he also may not let them die, and they'll have to be with him forever. It's not a good thought and dangerous, so she mumbles until it goes away.
  • A Birthday, Not a Break: Dan Hollis receives a Perry Como record at his surprise birthday party. Although he wants to play it on the Fremonts' record player, the others talk him out of it because of Anthony's hatred of singing. Dan later gets drunk on whisky, another of his presents, and starts making noise, much to Anthony's annoyance. While Pat Reilly is playing "Moonglow" on the piano, Dan starts singing "Happy Birthday" and tries to convince Pat to play the song. However, he is too afraid to do so. Dan finally loses his cool and tells Anthony that he is a monster. He implores the others to attack Anthony from behind but none of them have the courage to do so. Anthony then turns Dan into a jack-in-the-box before sending him to the cornfield.
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  • The Bad Guy Wins: Kid with omnipotent powers and no one able to contradict him. Of course Anthony wins.
  • Berserk Button: For Anthony, it's singing. Any kind of singing, whether a capella or with music, seems to make him extremely angry.
  • Children Are Innocent: No, really, he is. Anthony has the mental outlook of a normal six-year-old child, which is what makes him all the more terrifying.
  • Closed Circle: Outside of Peaksville is only a gray nothingness where the rest of the world used to be. The people of Peaksville aren't sure if Anthony destroyed the rest of the world or took Peaksville to some alternate dimension. What is for sure is that the town is suffering for being isolated; the people are barely eking out an existence by growing their own food, and they pass certain material items around to each other as "presents" because that's all they have left.
  • Crapsack World: Kid with omnipotent powers and no one able to contradict him. When your entire life is run by a child, it's definitely a Crapsack World.
  • Creepy Child: Anthony.
  • Did You Just Flip Off Cthulhu?: Dan tries this yelling at Anthony and begging for someone to use the opening to kill him. It doesn't work out.
  • Downer Ending: Dan Hollis defies Anthony, so Anthony turns him into something horrible, a jack-in-the-box, and sends it to the cornfield. Because his Aunt Amy complained about the heat earlier, Anthony makes it snow on the next day, which kills off half the crops.
  • Evil Redhead: Anthony is a redhead and is the Villain Protagonist of the story.
  • Happiness Is Mandatory: Everyone in Peaksville represses negative thoughts and emotions for fear that if Anthony senses unhappiness he will either lash out in anger at the thinker for being dissatisfied with the world he has made or make a misguided attempt to help.
  • Happy Birthday to You!: Dan Hollis sings it as "Happy Birthday to Me".
  • Karma Houdini: Anthony gets no comeuppance for his bad deeds.
  • Kids Are Cruel: The thing is, Anthony isn't any different from regular little children, as far as his mental and emotional states. The problem is that he has complete omnipotence over his environment and everyone in it, and that does not go well with the mood swings and lack of empathy common to every preschooler. Especially since nobody dares to try to discipline him.
  • Lost in the Maize: Where Anthony sends the bodies of his victims.
  • Mind Rape: In the beginning, Aunt Amy was the only person who could exercise any control over Anthony, until she offended him by singing in his presence and his mind "snapped" at her. She's left as a shell of her former self, smiling vacantly, and no longer watching how she acts or what she says around Anthony.
  • Named by the Adaptation: In the short story, Anthony's mother is not named. In the television adaptation, her first name is given as Agnes.
  • "Not Making This Up" Disclaimer: After setting up the backstory of Peaksville, Rod Serling remembers that he forgot to actually show us "the monster":
    Rod Serling: Oh yes, I did forget something, didn't I? I forgot to introduce you to the monster. (cut to Anthony, smiling, climbing up onto a gate) This is the monster.
  • Obliviously Evil: Anthony wants everybody to be happy. Many of the horrible things he does stem from misguided attempts to help.
  • The Omnipotent: As noted above, there appears to be no limit to what Anthony can do.
  • Playing with Fire: It is mentioned that Anthony set Teddy Reynolds on fire for thinking mean thoughts about him.
  • Psychic Static: Dan Hollis tries to invoke this by distracting Anthony, and he begs the others to kill Anthony while Anthony's attention is focused on his outburst. Unfortunately for Dan, everyone is still too afraid to raise a hand against Anthony.
  • Pushover Parents: Anthony's parents. How could they be anything else?
  • Reality Warper: Anthony, seemingly without any limits.
  • Running Gag: Not a particularly funny one, but every time someone complains or gets unhappy with Anthony even slightly, the others are quick to assert that it's actually a good thing.
  • Scary Jack-in-the-Box: This is what Anthony transforms his one on-screen victim into.
  • Spoiled Brat: Anthony is a combination of a Spoiled Brat and a nice kid. Most of his reality warping power is used trying to help people, often in ways that are destructive to them or others. When he gets annoyed, however, he's quick to punish in horrible ways.
  • Stepford Smiler: The only way to keep Anthony happy is to think happy thoughts and act like everything's okay.
  • Telepathy: Don't even think anything bad about Anthony. Really, don't.
  • Tragically Misguided Favor: The townspeople apply the "real good" mantra to everything that happens, whether or not Anthony is directly responsible, for fear that he might sense unhappiness from someone he likes and cause even worse damage with a poorly informed attempt to help.
  • Villain Teleportation: Anthony is hard to avoid—not that he's any less dangerous when he's far away.
  • What If God Was One of Us?: Specifically, what if God had the mentality of a young child?

It's a good thing we didn't forget to list the tropes of this work in various other adaptations. It's a very good thing:

  • Be Careful What You Wish For: In "It's Still a Good Life", Anthony himself learns this lesson after he decides just to send everyone to the cornfield, realizing how lonely it is with just him and his daughter as the last people on earth. Although his daughter is able to restore the world, it's ambiguous whether the lesson stuck enough to make him think twice before lashing out in the future.
  • Call-Back: In "It's Still a Good Life", Anthony sets George on fire and mind rapes Lorna. In the original episode, it was mentioned that Teddy Reynolds and Aunt Amy suffered these respective fates.
  • Continuity Nod: In "It's Still a Good Life", Lorna mentions how much Anthony loves tomatoes. In the original episode, Bill Soames brought two of the last cans of tomato soup in Peaksville to the Fremonts' house because he heard Anthony likes it.
  • Deranged Animation: Played for nightmare fuel in Twilight Zone: The Movie: Anthony is obsessed with cartoons, so instead of "the cornfield" he sends his victims to "cartoonland", depicted as a technicolor nightmare. And brought a Tasmanian Devil-like toon character into the real world.
  • Even More Omnipotent: In "It's Still a Good Life", Audrey is even more powerful than her almighty father, as she can do the only thing he cannot: return things to normal. She displays it by bringing back a watch belonging to her grandmother that Anthony erased from existence. In the end, she is even able to restore the entire world that Anthony caused to vanish.
  • Hair-Raising Hare: A rabbit turns into a snarling hellbeast in Twilight Zone: The Movie.
  • Ironic Echo: In "It's Still a Good Life", Agnes tells Anthony that he is a bad man, a very bad man. This is the same thing that Anthony said to Dan Hollis in the original episode over 40 years earlier.
  • Knight Templar Parent: Adult Anthony's Establishing Character Moment in "It's Still a Good Life" is to punish a boy named Timmy for accidentally pushing his daughter Audrey out of a tree, not by hurting him directly, but by burning his father George and then sending him to the cornfield. Unsurprisingly, Timmy stopped playing with Audrey after that.
  • Mind over Matter: In "It's Still a Good Life", Anthony plays the piano in his house without touching the keys.
  • Mind Rape: In "It's Still a Good Life", Anthony punishes Lorna for keeping the secret of Audrey's power from him by destroying her mind, a more extreme version of what he did to Aunt Amy in the original episode.
  • Missing Mom: In "It's Still a Good Life", the adult Anthony has a daughter named Audrey. His mother Agnes mentions that he sent his wife to the cornfield.
  • Morality Pet: Audrey seems to be the only thing capable of stopping Anthony from sending people to the cornfield.
  • No Challenge Equals No Satisfaction: In "It's Still a Good Life", Anthony has grown tired of always winning at bowling and challenges Joseph to a game. When Joseph deliberately sends his ball into the gutter twice in a row, Anthony becomes angry at him for letting him win. He is about to punish him but Audrey asking him to play Pinball with her stays his hand.
  • Playing with Fire: In "It's Still a Good Life", when Anthony confronts Timmy's father George over Timmy accidentally knocking Audrey out of a tree, George begins to say to Agnes that it was a bad idea to let the children play together. Anthony realizes that George does not like him and sets him on fire to punish him. At Agnes' urging, he soon sends George to the cornfield. Having seen everything, Timmy is naturally devastated.
  • Psychic Static: In "It's Still a Good Life", Agnes has developed the ability to shield her thoughts from Anthony after more than 40 years. She taught Audrey to do the same thing, though in her case it proved unnecessary as Anthony couldn't read her thoughts.
  • Psychopathic Manchild: While Anthony did somewhat mature a bit, he kept his spoiled attitude and overly simplistic worldview.
  • Scary Jack-in-the-Box: The Simpsons version has a similar scene where Bart turns Homer into a jack-in-the-box after Homer comes home from being transported into the TV during a football game.
  • Sudden Sequel Death Syndrome: In "It's Still a Good Life", Agnes mentions that Anthony sent his father Bill to the cornfield years earlier.

It's still very good we split this page off. A very good split.

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