Sheriff Charlie Koch can't sleep the night before the execution of a man, as he feels conflicted about the situation. Ella, his wife, is no comfort as she snarls "What time do they string him up; you know what I mean...what time does he get hung?" Her attitude represents the hateful sentiment of the town that looks forward to the fate of Jagger, a man who is to be hanged after being wrongfully convicted of killing a bigot in self defense. On the day of his execution, the sun does not rise in the morning.
There is still some dispute as to whether Jagger is guilty. However, Jagger is hanged anyway, much to the delight of the town. The town reverend steps in and says the sky is black because of all the hatred in the world, namely the hatred surrounding Jagger's execution. The sky becomes even darker after the execution. Later, a radio broadcast reveals that the town is not the only place where this disturbance is happening. The sky has turned dark over North Vietnam, a section of the Berlin Wall, Chicagonote , a street in Dallas, Birmingham, Alabama, and other places of hate around the world at that time.
I am the Tropes-Color Me Black:
- An Aesop: Don't let hatred fester, for if left unchecked, it blinds people from doing what's right.
- Artistic License Law: Jagger is publicly executed on May 25, 1964. The last person to be publicly executed in the United States was Rainey Bethea in Owensboro, Kentucky on August 14, 1936. (Note, however, that May 25, 1964 was actually two months in the future when this episode originally aired, thereby placing the customary Twilight Zone change in societal norms not in an alternate reality but in the very near future.)
- Asshole Victim: The bigoted man Jagger killed in self-defense definitely counts.
- Corrupt Politician: Sheriff Koch went along with the hanging so that the townsfolk would re-elect him as sheriff. Colbey calls him out on it.
- Crime of Self-Defense: Jagger killed a man in self-defense. Unfortunately, the man was popular with the townsfolk precisely because of his bigotry and so the townsfolk demanded Jagger's execution and the Sheriff goes along with it so he can be re-elected.
- Humans Are Bastards: The darkness appears all over the world in places where hate abounds.
- The Night That Never Ends: It stays dark well into the day and gets darker after Jagger's execution.
- The Power of Hate: Greatly deconstructed, not necessarily as a power, but as a corruption strong enough to black out the sky and, unfortunately, strong enough to exist in our reality.
- Public Execution: Jagger is publicly hanged for murder.
- Reality Ensues: Rod Serling's ending monologue goes out of its way to point out that hatred isn't exclusive to the Twilight Zone.
- "The Reason You Suck" Speech: The reverend gives one to the deputy and to the townsfolk after Jagger is hanged. Colbey, the editor, gives a few as well.Deputy Pierce: You've seen the light, Reverend. You've really seen the light.The reverend: Have you? Have any of you? In all this darkness, is there anybody who can make out the truth? He [Jagger] hated, and he killed, and now he dies. And you hated, and you killed, and now there's not one of you. Not one of you who isn't doomed. Do you know why it's dark? Do you know why there's night all around us? Do you know what the blackness is? It's the hate he felt, the hate you felt, the hate all of us felt and there's too much of it. There's just too much. And so we had to vomit it out, and now it's coming up all around us and choking us. So much hate, so much miserable hate.
- World of Symbolism: The darkness specifically appears in places where hatred is rampant.