The Twilight Zone Episode 62: Shadow Play

General Information

Director: John Brahm

Writer: Charles Beaumont

Cast: Dennis Weaver, Harry Townes, Wright King, William Edmonson, Anne Barton, Bernie Hamilton, Tommy Nello, Mack Williams, and Gene Roth

Composer: None (Stock Music)

Air Date: 5/5/1961

Production Code: 173-3657

 

Overview

the-twilight-zone-shadow-playConvicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to die in the electric chair, Adam Grant (Dennis Weaver) claims to be trapped in a recurring nightmare. Willing to give Grant the benefit of the doubt, reporter Paul Carson (Wright King) attempts to convince Henry Ritchie (Harry Townes)—a skeptical district attorney—that reality itself will vanish if the sentence is carried out.

“Shadow Play” is a surreal, thought-provoking, and wonderfully acted episode of The Twilight Zone. Especially compelling are the existential debates between Ritchie and Carson, which will surely intrigue those with an interest in philosophy.

 

Pros

Whenever Grant offers evidence that other people exist only as figments of his imagination, Ritchie counters with a more realistic, if not entirely compelling, interpretation of any perceived idiosyncrasies in the world around him. As a result, the-twilight-zone-shadow-playviewers will remain unable to predict the true explanation for said idiosyncrasies until the final scene.

Also terrific is the performance of Dennis Weaver, the tormented qualities of which elicit sympathy for a condemned man—a worthwhile accomplishment considering that Grant could, even within his own dream, very well be guilty of the crime for which he is accused.

 

Cons

The lack of a surprise ending may disappoint fans of The Twilight Zone.

 

Analysis

A thought experiment on solipsism, “Shadow Play” suggests that all of reality (including the inhabitants thereof) could be a product of one individual’s mind—a remarkablethe-twilight-zone-shadow-play concept that, though seemingly extraordinary, can never be disproved from an objective framework.

 

Concluding Comments

The second episode of The Twilight Zone to feature Harry Townes (known for his portrayal of Arch Hammer in “The Four of Us Are Dying”), “Shadow Play” should be commended for its fascinating, albeit disturbing, implications (i.e. that the universe stems from the observer and not the other way around). Thus, for those who enjoy science fiction with a philosophical twist, this entry is a must.

 

Overall Quality: 8/10

 

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3 thoughts on “The Twilight Zone Episode 62: Shadow Play

  1. “The Howling Man” didn’t have a twist (or not much of one anyway, as its predictable nature you rightfully pointed out) and you gave that one a ten. You’re entitled to your opinion, which I often enjoy reading, but I’m rather surprised this masterful episode didn’t receive a higher grade. I personally don’t feel a twist is a prerequisite for any great “TZ” episode. The lack of a twist here is more than compensated by the utterly disturbing, hopeless note the ending strikes; it got under my skin in the best possible way. It’s an episode that made me ponder reality a great deal and I have no doubt will continue to challenge me when I revisit it again one of these days … Thanks again for your wonderful “TZ” reviews.

    • While I agree that a twist ending shouldn’t be a prerequisite for any installment of The Twilight Zone, I do believe the outcome in this case was a little too obvious; that is, everything played out exactly as Grant predicted, with no surprises along the way. I might have felt more disturbed if in the climactic scene, something happened to indicate that Grant actually was psychotic and had been awake the whole time (of course, such a revelation would have altered the subject matter with new implications, hence why a final “twist” was omitted from this offering). However, “Shadow Play” is still a very haunting and well-made episode overall.

      • You should read the short story this is based on, “Traumerei”; it might be more to your liking.
        What I especially liked about the ending was that when the dream started over again all the players in the previous version of the dream were all shuffled around: Jiggs was now the judge; Phillips, the muttering basket case in the beginning, was now Grant’s lawyer; and Paul Carson, the city editor, was now a juror. It makes you wonder if we two are “part of someone’s feverish, complicated nightmare” and that each time that person wakes up we cease to be — only we don’t cease to be; we only get shuffled around, with our knowledge of being a part of a previous iteration of the nightmare non-existent. Maybe the fate of our world and all those who occupy it depends too on whether the person dreaming it wakes up or not … Perhaps the billions of years Earth has been around might just be only one of the three or so REM cycles this person has in the nightly eight hour or so period he saws logs …
        Is it just me or does this episode bare a striking resemblance to the earlier “Judgment Night”? Only in that story the end is spelled out whereas in this we never find out whether or not Grant’s dilemma is caused by some kind of karmic justice.