Director: Joseph M. Newman
Writer: Rod Serling
Cast: Mickey Rooney
Composer: None (Stock Music)
Air Date: 10/25/1963
Production Code: 2616
Banned by the racing commission for his unethical behavior, a diminutive jockey named Grady (Mickey Rooney) begins hearing a familiar voice inside his mind. Confronted by his alter ego, Grady complains about the seeming unfairness of his life circumstances—with an incredible outcome.
A bottle episode with a “big” twist, “The Last Night of a Jockey” should be commended for showcasing the talents of Mickey Rooney. Nevertheless, this episode is marred by repetitious dialogue and unconvincing special effects.
By borrowing the narrative tropes of “Nervous Man in a Four Dollar Room,” “The Last Night of a Jockey” may evoke criticism for its unoriginal premise. In contrast to the mirror reflection of Jackie Rhoades, however, Grady’s alter ego serves only to taunt, insult, and trick the main character into following a path of self-destruction—an effective, if mean-spirited, twist on the concept of personal motivation.
Capturing the rage, frustration, and insecurity of someone with a perceived handicap, Mickey Rooney deserves praise for his performance in this episode. Unfortunately, the juvenile outbursts of Rooney’s character—a man who compensates for his short stature by breaking objects, threatening others, and screaming at his own reflection—grow slightly tedious by the final act.
Also worth noting are the post-transformation scenes, which may fail to convince the audience of Grady’s extraordinary growth. Specifically, the physical proportions of Rooney—only five feet, two inches tall in real life—appear smaller than average even when filmed in a miniaturized room.
Indicating that the grass may not always be greener on the other side, “The Last Night of a Jockey” warns against taking things for granted, coveting the advantages of others, and using anger as a coping mechanism for dealing with stressful events—all worthwhile messages that suffer from a lack of subtlety.
“The Last Night of a Jockey” benefits from the acting of Rooney. Many fans of The Twilight Zone may, however, wish to avoid this episode for its silly execution and derivative subject matter.
Overall Quality: 5/10
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