Night Visions – The Maze (09/19/02)

Best episode of the series.  That is just based on the presence of Thora Birch, so your mileage may vary. Really, she could have just walked around the titular maze for 22 minutes and I would have been happy; so the bar is pretty low on this one.

The lovely Thora is jogging around the track at school when Wes merges into her lane.  There is some cute dialogue involving him asking her out.  She declines so Gail, her only friend at school, tells her she needs to get out and make friends.  Although it is a scientific fact [1] that smoking hot girls are the loneliest, she needs to make an effort.

Professor Amanda Plummer walks by the table for one of the worst character introductions I’ve ever seen.

Professor: “Hello Gail”.

Gail: “Hello Professor”.

That’s it — even in a 22-minute episode, there must be more than that.  Making it worse, there are a couple of performance queues that just go nowhere. Amanda approaches the table awkwardly, almost like she is going to ask Gail on a date.  Gail’s response is a little giddy as if she is enamored with the professor.  Further complicating the scene is the mere presence of Amanda Plummer.  She is a great character actress, but you know she’s going to end up nuts.

Gail advises Thora to start being more sociable or she will end up old, miserable and alone. When she heads back to the dorm to schedule some sleepovers and pillow fights — in my mind, anyway — she sees Wes.  Not quite ready to practice what Gail preaches, Thora ducks into the campus hedge-maze.  Wait, what?  Is this a metaphor for negotiating the complex college years?  The labyrinthine legal ordeal awaiting a college guy who looks at her the wrong way?  Forming mature relationships? No, I think it’s just a hedge-maze, and it works.

Thora walks through the maze.  The path is snowy even though there is no snow on the hedges.  She loses her way in the maze and walks for a while, getting a little concerned.  And maybe rightfully so.  Some of the shots show chain-link fences in the hedges — they really didn’t want anyone taking a short-cut out. Finally, she sees an EXIT sign.  She pulls out the world’s worst Kindle — some giant heavy thing about 2 inches thick and begins reading as she walks.

She is so entranced by her reading that she doesn’t realize that she is completely alone. She passed no one on the campus, and the dining hall is empty.  She goes back outside and sees absolutely no one.  She searches the campus, but can find no one.  Then she hears music coming from a classroom.  She rushes there expecting to find some football players in Music Appreciation 101.  She does find the aforementioned nutty professor still alive and a few dead students propped up in their seats.  To the surprise of no one, she is insane.

nvmaze11Thora runs out, and even her run, unlike some people’s, is cute.  She goes back to the dining hall for some reason.  Searching the kitchen, she finds the cook dead with his head in the oven.  She grabs a big-ass knife and heads out to keep looking.  She sees a menu dated March 2, 2003 — two years in the future.

She heads to the library to look for people.  She hears a phone ring. She answers and a voice says, “What are you going to do with the  knife?”  Turns out it is Wes.  He shows her newspapers describing how an asteroid is going to destroy the earth.  Headlines say an effort to destroy the asteroid have failed.  And that the “UN Convenes Special Session”, most likely to apologize to the asteroid.

Most everyone has gone to the mountains, or underground or killed themselves.  Wes didn’t want to die that way.  There were so many books he wanted to read, so he came to the library.  Thora realizes that the maze somehow transported her, so she starts back there.  Crazy Amanda Plummer shows up out of nowhere like Karl in Die Hard and stabs Wes.  In another non-written scene, basically Thora just shows her the newspaper. Plummer hands over the knife and walks out.  That’s it.

Thora tries to drag Wes back to the maze, but he dies.  Which is actually a good thing, or else there would have been two Wes’s in our timeline. As the sirens blast and the sky turns red, Thora manages to get back through the maze and back to her own timeline.  That night at 2 am, she goes to Wes’s room.  The final shot shows them walking across the campus at 2 am —  there is no one else out, but they are not alone.

Having learned the importance of friends, Thora and Wes will live happily ever after . . . for two years until that asteroid kills them and everyone else on earth.

As I said, this episode started with a huge credit.  It still managed to build on that, though.  The last person on earth scenario is certainly not original, but it is always fun. Thora was perfect, and Wes was OK.  The only weakness was the writing and casting of the Professor — not a deal-breaker, just kind of jarring.

Post-Post:

  • [1] By “fact” I mean “bullshit”.
  • As Thora wandered around the deserted campus, it reminded me how scenes of some tyrannical or dystopian future frequently seem to be shot at colleges . . . Conquest of the Planet of the Apes, a couple of Night Gallerys, etc.
  • And how can dystopian not be in spell-check?  Did we learn nothing from The Hunger Games?
  • Thora Birch was last seen in The Choice.
  • Amanda Plummer was in the awful Lover Come Hack to Me and excellent Stitch in Time.

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