Twilight Zone – Shadow Play (04/04/86)

Adam Grant is sentenced to “hang by the neck until dead” and he laughs.  See, that’s the problem.  My idea is to hang criminals, but give them just enough air so they hang there until they starve to death.[1]

He tells the judge, “all of this and all of you are a dream.”  He is hauled out of the courtroom under Charles Aidman’s narration of the exact same intro Rod Serling used 25 years earlier.  This is the perfect example of how Aidman’s avuncular voice undermines the show whereas Serling’s menacing tone gave it gravitas.

He tells the other inmates that this is just a dream that he lives over and over.  He describes in detail each step of walking the last mile, getting your feet bound, and having the hood placed over your head.  Then the noose.  He describes how they all nod at each other and a red light comes on, but given that he is already wearing the hood, that must be speculation.  Then the switch is thrown and he hangs by the neck until he wakes up.

Grant’s attorney goes to see the D.A.  She is starting to believe Grant’s story that this is all a dream even though she is not wearing stilettos and a push-up bra.  She points out to the DA how weird it was that there were no spectators in the courtroom, and no Hollywood actors were coming to Grant’s defense in the media.  Although, to be fair, I don’t remember if he was in jail for killing a cop.

The DA goes to death row where apparently executions are carried out on the day of sentencing — hey that’s my dream!  Grant points out several inconsistencies in this world that make the DA question his reality, like why Girls lasted six seasons and Arrested Development only lasted three.

With a slight twist, Grant is executed, then we and he find ourselves at the beginning of the episode.  However, the players are recast.  A prisoner is now his attorney, his attorney is now the judge, the priest is now a juror, etc.

I see some reviews suggesting this version is better than the original, but I don’t get it.  As good as Peter Coyote always is, it is hard to top Dennis Weaver and the B&W cinematography.  Also, the original had a classic cut (T-bone, I think) from Grant’s description of the electric chair to a sizzling steak.  Frankly, both episodes are undermined by the small stakes here — it’s just a dream.  Take some Ambien for crying out loud.


  • [1] Adam Grant is electrocuted in the 1961 version.  In that case, my penal reform would be the electric couch for maximum taxpayer savings. Heh, heh, penal.
  • Classic TZ Connection:  Duh. Also, William Schallert (Priest) was in an episode and the movie.
  • Skipped segment:  Grace Note.  Notable only because it contains the same Marriage of Figaro opening as Trading Places.

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