Twilight Spotlight #2: He's Alive

Monday, December 7, 2020

 

Image showing details for Twilight Zone Season Four, Episode Four



Twilight Spotlight includes a complete synopsis of the episode being discussed. This means spoilers are ahead...you have been warned.


I have worked on Twilight Spotlight #2-3 for longer than I would like to admit. They are also both very timely, as of course, people like to repeat history instead of learning from it. After rewriting so many times and trying to convey my opinion in so many ways, I have concluded that the best way to cover these episodes is to just wing it. (aka, keep an eye out for #3 very soon)  Oh well...here we go.

"He’s Alive" opens to a young man, Peter Vollmer, preaching his bigoted hatred to a crowd of passersby on a hot day. He practically verbally attacks everyone listening to him. This eventually leads to a physical fight between him and his followers and the men who disagree. No one takes Peter seriously. After being beaten up, poor little Peter runs to the home of Ernst Ganz, a survivor of the Dachau Concentration Camp. Ernst has always been the one to take Peter in when he needed a place to go and is whom Peter considers being the only person he has ever loved. He cries about the treatment he has been receiving for having a different “point of view” while Ernst tries to explain the dark path he is headed down.


Peter then goes to sleep on Ernst’s couch but is awoken by a dark figure standing outside on the street. He goes to speak to this figure, who gives him advice on how to further spread his message of bullshit and gain followers. We then cut to a scene a little in the future after Peter has healed from his wounds and is now repeating the words the dark figure told him to say. He now has a growing crowd coming to see and listen to him. Some members of the said crowd look uneasy, but no one says anything. After the speech ends and everyone leaves, the dark figure returns to give Peter more advice. This leads to him having one of his minions murder one of his friends so that his message can have a martyr. This helps increase his popularity by giving them something to rally behind and causes the crowd to grow even more.


On one of the nights Peter is preaching his ignorance, Ernst happens to be nearby at a diner. He speaks with the man working there about how he has known Peter since childhood, his experiences, and how he does not want to see things repeated. The man responds by saying that kind of thing could not possibly happen here...America is different.

Ganz then goes to the building where Peter’s gathering is being held and interrupts, exposing Peter for who he really is. After the event, Peter’s friend in the shadows returns once again and finally reveals himself - Adolf Hitler. After running away in panic, only to return, Hitler instructs Peter to kill Ernst Ganz to prevent him from being able to cause any more problems. After committing the murder, Vollmer returns to the building his assemblies are being held at. He is then chased by police for participating in the murder of his friend. The cops shoot Peter and leave him to die in an alley while the dark figure moves on to find someone new to spread his message.


The writing for this episode was superb and without a doubt one of Rod Serling's best. I do think a few spots were a bit slow (this was the season they had hour-long episodes), but overall, the pacing was fine. Dennis Hopper's performance as Peter Vollmer was brilliant. He portrayed the battle waging within Peter perfectly and made it believable. I first watched this episode a few years ago. Unfortunately for me, I had also just read It Can't Happen Here by Sinclair Lewis. The amount of anger I have for society and the refusal to a. remember history and b. understand all the warnings is at an all-time high. Will humanity ever learn its lesson?

Themes: ideas never die, evil of humanity, cult mentality

Emotions felt: anger, disgust, frustration





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