Every weekday, we’re going to review an episode of Rod Serling’s classic sci-fi/horror TV series “The Twilight Zone“. We’re starting from the beginning and we will be working our way through every episode the series has offered, including the episodes from the 80’s. You can see all the reviews right here.
“Escape Clause” – Directed by Mitchell Leisen
Broadcast date: November 6th, 1959
In this episode, we meet Walter Bedeker, a hypochondriac who is convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt that his wife secretly wants him to die of his (imagined) ailments. In reality, she is trying to appease him and his delusions, so she just nods and agrees with whatever he says, no matter what it is.
After an unnecessary visit from the doctor, Bedeker whinges and moans to himself that he wishes people didn’t have to get sick or have to deal with death. Suddenly, a man appears in the room, shocking Bedeker, and offers a deal for immortality at the low cost of his soul. Bedeker realizes that he’s dealing with the Devil but thinks he can outsmart him, so he accepts. A bargain is struck and one soul is exchanged for immortality. There is a clause for Bedeker by which he can call upon the Devil and end his immortality at any point, should he so desire.
Bedeker, now free from his hypochondria, begins to test the limits of his newfound power. He grabs the heater in the room only to find that it does not burn him. He jumps under a train yet doesn’t get mangled. He drinks iodine, rubbing alcohol, and ammonia but feels nothing. He then decides to jump from the roof of his apartment building, where his wife begs and pleads for him to not do it. As she gesticulates, she falls back off the roof to her death. Bedeker doesn’t mourn her. In fact, his first reaction is to light a cigarette and ponder what it must’ve felt like. It is then that he gets the idea to call the police and confess to her death as though he committed murder with the intention that he’ll get arrested and ultimately sit in the electric chair.
The twist comes when the judge lays down the verdict of guilty but issues a punishment of life in prison. Doomed to spend eternity behind the walls of a prison cell, Bedeker uses his clause and dies of a heart attack.
It’s not a bad episode but MAN are there some glaring issues. The talk between Bedeker and the Devil, who calls himself Ted Cadwallader, feels very forced. Bedeker doesn’t show much surprise that a strange man is suddenly in his room, seemingly out of nowhere. Furthermore, Bedeker barely negotiates his soul away. If it were me, I’d have a TON of questions to make sure there were no twists or tricks. After all, I’ve seen Bedazzled, so I’m perfectly aware that the Devil is not to be trusted!
Apart from that, it’s rather shocking that Bedeker has such a turn in personality. Yes, he’s a jerk but he was always afraid of illness, maladies, and death. To suddenly become a man who is intent on testing the limits of his immortality by attempting suicide left and right just seems like too much of a 180.
I will say that Thomas Gomez plays a wonderful Devil in the form of Ted Cadwallader. He’s charismatic and rather charming, in his own way. He’s not a sinister or malevolent Devil. Rather, he is one that delights in his job, having as much fun as possible.
Overall, it’s a mediocre episode. It’s definitely enjoyable but it would’ve done much better had it been given a little more time to flesh itself out. It felt rushed and incomplete, which is a shame considering how delightfully full and complete the previous episode, “Walking Distance”, was.