Tuesday, December 24, 2013

The Twilight Zone: "Night of the Meek"

The winter break has come to me, thus time to update my blog with some new reading and hopefully posting enough to reach the 250th post by a decent time next year. Around this time two years ago, I recommended The Twilight Zone and to this day see it as one of the greatest television shows of all time. I should also mention how it's one of the greatest reality shows of all-time, because unlike many of other reality shows that have so many obvious holes to them, The Twilight Zone puts forth plenty of truths in our society. This includes the idea of sameness ("Number 12 Looks Just Like You"), scapegoating ("The Monsters are due on Maple Street"), replacing humans with computers ("The Brain Center at Whipple's), and the list keeps going on, though at the same time, many of episodes explore the supernatural or simply tell a story that leaves you thinking.

Warning: Reviews of television episodes contain spoilers. If you don't want to find out what happens, I suggest watching the episode first before coming back to this review.

One of those that plays with the supernatural is the Christmas special: "Night of the Meek." There is most definitely a magic that makes up the Christmas holiday and its intent is to leave the viewer with a warm fuzzy feeling known as sentiment. A great Christmas special can fill you with plenty of different emotions, but once it fills you with sentiment of some fashion, it has engaged in much of its purpose. This Christmas special did this perfectly and at the same time never strayed away from its initial purpose. "Night of the Meek" follows an unemployed man named Henry Corwin (played by Art Carney) who has a job once a year as a department store Santa under Mr. Dundee (played by John Fiedler), an uptight boss who feeds into the norms of a commercial society. Mr. Dundee is waiting for Corwin to attend a Christmas event filled with plenty of youngsters while Corwin (in his Santa suit) is having a few (to put it in a subtle fashion) drinks at the bar. Hilariously enough, plenty of young kids are watching and shouting for "Santa," to which Corwin waves.

Henry Corwin is eventually kicked out after swindling the bartender out of a bottle of booze and is confronted by some children from struggling families. They begin asking for toys, but progress to asking for more serious things such as food on the table. Corwin (in his Santa suit) sends them on their way and arrives an hour late at the department store. An angry Mr. Dundee expresses his mind quietly, but furiously to Corwin before telling him that he'd better succeed at impressing the children (but in reality the parents). The first child to go up is a "Percival Smithers" who wants a new name for Christmas, causing a reaction from his mother. Corwin becomes unable to sit still and constantly passes out, leading him to be fired by Dundee. Before leaving, Corwin provides a philosophical speech as to why he drinks heavily, as he has the option to weep about his life or drink and feel a little less pain. He expands to talking about what Christmas should really mean and that Dundee, like plenty of others, see it in a more commercialized fashion. Corwin leaves, barely able to walk the streets.

Corwin eventually walks by the alleyway and comes across a bag, which is where a sentimental tune that sounds like it came from a child's music box begins to play. This feeds into the idea of Christmas sentiment. The bag is at first filled with garbage, but at a second glance, it becomes filled with presents. Not just presents, but a bag that provides people with what ever they ask. He goes to his mission house and presents everyone with what ever they ask, only to shock Sister Florence (played by Meg Wyllie) and cause her to bring a police officer, Flaherty (played by Robert P. Lieb) onto the premise. Flaherty feels that Corwin shoplifted the items and took him to the police station. They are met by Mr. Dundee, who knows that something suspicious has been going on, until they realize the bag is (as originally found) filled with garbage. Mr. Dundee feels that it's a sham and that this is not a bag Corwin found, but stole. Mr. Dundee asks for a specific bottle of cherry brandy that Corwin feels and pulls out. Corwin leaves to hand out more gifts to the children, while Mr. Dundee gets himself drunk.

As Corwin hands out the last of the gifts, a friend from the mission house comes across his path and thanks him for the pipe and mentions how incredible this whole evening has been. He asks Corwin what he wants, to which Corwin wishes that he could do this every year, which could be viewed in a way that he sets himself up for some more supernatural, but sentimental magic. As he returns to the alleyway to the sentimental tune, he comes across a sleigh with reindeer in the front. An elf, played by a young boy, tells him how they've got more to do and then have to prepare for next year, indicating that Corwin has become Santa. As he rides away, Flaherty and Dundee see him riding on his sleigh, to which an intoxicated Dundee accuses Flaherty of "seeing things" and that he'll take him back to his place and make him feel better with some of his brandy.

The beatitude states that: "The meek shall inherit the Earth," which happens as Corwin portrays a drunk department store Santa each year, but eventually having the opportunity to become more than just that drunk Santa and instead THE Santa, coming out with the strongest statement. What Corwin really conveyed was that the meaning of Christmas should be doing everything you possibly can to make somebody happy in any which way. The person providing the happiness comes out with a feeling of sentiment, which is an advanced form of happiness that comes with a fuzzy feeling. "Night of the Meek" is filled with plenty of evident flaws of the Christmas season, the biggest being the commercialization that has only escalated. Just look at how Black Friday has flooded into the entire Thanksgiving (remember, Kmart opened at 6 AM on Thanksgiving and stayed open until 11 PM the next day!). Mr. Dundee represents this cold-hearted, misunderstanding element toward the heartfelt emotions that come with Christmas.

"Night of the Meek," in a very different way, is one of my favorite Christmas specials. It displays something far different from most, but what it displays provides such truth to what Christmas really means. The fact that it delivers a feeling of sentiment also drives it to being a special that can stand the test of time and at the same time a bit of necessary humor, supernatural elements, and messages of honesty. I should also remind everyone that The Twilight Zone marathon will be showing, as it always does, on New Years Eve and New Years Day on the Syfy channel.

1 comment:

  1. I should mention that the band Rush (not to be confused with Big Time Rush) uses "The meek shall inherit the Earth" at the end of the first part of their 1976 dystopian seven-part suite "2112" (from the album of the same name). There's also a song called "The Twilight Zone" later on in the same album. This song is based on two episodes from the TV show of the same name, "Will the Real Martian Please Stand Up?" and "Stopover in a Quiet Town". Check out the album if you wish.