Luis Gallegos is scheduled to be hanged in a dusty western town after he was found guilty of killing a child while drunk. Gallegos' father begs everyone for mercy but the Marshal, who ...
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Luis Gallegos is scheduled to be hanged in a dusty western town after he was found guilty of killing a child while drunk. Gallegos' father begs everyone for mercy but the Marshal, who doesn't think the prisoner is a bad sort, has little choice but to proceed with the sentence. Unscrupulous salesman Peter Sykes decides to take advantage of the situation by selling the father his 'magic dust' that will make the townsfolk take pity on his son. Events provide for an unexpected conclusion. Written by
There was a village, built of crumbling clay and rotting wood, and it squatted ugly under a broiling sun like a sick and mangy animal wanting to die. This village had a virus shared by its people. It was the germ of squalor, of hopelessness, of a loss of faith. For the faithless, the hopeless, the misery-laden, there is time, ample time, to engage in one of the other pursuits of men. They begin to destroy themselves.
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Dust is one of the episodes of the twilight zone that deals with the very real and very scary subject of a person taking another life while operating a vehicle while drunk. It takes place in the interesting setting of the old west, rather than modern, early 1960s America (when, incidentally, Dick Cheney was first arrested for drunk driving. His second arrest was fully a year later). A humble Mexican man has accidentally taken the life of a young girl while driving his wagon through town, and is slated to be hanged in front of the angry townspeople.
A sleazy self-labeled businessman (also a drunk, interestingly enough), shows up at the jail and taunts the condemned man, berating him for his crime and taunting him about his impending death. The convicted man sits silently, clearly suffering desperate grief for what he has done.
What I love the most about the episode is that it shows all sides of the case, but still never really calls any of them right or wrong. We see the desperate fear and grief of the condemned, the unbearable suffering of the parents who have lost their child, the anger of the townspeople, represented mostly by the sleazy businessman but also by a local father who has brought the whole family to watch the execution in order to teach the children something about the real world, the horrified father of the condemned, begging for his son's life, and even the disillusioned sheriff, disappointed that all he can to do prevent crime is to inflict more violence for a killing that he couldn't stop.
The father of the condemned man gives the only real performance in the episode as he begs for his son's life in front of the crowd just before the hanging is about to take place, but the most important scene in the show is at the very end, in which we witness an unexpected bit of character change.
The strangeness of the ordinary subject matter of the twilight zone is replaced by what it seems to suggest as the human heart's wonderful capacity for forgiveness. The man committed a crime, but in this case it seems that something other than death is the best punishment. The show suggests, correctly, that someone who has inadvertently taken a life by drunken driving will suffer for the rest of their life, imprisoned or not, and they don't need further punishment, at least in the form of execution.
This is one of the more serious episodes of the twilight zone that I've seen and one that deals not with anything paranormal, but briefly (and possibly not at all) only with something as little as superstition. A case of what we now would call double jeopardy leads to the possibility that there is magic in the air or, more likely, a just punishment is inflicted, despite it not being the one intended. Excellent show.
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