A twist in the tale: Why too many ‘Twilight Zone’ endings can ruin the surprise

1 - twilisghtzoneOne summer, I spent my days lounging around the pool, reading “The Twilight Zone.”

Not watching. For one thing, “The Twilight Zone” reruns were on way late at night. I wasn’t quite a teenager, VCRs were in other peoples’ homes, and the Internet was still a good decade or so away. So I’d only seen a handful.

And those shows, when I could catch them, were potentially very scary. It was safer to read the summaries of every one of the 156 episodes, all neatly collected in Marc Scott Zicree’s “Twilight Zone Companion.” Little did I know how much his book, and that series, would define a style of storytelling I would prefer above all others.

Call it what you like: Twist in the tale, surprise ending, gotchas. “Zone” sent me to the works of Richard Matheson (a “Zone” writer but also well-known for his fiction, including the novel “I Am Legend”) and Roald Dahl (his grown-up, nasty stuff); I watched lesser series like “The Outer Limits” and “The Darkroom.” I loved “The Sixth Sense” (and no, I did not see it coming, thank you).

But on the road to becoming an expert in the “Twilight Zone” style of story, something unexpected happened: My antennae got a little too finely honed to be surprised any more. Getting a “Sixth Sense” surprise is so rare these days. And I’m not alone – in general, TV and movie audiences have watched enough of these twists in one form or the other that it takes a truly different shift to catch us unawares. The ones that fail feel like they ought to have the “sad trombone” music playing as credits roll. Bad twists undercut storytelling and cheapen the whole story.

To read the entire Between the Lines post, check it out here at Curiosity Quills!