Revisiting The Twilight Zone: S05E05: The Last Night of a Jockey
What I think is the best part of this episode is that Rod Serling wrote it especially for Mickey Rooney, and that Mickey Rooney is only person in the episode. It not only shows a mark of respect for Rooney’s work as an actor over those years, but also an equal amount of respect that he could hold the interest of the viewer on his own for the length of an entire episode.
Once we move past that, and clearly enthuse that Rooney’s performance is indeed exceptional, we have to also accept that the episode is slightly disappointing in its outlay. Certainly we have the three acts of the one room one actor play. We have the opening act, that establishes that Rooney’s character has been suspended from riding because of dodgy dealings, and that he is angry despite the fact it is true. Once his ‘conscience’ begins to talk to him and takes the devil’s advocate side, there is a degree of to and fro in regards to Grady’s feelings on the matter. The second act involves his conscience claiming he can grant one wish, and Grady, amongst all the things he could wish for, wishes to be ‘big’. Once this is granted, and Grady awakes to find he is eight feet tall, and can barely fit in his bed or his room, he becomes convinced he can now change his life. The third act then brings forth the ultimate reality. Grady received a phone call to say he has had the charges against him dropped. Exclaiming excitedly that he can ride again, he now realises that he is too big to be a jockey any longer, and the episode ends with him crying to be small again to his now silent conscience.
While all of this is done well, and certainly the scenes of a ‘giant’ Grady look good, the story feels a little flat in the middle. That’s not to say that I know what should have been done to alleviate this feeling, but it just doesn’t grab you like the great episodes of this series do. Rooney though does his best work.
Rating: A man too large for his boots. 4/5