Five Characters in Search of An Exit – Episode 79

An army major awakens in a cylindrical oubliette, devoid of memory, identity, or any idea why he has been imprisoned with four other strangers. Together they attempt to piece together the puzzle, and escape.

So this immediately put me in mind of that great B-movie horror film, The Cube. At first I got all excited, thinking I had rumbled their source of inspiration, but this episode quickly deviated from that narrative in all but the broadest strokes. Instead it quickly began to resemble a piece of minimalist, avant-garde theater, the stark, blank cylinder a featureless gray, so that all the eye has to fixate on are the the five strange characters caught within its depths.

I liked it! I particularly enjoyed the clown, with his debonair insouciance, his flair and pragmatic acceptance of their situation. At times he seemed almost malevolent, and I suspected more going on beneath his face paint than eventually proved to be the case. Second in the line up was the eerie,  dream-like ballerina, her porcelain features perfect, her manner and philosophy both sad and ultimately hopeful. Unfortunately this left the bagpiper and the hobo to simply stand around, two dimensional in contrast, but hey, they only had 20 minutes.

I love little set pieces like this, where the focus is almost exclusively on the reactions and interactions of a group of stranded characters. So hard to do it well, such that I have to take my hat off to Rod Serling for his screenplay. It was in effect an episode where five characters simply spoke to each other, the Major endlessly circling the inside of the cylinder, the others watching, bemused, passive. The ending could never live up to the mystery, but I found it sufficiently bizarre to be pleasing, and it explained nicely the strange surreal nature of the characters.

I don’t want to spoil the plot, so will only register two nitpicks–the explanation provided by the ending precludes the presence of the hobo, and makes of the Major’s individuality and personality a strange anomaly.