Super Recaps: The Twilight Zone (Last Lap)


The Twilight Zone and all the images you see in this recap are owned by Warner Bros Television and based on the series created by Rod Serling

Episode directed by Brad Turner

We’re back with another episode of The Half-Remembered Zone and this is one that I remember quite a bit; particularly the ending which… I don’t remember liking all that much?  It’s an interesting episode to be sure, but I mostly remember it feeling like some sort of PSA about dealing with loss rather than something I could genuinely connect with.  Then again, I watched these episodes when I was a foolish teenager and now that I’m a foolish man I might have a slightly different perspective on it.  Has this episode aged like a fine wine, or am I about to chug a gallon of fifteen year old milk that didn’t go down too smooth the first time around?  Let’s find out!!

The episode begins with two friends Andy and Marco (Clifton Collins Jr and Greg Serano); the former with a terminal illness and the other trying to show him a good time by driving fast and reliving old memories.  It’s not doing much to stave off the constant coughing and the fear of death, but I do think the dynamic here is very strong between the two.  Marco is definitely cheery in that way that people get when they want to help someone forget about what’s wrong and () is brutally honest about how scared his of dying at such a young age.  We find out that this car Marco is driving was built by Andy and that it’s going to be in a big race in just a week’s time that Andy is afraid he won’t get to see, but as luck would have it while they’re cruising on this rainy night, they find that the track has already been set up and that no one else is there.  At first Marco is hesitant to do this and thinks that Andy should get to a hospital, but Andy is adamant that they take one LAST LAP together and so Marco drives the course.  What neither of the realized is that driving ridiculously high speeds on a track on a rainy night is PROBABLY not the best idea and so they end up crashing the car.  Andy wakes up in ambulance seemingly no worse for wear despite the whole cancer thing, but Marco… well he didn’t make it.  Well sucks to be him I guess, but somehow (I’m guessing THE TWILIGHT ZONE did it), Andy no longer seems to be terminal.  In fact, he’s basically back to his old self which is a detail I DEFINITELY don’t remember from the first time I saw it and on top of that the race track completely disappeared when Andy goes to visit it the next morning which I don’t remember either.

“This is not my beautiful racetrack!  This is not my terminal illness!  HOW DID I GET HERE!?”

Six minutes into this episode I’m already conflicted on a lot of levels.  First, this isn’t lining up with what I remember about the episode and what’s different feels lacking; particularly the miraculous cure that takes away some of the guilt of him being not long for this world anyway yet still getting this second chance.  On top of that, even with the slightly better version of this episode existing in my head, I don’t remember liking it all that much so how much should I bother critiquing these NEW flaws when in my head I know that fixing them won’t make me that much more happy with the end product?  It feels a bit mean spirited to be pointing out ADDITIONAL problems on top of not connecting with the philosophical core of the episode itself!  Now trying to be as fair as possible; as a straight up drama, I think this works even if it’s a bit dower for my taste.  The ironic twist of the guy with a week to living feeling guilty for killing his friend who had his whole life ahead of him is a great idea, but it’s somewhat undercut by the MAGIC HEALING POWERS and the MAGIC DISAPPEARING TRACK that take away some of the down to earth rawness of the story.  What I don’t mind as much, even if it is a bit corny, is that Andy keeps seeing Marco and his car around town which is a great visual shorthand for his grief and something you’d expect to see in this show.  It’s a nice touch that keeps things FEELING supernatural but within a realistic context of someone going through great emotional pain.  There is some good stuff in here, but what really starts to drain my enthusiasm is the other strange element to this story which is that everyone in Marco’s life that we see, primarily his brother and girlfriend (Jason Low and Mercedes de la Zerda), the latter of whom is incidentally Andy’s sister), barely seem to have even registered that Marco is in fact dead and are merrily going about their lives while Andy is straight up suffering.  There’s a REASON for this which we’ll get to at the end of the episode, but even with knowing that I can’t say I enjoy it all that much because it’s genuinely distressing to watch Andy having to deal with this guilt while no one else seems to even acknowledge it.  Everyone grieves in their own ways to be sure, but Andy is very much alone right now in a time where understanding and a sympathetic shoulder is most needed.

“Okay, you want to stop feeling bad?”     “Sure?”     “Stop.  That’s it.  Just stop feeling bad and you won’t feel bad anymore.”     “…”     “I’m still not seeing a smile, so I don’t think you’re doing it right.”

It’s like a weird form of gas lighting where everyone can’t FATHOM how he’s having a hard time dealing with this and I’m starting to get REALLY angry watching it; especially when he tries to convey this to his family and they basically accuse him of trying to make everyone ELSE miserable!  I mean it IS getting a reaction out of me which is more than can be said for a lot of episodes in this series, but I’m not the kind of guy who seeks out misery in my entertainment and I’m frankly feeling very anxious watching it.  Andy storms out the house and finds Marco waiting for him.  Marco then proceeds to lecture him about the nature of death and how it’s no big deal, bro!  It happens to everyone sooner and later and we’re all going to a better place!  Ugh… I know where this is going and I get the point of all this, but it’s still so… condescending I guess.  It’s like someone trying to give you advice but with a clear agenda to it; whether it’s sign you up for some sort of religion or to make themselves feel like they’re a helpful person.  Even Marco who is supposed to be his best friend still doesn’t seem to grasp what Andy is going through who needs less aphorisms and promises of an afterlife and simply needs more understanding.  After their little talk we fade in on the funeral where Andy is still feeling pretty down about all this, so Marco gives him one more pep talk from his own casket.  He tells him to look around at all the smiling people and remember that even they feel sad about it sometimes but will always know that Marco is with them forever and always; that reaching the finish line in life is not something to fear but a beautiful thing.

“Have you heard the good word about The Twilight Zone?”

Now all that treacly bittersweet… stuff, does have a point which we are getting to right now because it’s time for the twist of the episode.  From the funeral we cut back to the beginning of the episode where Marco and Andy are on that course that fateful night.  The crash happens once again, but this time it’s Andy who is injured and Marco is freaking out at the prospect of his best friend dying.  Andy though, having had this… hallucination or trip to THE TWILIGHT ZONE or whatever, tells Marco that he is not afraid before dying in his arms.  Alright, Forest Whitaker; let’s get this over with.

“It’s natural to fear death, but with a little help from his family and friends, Andy Perez learned to accept the inevitable.  Rest in peace, Andy.”

Yeah, sure.  All that was TOTALLY helpful.  Whatever you say.

“The power of The Twilight Zone compels you!”

I thought I was gonna have to go into this episode with a begrudgingly mature analysis that laid on the positives that I can very clearly see are there even if it’s not entirely for me, but instead… I guess I kind of got my wish?  There are flaws here that stand out and undercut what good ideas are there, primarily the TWILIGHT ZONE MAGIC regarding his diagnosis and the race track that don’t amount to anything (not one person mentions either throughout the course of the episode), but the big problem is what I must have felt all those years ago.  I understand why you’d tell a story about someone coming to grips with their own mortality and doing so through the death of another person.  Why that lesson had to be learned THIS way with Andy basically having to sink or swim through his emotional turmoil feels rather harsh and certainly not how I’d try and help someone in this situation.  I don’t want this show to JUST be episodes I can make fun of and this was an earnest effort to make something meaningful in a series that already feels like it doesn’t have a reason to exist, but the end result fell flat for me and the best thing I can say is at least it was a better examination of loss, grief, and death than the episode with Usher fighting a pimp from beyond the grave.  Seriously, how was that not THE BEST episode!?  I’M STILL MAD ABOUT IT!!

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