Perhaps the darkest episode yet, 'Escape Clause' is not without its charm, showcasing many likeable qualities that would go on to define the series. Although not perfect per se, this is still amongst my most treasured of TZ episodes, and was actually one of the very first experiences I had with the show.
The episode begins with an absolutely flawless first act which is perfectly paced to allow Wayne and Gomez to bring out their characters, and get the chemistry going. Just watching these two men (even Wayne alone) share the excellent dialogue penned by Serling is enough to justify watching this entire episode, which sadly doesn't live up to its opening act. Furthering the charm of this act however is the containment of the action within the one room, with heavy reliance on dialogue and characterisation which work to episodes advantage in many ways. The themes present here too are amongst my favourite of Twilight Zone concepts, and I feel that although similar to the earlier episode 'One for the Angels', this one goes so much further in analysing the true psychological impact of being granted immortality. It eventually goes on to paint a rather tragic character in Bedeker, who seems to be a man who never gets to really live: whilst mortal he develops an obsession with living and stays in bed, too scared to do anything that might kill him; and then whilst immortal he desperately seeks a 'thrill' of testing death, over and over to no avail. I could go on and on: this is probably just another reason why I love the opening scenes of 'Escape Clause' so much; it's simply a feast for thought!
Indeed if act one is the consciousness of the episode then act two is surely the psychological side, showing the eventual break-down of all such rational thought within a man given all he has ever wanted. This undoubtedly leads to some rather wacky and surreal situations that are sadistically humorous, showing a great deal of wit and dark comedy that until now has been largely underused in the show. Some characterisation in this act is where the episode falters, taking large leaps in all directions without any real development to get there. Wayne's character eventually makes some rather brash decisions that are fuelled by motives not particularly clear, and even though they bring down the episode's seriousness, they also do a wonderful job of lightening things up a bit. Well, as best as Serling could do at least. I admittedly could do with a little less absurdities (such as wishing for the electric chair), but I absolutely loved the fact that he calls the police and calmly confesses to murdering his wife; fantastic writing, and Wayne pulls it off magnificently.
If there is one major thing that puts me off 'Escape Clause' it's the absolutely terrible score which goes to undermine any real sense of intelligent, dark humour; instead slapping an unnecessary slapstick sticker on top with its rather idiotic tone. A small gripe yes, but one that I believe strongly hurts the integrity of the episode quite a bit, and stops it from being that much closer to perfection.
Nevertheless I do adore 'Escape Clause' no doubt thanks to its wonderful sense of humour, thought-provoking themes, excellent written and performed dialogue and it's dark tone which eventually leads up to what is perhaps one of the bleakest ending monologues I've ever heard in a Twilight Zone show. A lot of people don't seem to like it for some weird reason far beyond my reasoning, but for me, this will always be one of the best Serling had to offer.