Rerun Junkie–Episode: “The Fugitive”

You can blame Tom Elliot and The Twilight Zone Podcast for this. And then you can go listen to Tom Elliot and The Twilight Zone Podcast (and support him and the show on Patreon!) because both the host and show are damn nifty.

In a recent episode of the podcast, Tom discussed The Twilight Zone episode “The Fugitive”. While I encourage you to give the whole episode a listen, particularly if you’re not familiar with the episode at the heart of the discussion, I’ll give you a quick rundown here:

J. Pat O’Malley plays Old Ben, a kindly old man that plays with the neighborhood children and has a particular kinship with one little girl with a lame leg named Jenny. Jenny has it pretty rough. The other kids don’t like playing with her because she’s a girl and she wears a leg brace. The aunt whom she lives with is horribly abusive towards her. Old Ben is a bright spot in her life.

Old Ben can do magic, like turn himself into other things, because he’s really an alien. When two men show up looking for him, he first tells Jenny it’s because he’s a fugitive. He then heals Jenny’s leg and leaves. In an attempt to get Old Ben to come back, the men zap Jenny into a kind of coma. He shows up to heal her and that’s when the real truth comes out: Old Ben is actually a king. In the end, he takes Jenny with him to his planet. Rod Serling’s closing narration informs the audience that the picture Jenny left under her pillow for her aunt to find is of Ben’s true form. He’s actually a young man. And her aunt will never guess that her niece will one day be a queen.

The discussion of this episode brought up an uncomfortable, but valid interpretation of the relationship between Old Ben and Jenny, insinuating that Old Ben’s interest in Jenny was more than platonic and the fact that he’s actually a young man in disguise doesn’t really make it better since the king in the picture could easily be nineteen or twenty and Jenny is only about twelve. It makes certain scenes and some dialogue rather squicky and distasteful when viewed in this particular light.

Now, like I said. It’s a perfectly valid interpretation of the episode, though I don’t think it was all written with that intent. It was meant to be something like a sci-fi fairy tale. And I’ve never even thought of it in that light when I’ve watched it. That could, of course, be my J. Pat O’Malley bias here. I love that man and I really need to write a post on him. It might be why I always looked at Old Ben as a kindly grandfather figure, someone who went an extra mile to be caring with Jenny because she had so little caring in the rest of her life. Even the reveal at the end didn’t sway my perceptions. I never took the relationship to be anything more than innocent.

And that’s probably because of the fairy tale aspect of the story.

Little girls are groomed from baby-age to be princesses and aspire to be queens. That Old Ben was really a young king and wanted Jenny to be his queen is supposed to be every little girl’s dream, age of consent be damned. We’re actually taught to look for someone older to take care of us. That this would be the ending to this fairy tale isn’t at all out of the norm.

It also plays on another trope common in children’s stories: the abused/neglected kid somehow being special and escaping their situation. That’s what the story really struck me as. That fairy tale of escaping some hostile situation that you, as a child, are powerless to change. That Jenny became queen later never felt that important; you could have left it out all together and the story would ring just as true. If Jenny had been Danny, there would never have been a need for any postscript crowns.

And if Jenny had been Danny, I doubt that as many people would arrive at the less-than-innocent interpretation of the episode because people still struggle with the idea that boys are also sexually abused.

There’s a societal conditioning concerning gender roles that I think plays into both interpretations of the episode. Old men prey on little girls. Little girls want to be princesses and queens.

And while the episode is definitely a product of its time, the lens we view it through hasn’t aged as much as we think.

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Rerun Junkie– “Hookman” Old and New

WARNING: SPOILERS! For both episodes, though you’ve had 35 years to watch the original one, so really, you’ve got no legitimate bitch.

Hawaii 5-0

Let’s get a few things out of the way right from the beginning. This isn’t going to be a battle between the two series to see which one is better. It’s not going to be that kind of comparison. It’s just for my own amusement to see how the new one redid the old one. That’s it. And it should also be noted that I’ve only seen one episode of the new Hawaii Five-0 and that was because Ed Asner was reprising his role from the original Hawaii Five-O. So my knowledge of the new series is minimal at best, but I do have a basic understanding of the new cannon by way of the Interwebs and it seems the show is very respectful in many ways to the original and I can appreciate that.

So, with that out of the way, let’s get this showboat on the river.

In the original episode, a double amputee with hooks for hands (played by actual double amputee Jay. J. Armes) shows some deft dexterity in assembling rifles, engraving little name plates, and, oh yeah, shooting the cops that were involved in the bust up of a bank robbery that cost him his hands. Naturally, Steve McGarrett is on that hit list.

In the new episodes, a double amputee with robo hands (played by Peter Weller…aka…RoboCop) also shows some deft dexterity in assembling semi-automatic weaponry, engraving names on bullet casings, and, oh yeah, shooting the cops that were involved in the bust up of a bank robbery that cost him his hands. Naturally, this Steve McGarrett is on that hit list because his father was one of the cops and, well, he’s dead now and someone needs to pay this vengeance tab.

The episodes are quite similar. Tip of the hat to Mr. Weller, who directed the episode. He did a great job of making the new version so like the old version, including shooting in some of the same locations. The opening sequence is nearly shot for shot like the original which put me, the Rerun Junkie, into a good mood right off. I was please to see how much of the original was basically just updated, but kept for the new version.

Now, of course there are differences. Different times, different technology, different cannon, there has to be.

Old Hawaii 50 CastFirst of all, there’s the cast. And I’m not talking about Kono being a woman, though I am talking about Kono. The original “Hookman” aired during the 6th season. Kono (Zulu) departed in the fourth season and was replaced by Ben Kokua (Al Harrington), so Ben instead of Kono helped bring down Hookman.

There was more personal drama shown in the new version. In the original, Jack Lord got it across with a few words and some inflection that this was personal business on a certain level, not just because fellow officers were being killed, but because they were friends of his. That’s how much of the personal drama was done on the old show, shown throughout the investigation in little ways. The new show devoted a couple of whole scenes to the personal drama.

The new show also dedicated a whole scene to showing Hookman hooking up the ex-con with the weapon that he used in the shootout that Hookman used to kill his second victim. In the original, you didn’t see any of that. We found ourselves at a shootout with Danno, thinking they had the sniper (the ex-con was a white, kinda redneck looking guy in the original). Both guys were smoked out and killed and both Ookala’s were mistakenly thought to be shot by the ex-con and then later it was revealed to be incorrect, though in the original it was after autopsy instead of on-scene.

Speaking of the victims, the first two are the same in the original and new version, Keoke and Ookala, but in the original, the third victim is Thompson who is killed off-screen, not Duke, who is wounded off-screen. (Or, as I say whenever he appears on-screen in the original Duuuuuuuuke!)

Since the new Hookman was leaving behind engraved casings instead of rifles with engraved nameplates (you can’t just leave behind weaponry at crime scenes these days, people will swipe them; back then you could leave just about anything lying around with no worries, guns, kids, cars, whatever), McGarrett and Danno ended up going to a gun shop instead of a jeweler’s to get shot at, a sensible change. New Hawaii 50 Cast

Finding the Hookman ended up being different, too. In the original, they deduced that a double amputee probably didn’t have a whole lot of job options so he probably lived in the poor part of town. That sort of thing probably isn’t considered politically correct today and double amputees probably have more job opportunities today than they did in the 70’s anyway. It was a mailbox record that led them to Hookman in the new version.

The one big complaint I have about the new version is the final raid and shootout, yet another difference. In the original, McGarrett goes into Hookman’s apartment alone and looks around in complete silence. He sees the engraving equipment, the police radio, the plaques on the walls with the news paper clippings with the bold headlines of the killed cops. Then the phone rings, breaking the silence. It’s startling because the tension builds so gradually you don’t notice just how tense it’s getting.

The new version was a rush to the ending. The search of the apartment was conducted by everybody, the phone ringing wasn’t nearly as jarring, there was no opportunity for tension, which is a shame.

The final shootout went down pretty much the same way with the exception of there being no Ben to draw fire (seriously, McGarrett’s like, “Ben, on the count of five, stick your head out and get shot at so I can get to the car”) and Kono taking the kill shot instead of Danno. And then there was Hookman’s death. In the original, the rifle fell to the pavement while Hookman flail-collapsed on the roof. The rifle smashed and there was this moment of McGarrett looking at this gun with his name on it. It had a serious emotional weight to it.

In the new version, Hookman smashed to the pavement and the emotionally weighted moment was reserved for McGarrett talking to his dead father and the two dead officers and I was kinda like, Bzuh? Is this his thing? Does he often see his dead dad at the end of the day? I don’t know. Like I said, I don’t watch the show, so it’s entirely possible that this moment could be quite poignant. But I really liked the poetic feel of the original ending better.

However, don’t confuse my disappointment in the ending with dissatisfaction. As much as it bummed me out that the endings weren’t more alike, the similarities they did keep in the episode were quite pleasing. The O’s in the engravings were the tip-off. Mr. Weller did a wonderful job as Hookman (even though he talked more than the original) and the similarities in the apartment and the engraving scene were fabulous. Also the little things, like the ex-con falling over the railing after being shot, a green mustang being used as Hookman’s getaway car, the hand left hanging onto the steering wheel, those little details showed just how dedicated they were to really doing the episode right and doing it with extreme reverence to the original. All the credit in the world for that kind of care.

I’m actually quite pleased with how the new version stacks up against the original. I really didn’t think they’d do as well as they did.

I do believe the folks running the new Hawaii Five-0 have a rerun junkie in their midst. And I appreciate that.