The Twilight Zone does not exist in the subconscious. That was my thought while watching this episode. I had many thoughts while watching this episode, in part because I started it and finished it on different days. There has been many thoughts on my mind lately, and my decision to start reviewing The Twilight Zone again is due to me wanting a window into a nation whose past and future are becoming increasingly difficult to understand.
All of which is a heavy burden to put on a simple, old fashioned love triangle story, starring James Best as a man (named Billy-Ben) who must choose between the dark haired Jess-Belle and the fair haired Ellwyn, whose personalities are coded to their hair: the dark, mysterious (and in modern parlance, Gothy) Jess-Belle, and the sunny, cute Ellwyn. Jess-Belle, about to lose at this competition, goes to the local witch and gets a love potion. And then comes the predictable tragedy, as the deal with the devil produces its consequences. All of this is done in a way that is somewhere between hammy and spooky. But all of this together, made me think of something else.
Many of the Twilight Zone's episodes seem to be about the future, and how the United States in the 1960s would deal with the dialectic between the individual and society, and between belief and skepticism. When The Twilight Zone dips into its stories of rural Appalachia, such as The Hunt, or The Last Rites of Jeff Myrtlebank, those stories are often outside of the dialectic. Currently, the United States' social problems are often phrased as an opposition between a rural past and an urban future, despite the fact that true rural exists don't exist anymore. But back in the 1960s, perhaps, these rural areas weren't part of the dialectic. They were the pure subconscious, a world of animal passions, unquestionable fate, and cyclic stories. And thus we have "Jess-Belle", a fable set in the subconscious, a brief dip into the past, before we return to the dialectic. Because the Twilight Zone is not really in the subconscious, in our instinctual fears and instincts. But it does like to visit.