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“The Twilight Zone” S01E21 Review: “Mirror Image”

Every weekday, we’re going to review an episode of Rod Serling’s classic sci-fi/horror TV series “The Twilight Zone“. We’re starting from the beginning and we will be working our way through every episode the series has offered, including the episodes from the 80’s. You can see all the reviews right here.

Mirror Image” – Directed by John Brahm
Broadcast date: February 26th, 1960

We open to Millicent Barnes sitting in a bus depot, waiting for the bus to Cortland. It is a dark and stormy night with thunder piercing the air. Noticing that the bus is late, she goes to the clerk to see if he has any idea as to when it will arrive. He is short with her, impatient, and even somewhat rude. Not knowing what is going on with his attitude, he explains to her that she has already been up there several times to inquire about the bus, something she simply doesn’t understand nor can she recall it at all. Going into the ladies washroom, the cleaning lady tells her that she was in there a few minutes ago, another event she doesn’t remember. When the door swings open, she sees herself sitting back on the depot bench in the reflection of the mirror, although she isn’t there moments later when she leaves.

Millicent begins questioning her sanity, wondering what is happening to her. As she ponders upon this, a man by the name of Paul Grinstead sits next to her, giving her someone to vent to. He comes to the conclusion that everyone is playing a sick joke on her, a theory she wishes to be true but highly doubts. The bus then arrives and as they’re about to board, Millicent gasps and runs back into the depot. Paul runs after her and the camera pans over to the bus, where it shows Millicent sitting casually.

Coming awake after having seemingly passed out, Millicent then recalls that she read about parallel universes and the possibility of an “identical twin” crossing over. Grinstead then goes to the front desk to place a call to the police, thinking that she needs some kind of help that he isn’t able to offer. They arrive and take her away, leaving Grinstead alone with the clerk at the bus depot. Getting ready to get some sleep, Grinstead suddenly sees his bag is missing and a man fleeing the depot. Giving chase, he sees that he is chasing himself, proving Millicent’s theory correct.

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At first glance, this episode feels somewhat pointless. It’s a minute tale that doesn’t have a clearly defined beginning or ending. Rather, it’s a brief chapter in the lives of Millicent and Paul, albeit possibly the most important chapters in their lives. This alone is what makes it such an interesting episode. We are witnesses to a moment that is so fundamentally powerful and life altering that neither party will ever be the same again.

Furthermore, the episode deals with a magnificently grand concept and yet it brilliantly chooses to frame and present it in such a tiny, enclosed setting. Rather than place this in the scope of a nation or even the entire world, they kept it to a small bus depot that holds only a few people. Obviously budgetary concerns played a strong part in this but the idea of “working with what you have” is not as easy as it sounds, so this cleverness is decidedly admirable.

There is no moral here, which is unusual for “The Twilight Zone”. Often there is something to ponder upon as to how we can make it apply to our own lives, a way to better ourselves. But with “Mirror Image”, we are simply reminded that there are oddities around us that we cannot explain and maybe, just maybe, we don’t need to. Perhaps our lives are better and more interesting for lack of explanation.

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