The Twilight Zone: Season 1, Episode Twenty-One “Mirror Image”

Original Air Date: February 26, 1960
Writer: Rod Serling
Director: John Brahm

Rating: 5 out of 5.

“Mirror Image” is a wonderfully unsettling episode of The Twilight Zone. Who hasn’t ever wondered if they have an evil doppelgänger lurking somewhere out there? What person hasn’t experienced the strange sensation of deja vu? In “Mirror Image” a mischievous double plagues a young woman at a bus depot. Rod Serling came up with the idea for the episode while at an airport in London. He saw a man who looked just like him wearing the same suit and carrying similar luggage. Serling imagined the man with a face exactly like his own, as well. This notion of body doubles and evil twins can trace its roots to Germanic/Gothic literature, and perhaps the most famous occurrence is in Edgar Allen Poe’s 1839 tale “William Wilson.”

“Millicent Barnes, age twenty-five, young woman waiting for a bus on a rainy November night. Not a very imaginative type is Miss Barnes, not given to undue anxiety or fears, or, for that matter, even the most temporal flights of fancy. Like most career women, she has a generic classification as a, quote, girl with a head on her shoulders, end of quote. All of which is mentioned now because, in just a moment, the head on Miss Barnes’ shoulders will be put to a test. Circumstances will assault her sense of reality and a chain of nightmares will put her sanity on a block. Millicent Barnes, who, in one minute, will wonder if she’s going mad.”
-Rod Serling

Millicent Barnes (played by Vera Miles of Psycho fame) is seated at a bus station in Ithaca, NY waiting for the next late arrival to Cortland. She asks the ticket agent about the schedule, but he curtly replies that she has already asked several times. She also notices a checked bag that is identical to her own. In complete bewilderment she asks nearby passengers and quickly ducks into the bathroom. One of the most memorable scenes in the episode takes place while she is in the bathroom. She looks in the mirror and sees herself quietly sitting on the bench. This is the first moment she begins to realize that she is not alone (it also alludes to the title of the episode).

“I remember reading it somewhere. Each of us has a twin in this other world. Two parallel worlds that exist side by side after the two worlds converge comes into our world, and in order to survive, it has to take over, replace us, move us out so that it can live. I can’t explain it, but i know that’s what has happened.”

When the bus finally arrives she sees her doppelgänger already seated. Millicent flees in terror. A young man from Binghamton named Paul (played by Martin Milner) takes care of her, but he soon calls the police when he grows concerned about her mental state. After Millicent is taken away, Paul goes back into the bus depot when he discovers that his own luggage is missing. He runs out the door chasing a man who turns out to be his own doppelgänger. His double calmly smiles at Paul and then runs away. The curse has now befallen Paul.

“Obscure and metaphysical explanation to cover a phenomenon. Reasons dredged out of the shadows to explain away that which cannot be explained. Call it ‘parallel planes’ or just ‘insanity’. Whatever it is, you’ll find it in the Twilight Zone.”
-Rod Serling

Wha a truly disturbing notion to insert an ancient folktale within the context of our soulless mechanical modern world –for example, contrast Millicent waiting in line at an ordinary bus depot, against a supernatural phenomena without explanation. This is the true essence of The Twilight Zone, making the ordinary seem extraordinary.

The Twilight Zone Trivia:

  • Jordan Peele, a huge fan of Rod Serling, credited this Twilight Zone episode as the inspiration for his 2019 film entitled Us.
  • “Mirror Image” was the final first season episode filmed before a brief respite in order to secure additional sponsors for the show.
  • John Brahm was the most prolific director in The Twilight Zone series.
  • Actress Vera Miles also appeared in the first episode of Hitchcock Presents “Revenge” in 1955 as well as later in two Hitchcock Hour episodes. She remained a favorite of Hitchcock’s and was set to star in his seminal film Vertigo but she got pregnant, much to Hitchcock’s chagrin, and so she was replaced with Kim Novak. However, Miles starred in Hitchcock’s terror classic Psycho, and she also appeared alongside Henry Fonda in Hitchcock’s The Wrong Man, as well as in a couple John Ford movies alongside James Stewart in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, and John Wayne in The Searchers.

Click here to return to my survey of The Twilight Zone series.

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