Original Release Date: October 20, 1961
Writer: Rod Serling
Director: Don Medford
“It is the story of all tyrants, General. They have but one real enemy, and this is the one they never recognize… until too late.”
“This is the face of Ramos Clemente, a year ago a beardless, nameless worker of the dirt who plodded behind a mule, furrowing someone else’s land. And he looked up at a hot Central American sun and he pledged the impossible. He made a vow that he would lead an avenging army against the tyranny that put the ache in his back and the anguish in his eyes, and now one year later the dream of the impossible has become a fact. In just a moment we will look deep into this mirror and see the aftermath of a rebellion in the Twilight Zone.”
Ramos Clemente (played by Peter Falk who later appeared as the lead in the Lt. Frank Columbo series) is the leader of an unnamed Central American coup d’état, toppling the “De Cruz” dictatorship. Before his death De Cruz issues a warning to Clemente, that his life will now be filled with fear and suspicion –and that the mirror hanging on his wall will reveal his coming assassins.
Paranoia quickly sets in. Clemente orders the mass executions of the De Cruz supporters in the streets, meanwhile he slowly begins murdering his four close confidants, one by one, as a result of revelations he sees in the mirror. The mirror becomes a reflection of his own psychosis. “The Mirror” ends with a priest (played by Vladimir Sokoloff who also appeared in the season two episode “Dust” as well as many classic Hollywood movies such as The Magnificent Seven) as he begs Clemente to stop the executions. When he leaves the room Clemente throws his gun at the mirror, shattering it. But when the priest returns, he finds Clemente dead on the ground from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound. “The last assassin,” he says, “and they never learn. They never seem to learn.”
“The Mirror” is a parable about the rule of force in a not-so-thinly veiled reference to Fidel Castro and Che Guevara. In this episode we see how the optimistic revolutionary leader quickly devolves into the very monster he was battling, an evil tyrant. In the immortal words of Nietzsche, “Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster.” I thought this was a terrific and under-appreciated episode in the Twilight Zone series. It was released a mere two years after the Castro revolution in Cuba, and six months after the disastrous Bay of Pigs invasion.
“Ramos Clemente, a would-be god in dungarees, strangled by an illusion, that will-o’-the-wisp mirage that dangles from the sky in front of the eyes of all ambitious men, all tyrants—and any resemblance to tyrants living or dead is hardly coincidental, whether it be here or in the Twilight Zone.”
The Twilight Zone Trivia:
- “The Mirror” was released a mere two years after the Castro revolution in Cuba, and six months after the disastrous Bay of Pigs invasion. It continues The Twilight Zone‘s exploration of heightened Cold War fears and anxieties.
- This episode was shot on two sets: the interior of De Cruz’s office and the outside of his balcony.
- Peter Falk was criticized for portraying too flamboyant a character as Clemente in this episode.