Millicent Barnes is waiting in the bus station waiting for her bus to Cortland to arrive. The weather outside is dreadful and the bus is over half an hour late already. When she inquires the station clerk chides her for constantly asking when it will arrive. The only thing is it's the first time he's asked him anything. When she goes to the powder room the cleaning lady suggests she was just in there, she begins to worry that she's going mad. A good Samaritan, Paul Grinstead, tries to help her out but soon realizes there may be an explanation for what is happening after all. Written by
The cities mentioned in this episode (Cortland, Syracuse, Tully, and Binghamton) all lie along Hwy. 11 in central upstate New York. The use of these places is a homage by Rod Serling to his childhood. He was born in Syracuse and lived in Binghamton until he graduated high school. Even when he lived in Hollywood during his heyday, he maintained a home in Binghamton. See more »
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. ...
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My favorite TWILIGHT ZONE episode and quite possibly one of the most perfect entries in the series. As many times as I watch it I never come any closer to figuring out what it's all about - but that's all part of the mystique of this enigmatic tale. The luminous Vera Miles delivers one of TZ's outstanding female lead performances as a young secretary who while waiting for a bus on a rainy November night has a series of disorienting experiences that cause her to doubt her sanity - experiences which culminate in her glimpsing her doppelganger (her "mirror image"). The late Martin Milner gives a fine low-key performance as the good-natured fellow passenger who tries to help her (or is he secretly the "mirror image" from the other world trying to "move her out"?) And who can ever forget Joe Hamilton as the crotchety ticket taker, everyone's nightmare of a rude service employee?
The episode looks fantastic, with creamy black and white photography and real film noir style from director John Brahm. The script shows Rod Serling at his best - no pretentiousness or preaching, just terse, simple and effective writing.
"Mirror Image" is one of those TZ episodes that lend themselves to symbolic and psychological interpretations. "Loss of identity" and "the individual versus society" were key themes of TZ (and of the mid-20th century in general), and what happens to Vera Miles here could be interpreted as an allegory of persecution of the individual by a repressive state. The bus depot certainly has a bleak, totalitarian sort of atmosphere to it. The ticket taker clearly wants to "get rid of" Miles because she questions the goings-on in the depot, and her carting off to the hospital could be read as society's stigmatization of independent thought as mental disease.
But apart from such heavy-duty analysis, "Mirror Image" functions simply as a captivating half-hour thriller, subtly and artistically done.
That last point - the artistry - brings me to the final thing I'd like to say about "Mirror Image." What a time-capsule this piece is, aesthetically speaking. It was first aired in February 1960. Less than a decade later, and Miles and Milner with their trench coats and hats would have seemed like visitors from another planet. Old-fashioned too would have seemed the film noir photography and the Stravinsky-ish musical score (stock music mostly composed by Bernard Herrmann). By the 1970s television shows would be in color and all about "social issues" and "relevance." "Mirror Image" is one of the last artifacts of a bygone era, and that's part of its fascination for us today.
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