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Recap / The Twilight Zone S 3 E 71 The Mirror

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Rod Serling: 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.
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In a Central American dictatorship, Clemente (Peter Falk) and his four lifelong friends D'Alessandro, Garcia, Tabal, and Cristo successfully overthrow the leadership of General De Cruz, making them the new rulers of the nation. Before he is dragged away, De Cruz warns Clemente that he will soon learn the consequences of ruling by force. Pointing to a mirror in his office, he tells him that it will show whoever owns it future assassination plots against them.

Though the five rule well for about a week or so, Clemente receives objections from the other four after his controversial decision to execute prisoners whom he declares enemies of the state. Garcia, Tabal, and Cristo leave the room one night. Looking in the mirror, Clemente sees D'Alessandro aiming at him with a rifle. Despite his protests that's it's just an illusion, Clemente kills him by throwing him from the balcony of the dictator's mansion. The three remaining are horrified but do nothing. Looking in the mirror again a few days later, Clemente sees Garcia and Tabal coming at him with knives. He orders them to go pick up a prisoner from the jail before calling the guards and telling them to shoot the two men when they arrive.

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Cristo tries to talk sense into Clemente by telling him the mirror is evil, but to no avail. Looking into the mirror, Clemente sees Cristo offering him a poisoned glass of wine. He shoots him to death. That night he is visited by a priest, Father Tomas, who pleads with him to stop the killing of the prisoners. Clemente refuses. Father Tomas tells him leaders in power have only one real enemy, whom they never recognize until it's too late, then departs. Paranoid and isolated, Clemente looks into the mirror and sees only himself. He smashes the glass.

Outside the office, Father Tomas hears a gunshot. Rushing inside, he sees that Clemente has committed suicide. He sadly tells the attending guard that the only real enemy rulers have are themselves.

Rod Serling: 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.
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This episode provides examples of:

  • Banana Republic: The episode begins with Ramos Clemente having seized power in an unnamed country in Central America, which had been ruled by General De Cruz for the previous ten years.
  • Bottle Episode: The plot never leaves the office of the dictator's mansion.
  • The Caligula: As soon as he comes to power, Clemente proves himself to be extremely irrational, paranoid and blood-thirsty. He sees enemies all around him. As well as ordering mass executions, he becomes convinced that his lieutenants D'Alessandro, Garcia, Tabal and Cristo are plotting against him due to having seemingly foreseen it in the mirror. Clemente throws D'Alessandro off the balcony of his mansion, has Garcia and Tabal executed as enemies of the state and shoots Cristo as he believed that the wine that he offered him was poisoned. When he looks in the mirror and sees only his own reflection, Clemente shoots himself. His reign lasted for only a week.
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: Clemente intends to have De Cruz put to death by being covered with honey and eaten alive by ants. Whether he went through with it is never revealed.
  • Dying Curse: De Cruz's statement that the mirror will show Clemente his enemies (and thus will be driven to kill people out of paranoia), if he was actually killed.
  • Full-Circle Revolution: Clemente overthrows a dictator to become one himself.
  • The Generalissimo: General De Cruz at the start of the episode is a typical Central American military dictator. Eventually, Clemente becomes a typical heartless dictator who kills people just because they piss him off or because he's suspicious of them.
  • Improperly Paranoid: Clemente starts killing everybody that is allied to him because of what the mirror (supposedly) shows him, assuming them to be potential assassins and backstabbers without any further kind of inquiry. In the end, he finally kills himself because of this same thing (and the last line of the tale, other than Serling's denouement, showcases that this happens to everybody that gets the mirror).
  • Large Ham: Peter Falk's performance is incredibly overwrought.
    "NOT WHAT IIIII WANT!!!!!! WHAT DEEEEEEEEEEEEEYYYYY WANT!!!!!"
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: It's never revealed if the mirror actually shows future assassination plots against its owners or if the stress and paranoia of the dictator position caused De Cruz and Clemente to hallucinate and imagine the things they saw.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Clemente kills himself after looking in the mirror and realizing the mirror (or his own paranoid delusions) has caused him to kill his four best friends.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: Clemente is a not-so-subtle Expy of Fidel Castro, while Tabal's appearance is clearly based on that of Che Guevara. The entire episode, which was made between the Bay of Pigs invasion and the Cuban Missile Crisis, is one long Take That! at Castro. In his closing narration, Rod Serling even says that "any resemblance to tyrants living or dead is hardly coincidental." Funnily enough, General De Cruz mentions both Castro and his predecessor Fulgencio Batista, the former right-wing dictator of Cuba on whom De Cruz himself is based, in the first scene.
  • Public Execution: Clemente orders the mass public execution of 1,000 prisoners, all of whom are former followers of General De Cruz. The executions continue unabated for a week, to the horror of the people. Clemente tells Father Tomas that they will continue so long as he has enemies.
  • The Quiet One: Tabal is explicitly called this by Clemente. He's right; Tabal has less than five lines in the entire episode.
  • Shoot the Dangerous Minion: Subverted. Clemente has every single last one of his closest subordinates killed, not because they are actually good at their job, but because his paranoia got the best of him.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: De Cruz is hauled away by guards after Clemente orders him to be executed, but he's not heard from for the rest of the episode. We don't know if he was actually killed.
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