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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 an unnamed Central American nation, the now-General Clemente (Peter Falk) and his four lifelong friends D'Alessandro, Garcia, Tabal, and Cristo successfully overthrow the decade-long dictatorship of General De Cruz in an armed revolution, making them the new rulers. Before he is dragged away to prison, 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, and that Clemente will begin to see enemies everywhere.

Though the five rule well in their first days in power, Clemente receives objections from the other four after his controversial decision to summarily execute the prisoners whom he has declared 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 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 check on whether De Cruz is being guarded well at 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 supposedly offering him a poisoned glass of wine. Cristo attempts to make Clemente see reason, but ultimately he's shot to death by Clemente. That night, Clemente is visited by a priest, Father Tomas, who pleads with him to stop the mass executions. Clemente refuses. Father Tomas tells him that 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 throws his pistol at the mirror, shattering it completely.

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 that rulers have are themselves.

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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.


This episode provides examples of:

  • Alone with the Psycho: Cristo's last moments are spent inside Clemente's office, trying to convince Clemente not to kill him while Clemente holds Cristo at gunpoint.
  • Ambiguous Situation: Cristo's fate is sealed when Clemente sees him offering up a glass of wine in the mirror, which Clemente immediately assumes is meant to be poison. But the way the shot is done implies that it could be just a simple toast done in Clemente's honor, and Clemente in his paranoia mistook it for deceit.
  • 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. De Cruz's land wasn't owned by the people, instead either by himself or presumably foreign corporations.
  • 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 loyal 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, only that De Cruz was put in prison to await his fate
  • Driven to Suicide: Clemente's ultimate fate, thanks to the mirror.
  • 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.
  • Expy Coexistence: Clemente is a very pointed copy of Fidel Castro down to the clothes, curly hair, beard and cap, and with zero redeeming qualities to boot. Clemente compared his revolution to Castro's in his very first scene, and De Cruz name-drops Castro's enemy Batista. Tabal is a copy of Che Guevara, complete with the fiery attitude when he's annoyed. Although he's missing the cowboy hat, Cristo has the long beard and Undying Loyalty of Camilo Cienfuegos. Garcia has the thin mustache of Fidel's brother, Raul, although he doesn't wear a beret like Raul. With his respect for fair trials and his formal manner of speech compared to the others, D'Alessandro is likely based on the bespectacled judge Manuel Urrutia Lleo, who served as Castro's chosen president until a falling out led Castro forcing Urrutia to resign.
  • Full-Circle Revolution: Clemente overthrows a dictator to become an even worse one himself. By the time he's assumed total control, he's so far gone that he tells Father Tomas that he doesn't care if another revolution happens to overthrow him, all that matters is that he gets to enjoy power for as long as possible.
  • The Generalissimo: General De Cruz at the start of the episode is a classic caudillo with the traditional Chest of Medals and smug attitude. It appears that the Head of State's title really is just 'General', as Clemente is referred to as such by all rather than President. Eventually, General Clemente becomes a heartless caudillo who kills people just because they piss him off or because he's suspicious of them. He's also pretty incompetent - we don't see him do anything to improve people's lives, not even copying the revolutionary reforms that Castro did, and only orders executions.
  • Genius Bonus: Many details in the story are clearer if the viewer knows the history of the Cuban Revolution:
    • De Cruz implies that Clemente waged guerrilla warfare from the hills, just like Castro in the mountains of the Sierra Maestra.
    • Serling explains that it took just one year for Clemente to depose Batista - the Revolution succeeded following a lightning guerrilla offensive against the battered Cuban Army in 1958, and Batista was swept out of power on January 1st 1959. In the eyes of the American public, Batista was deposed incredibly fast.
    • D'Alessandro is the first to arouse Clemente's suspicions and the first one to die. He's based on Manuel Urrutia, the Cuban judge who was Castro's chosen president until disagreements on revolutionary policy led Castro to fire him just six months after he became president, forcing Urrutia to become a Cuban exile in the United States.
    • Tabal and Garcia are ordered by Clemente to carry out the mass executions. They're expies of Che Guevara and Raul Castro respectively, both who were directly responsible for overseeing and ordering the executions in La Cabana Fortress, which are the most infamous mass executions of the Revolution. Just like their real-life counterparts, both don't express any objection to these orders.
    • Tabal and Garcia are sent away by Clemente, then arrested and killed. In a way, this reflects Castro's treatment of Che and Raul after the revolution. Che began expressing pro-China viewpoints after the Bay of Pigs Invasion, which upset Castro who was staunchly pro-Soviet. Che was sent away as a diplomat, then as an insurgent leader, ultimately dying in Bolivia in 1967. It's believed that despite their lasting friendship, Castro sent Che away to not risk a political rival emerging. While Raul took up many high-ranking roles, he preferred to work quietly as head of the military and intelligence service, making it seem as if he'd faded into the background while his older brother Fidel was the face of Cuba.
    • Cristo is the last one to die and expresses absolute loyalty to Clemente, even trying help Clemente rationalize his actions. But he gets visibly agitated at Clemente's increasingly psychotic leadership, especially when he kills Tabal and Garcia. His death is also the longest and saddest of the four, with him pleading for Clemente to not murder him and see reason up into his dying moments. Garcia is based on Camilo Cienfuegos, considered by many Cubans to be the most loyal of Castro's lieutenants. Camilo was an idealistic humanist compared to his more ruthless comrades, speaking at length about his wishes for the revolution to respect human rights and dignity. Camilo was extremely popular, almost as much as Castro himself, and was always seen together with him. Camilo began falling into intrigues when he had to arrest his friend Huber Matos, an anti-communist who accused Castro of being a pro-Soviet dictator, with Camilo refusing to believe that Castro was one. On 28th October 1959, Camilo disappeared when his plane went missing over the Straits of Florida. Cuban exiles believe that Castro shot it down, Cubans believe that the plane crashed, or it was shot down by mistake. Camilo ended up being a beloved figure on both sides of the strait, with Cubans seeing him as a hero of the revolution and exiles seeing him as an anti-Castro martyr.
  • He Who Fights Monsters: Clemente initially intends to overthrow his nation's oppressive dictator only to become far worse than him.
  • Ignored Epiphany: When he's thrown D'Alessandro off the balcony to his death, Clemente looks shocked at himself. Shortly after killing Tabal and Garcia, Clemente begins musing on how he's just killed three of his friends, who were close to him as brothers, and doesn't feel grief or pain about it, which to him is very strange. When he kills Cristo, he looks ashamed at himself too. But ultimately, Clemente continues being a paranoid tyrant and orders more and more executions.
  • 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 - possibly mimicking Castro himself, who was one of history's biggest hams.
    "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.
  • Motor Mouth: Clemente speaks extremely fast, similar to Castro himself.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: Clemente is a not-so-subtle Expy of Fidel Castro, who had recently gained the enmity of the US after a period of initial American approval, and was in the process of tightening ties with the Soviets. Tabal's appearance is based on Che Guevara. The entire episode, which was aired six months after the Bay of Pigs Invasion, is one long Take That! at Castro and especially the mass executions of Former Regime Personnelnote  without trial that he ordered after his victory in 1959, and showcases the predominant American attitude to Castro's Cuba at the time. 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 partially based off on, in the first scene.
  • Paranoia Gambit: De Cruz seems to have been well aware that his warning about the mirror was setting Clemente on the path to self-destruction, thus giving him a (possibly posthumous) revenge.
  • 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, and it's unclear at this point if they're even actual followers or just civilians in the wrong place at the wrong time. 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, despite his inspiration Che being quite the talker in real life. However, Tabal keeps Che's fiery temper and passionate mindset.
  • Ripped from the Headlines: Clemente's revolution is implied to be a straight copy of the Cuban Revolution that had occurred just two years ago. His revolutionary soldiers use M1 Garands and wear Ridgway caps like the rebels of Castro's 26th of July Movement, and Clemente becomes infamous for the show trials and mass executions of political prisoners he orders immediately after taking power - just like Castro did. Clemente even wears the exact same fatigues that Castro wore in 1960, with the episode being broadcasted in October 1961.
  • Short-Lived Leadership: Clemente lasts only a week in office before he commits suicide.
  • 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.
  • Undying Loyalty: Cristo defines himself as a 'follower' in terms of men and expresses nothing but absolute loyalty towards Clemente. It doesn't save 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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