by James Beckett,
How would you rate episode 10 of
The Reflection ?
I'd been using David Lynch movies as a point of comparison for The Reflection over the last couple of weeks, but this episode is the first I'd call truly surreal. From the moment X-On, Lisa, and the rest of the crew arrive at Wraith's hideout to the final reveal before the credits roll, almost every minute of this tenth episode feels uneasy and unstable, like the show's reality is only a couple of steps away from an unimaginable precipice.
I was struck by this sensation as soon as Vy and Lisa began their battle with the Dark Reflected, while Eleanor wandered dreamily in the background, framed by the blazing curtains of the doorway as the rest of the mansion fell apart all around her. It's an image that makes little sense yet remains striking, and for a moment, I felt like I had no clue what was going on. As X-On's pursuit of Eleanor seemed to belong to an entirely different reality than what she was actually experiencing, I slowly realized that she was under the influence of some vision induced by Wraith, similar to what happened to her a few episodes ago.
While this went a long way toward justifying Eleanor's unusual reaction to the superpowered smackdown going on in the mansion around her, it didn't shake that sense of unease entirely. Once again, even when the stilted direction and bizarre editing choices make The Reflection a poor action show, it does end up giving this episode its weirdly effective emotional atmosphere. As Eleanor descended the stony steps and candlelit void of the mansion's interior, I couldn't help but feel both excited and nervous to see how her encounter with Wraith would play out.
The end result was indeed fascinating, but also a bit nonsensical and anticlimactic, due in large part to The Reflection's decision to focus on totally new information about Eleanor's backstory. As Wraith so bluntly explains, all of the so-called victims of kidnapping were actually lost souls that he was trying to protect, and Eleanor is the most lost of them all. Not only does she feel abandoned by X-On, but her whole life has been marked by living in the shadow of her long-dead twin brother, rejected by the grieving parents who paid no mind to her own pain. It's an effective if not predictable enough trope to lean on, but less predictable is what happens when X-On finally reaches Eleanor. Finding his friend's body slowly transformed by telltale purple flames, the new figure in front of him introduces himself not as Eleanor Everts, but Ethan Everts, the same being that has been calling itself Wraith until now.
As much as I understand the The Reflection's decision to make this a shocking cliffhanger, I can't help but feel more frustrated by it than anything else. If this information about Eleanor's brother had been hinted at early on, or if we even had a clue what Wraith's goals were, this twist could have been legitimately great. Instead, Wraith is revealed as a character the audience didn't know existed until minutes before the big twist, and it still isn't clear if Ethan is some kind of ghost, split-personality, or what. I'm sure this will all be clarified in further episodes, but it could have been executed in a way that avoided this frustration entirely.
This episode isn't a total bust by any means, though. Aside from the effective moodiness of Eleanor and X-On's scenes, we also get the satisfying beat of Ian's Revenge, as he uses his mask's energy beam to straight up slice the wings off the bat-creature who killed his friends. The fact that their disembodied voices remain in Ian's head as the AI that helps him fight crime makes the confrontation a surprisingly effective dramatic moment for a character whose role in the show has been uneven, to say the least. Outside of that, the action is inconsistent at best, with the scale of the battle never quite meshing with the confines of the mansion's setting, especially since so much of the episode takes place in nearly identical featureless hallways.
My main issue with this episode doesn't come from a lack of entertainment value or juicy scenes to analyze. From the beginning, The Reflection's plot has been vague and nebulous, serving primarily as an excuse to have Eleanor and friends go on a cross-country road trip. Up until now, I've been okay with being in the dark, since the show's strengths have always been more in its moment-to-moment storytelling. But this week, moments that might have been effective on their own are hampered by their reliance on the support of a story that's been halfheartedly developed at best. I've never quite known what was really going on in The Reflection, but this week is the first time it's actually affected my ability to enjoy the show.
The Reflection is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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