by James Beckett,
How would you rate episode 11 of
The Reflection ?
After eleven weeks of wandering through vague conversations and half-communicated foreshadowing, this eleventh episode drops two big pieces of information for us to digest: Eleanor and Wraith are actually the same person, and we also get the details of Wraith's hitherto inscrutable master plan. That first revelation was technically introduced last week, though the way it was executed left what was actually happening to Eleanor and Ethan Everts unclear. While the precise nature of Ethan's existence is still up in the air, the show does reveal that he's a result of Eleanor being hit with the Dark and Brightstar elements of the Reflection at the same time. It's also made clearer that Eleanor's possession didn't begin at the mansion last week; Ethan has actually been working from within Eleanor this entire time. Eleanor's chase has been totally futile, as Wraith lived inside of her own body and mind all along.
Conceptually, I can really get behind a twist like this, although The Reflection's execution leaves a lot to be desired. Much of this turn's emotional impact remains muted since we still don't know exactly what's going on or why. Eleanor's current predicament ends up feeling both intellectually interesting and emotionally dull, which doesn't help make the other twenty minutes of the episode work much better. When Wraith puts his schemes into motion, the rest of our crew fights to stop the Dark Reflected and save Eleanor's soul, and despite this being the ostensible climax of the show, I can't help but feel like The Reflection is finally starting to crumble beneath the weight of its own ambitions.
That's all the more disappointing because this episode is where we finally learn what the kidnapping of the Allen women was all about. You'd expect this reveal to be a big one, since the kidnapping of the Allens is what got this whole crazy road trip started in the first place. Instead, they were killed off rather unceremoniously after they used their powers to teleport the rest of the Reflected (including the Japanese girls) to White Sands, New Mexico. At this point, the audience gets to revel in the disappointment of learning that Wraith is little more than a Magneto rip off, playing at the prejudice leveled against the Reflected to start his own off-brand Brotherhood of Evil Mutants. While this show's parallels to the X-Men franchise have never been subtle (see everything about X-On, plus the Louisiana episodes), having the plot end up as such a stark imitation of what the X-Men movies have been doing for almost two decades now is deeply underwhelming, to say the least. I did appreciate the comedy mined from nobody taking Wraith seriously at all, though it didn't amount to much when his bubblegum chewing lackey got the government forces to attack the innocent Reflected and get them on Wraith's side almost immediately.
Speaking of Wraith's plan, I also can't help but be frustrated at Michael's discovery of the Brightstar Reflected being transformed into Dark Reflected thanks to their rage and fear. This was apparently Wraith's true goal, but that reveal fails to create any deeper impact. The show has never once communicated what makes the two sides different on a practical level, outside of their vague Good/Evil binary, so this transformation doesn't mean much of anything. While the big fight that goes down has some bright spots (like Lisa's wonderfully snarky reaction to being shot at by the soldiers she's trying to save), the vital details surrounding it just don't add up.
I've been willing to forgive a lot of The Reflection's shortcomings this season, largely because its tone and sense of style are so intriguingly off-key for a superhero show. The Reflection's dialogue, direction, and writing have never felt anything like the comic book stories that so clearly inspired it, but that strangeness has helped the series overcome its weak animation and inconsistent plotting. This week, The Reflection leaned into classic comic book tropes hard, and not only did the result feel lacking in creativity, it can't even get those clichés to feel right in their own context. The series' penultimate episode is fueled by the actions of a villain with no weight to him, and it's filled with action that's too sloppy and poorly animated to incite any strong emotions in its audience. Worse yet, the episode doesn't contain any of the charm or unique perspective that usually makes it possible to overlook those shortcomings. I can only hope that the Japanese Reflected have some magical tricks up their sleeve to bust out in the finale, because this episode was a dud.
The Reflection is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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