It’s honestly quite impressive. After a captivating and intriguing opening sequence in its first episode—in which a bus full of teenage schoolkids encounter some mysterious goings-on in a too-suddenly-appearing fog while descending down a mountain in the gorgeous countryside of the North of Spain—the quality of Netflix’s The Girl in the Mirror (Alma in its original Spanish), tumbles down an incline faster and more dramatically than (spoiler, but not really) the aforementioned bus does. It’s a visceral and shocking opening, infused with what feels like the beginnings of a compelling mystery. Unfortunately, supernatural thriller The Girl in the Mirror quickly squanders that potential, getting progressively worse with each passing episode and making you wish it would all end one way or another. By the time I got to its ninth and final installment, I was unable to stop myself from groaning and my eyes from rolling in their sockets at the levels of ineptitude on display. If it hadn’t had been for the incredibly verdant, Atlantic-whipped vistas of Asturias on display throughout, I’d have quit long before then. It’s not quite the drop-off in quality seen in the dying days of Game of Thrones, but it did remind me of it—so well done, guys!
It really is a shame, as the show does have some pedigree. The Girl in the Mirror was created by Sergio Gutiérrez Sánchez. Sánchez wrote 2007’s El orfanato (The Orphanage), which was an effective and well-made gothic horror film and, as Sánchez’s first movie, served as a promising sign of his screenwriting abilities. This series is a jarring repudiation of that promise, as the bulk of its problems stem from the page. The direction is often odd—with many of its actors seemingly instructed to deliver their lines in a way that I assume is meant to be ominous but which only comes across as wooden and unconvincing—but if the writing was up to scratch then that might be easy to ignore. As it happens, the script is a complete mess. I’m not sure if it’s the long-form format of a TV show that made Sánchez and his co-writers Teresa de Rosendo and Paul Pen trip up, but the problems here are so fundamental that I don’t even know where to begin when addressing them. The characters are ill-defined and uninteresting, their motivations often muddled and unclear. The bare minimum for my investment in any story is that I have to care about the characters at their heart. Here, apart from a smattering of moments with just two (2) people, I simply didn’t give a sh*t.
It’s difficult to overcome bad characters in a script, but not impossible. If you pack on enough mystery or action onto the thing, you can sometimes get away with it. Alas, The Girl in the Mirror fumbles that too, hamfistedly unspooling a story that features ancient prophecy, demons, witches, and amnesia, while robbing each one of those things of any power. Amnesia, for god’s sake! Amnesia! Such a great, fun device. How dare you make it a drag, man? To be quite honest, I myself feel like I’ve suffered from some form of memory loss, as trying to now recall the tangled web of inconsistent, confusing, often-just-lame mythology that the show attempted to generate just results in a fog as thick as the one that opened it. The thing about mythology is that it can be confusing in a good way. While I had issues with its ending, Dark was an example of a confusing plot that felt confusing on purpose: It was up to you to work harder to understand it, and if you didn’t, it was your fault, as the logic was all there (or at least it felt like it, which is often good enough!). As a result, the confusion made you want to watch more. In The Girl in the Mirror it just made me see the cracks in the story’s foundation. In the end, the show had the temerity to not even end on a conclusion, but rather by teasing a potential second season.
Three paragraphs is probably the shortest review that I’ve ever written for anything, but this show has already robbed me of eight plus hours of my life, and I refuse to give it any more.