Richard Kimble steps through the looking glass into a world gone mad

The Fugitive in the Mirror

When Richard Kimble embarks on his fateful odyssey, he steps through the looking glass into a world gone mad --- instead of a respectable member of society, he is now a hunted outcast. And like a dazed amusement-park visitor who has eaten too much cotton candy, Kimble often finds himself staggering through what seems like a maze of funhouse mirrors, glimpsing distorted reflections of himself and his predicament wherever he looks.

In episode after episode, Kimble is confronted with strange
Doppelgänger --- some good, some evil. For instance, there is the suspected killer Bellows in COME WATCH ME DIE, who keeps protesting his innocence even though a posse of hostile hicks wants to lynch him. Kimble surely knows what that feels like, since being chased by angry rural lynch mobs is practically an everyday occurrence for him. As it turns out, though, Bellows is only putting on a mind-bogglingly good act; in a split second he metamorphoses from a potential fellow martyr into a psycho with a kitchen knife. Kimble subdues him and brings him to justice, though not before this anti-fugitive tries to win Kimble over to the dark side, pointing out that, objectively, the two of them are really the same before the eyes of the law.

Echoes of this same theme can be found also in the episode
TUG OF WAR --- the sheriff who catches Kimble won't be swayed by Kimble's story about a miscarriage of justice, because, coincidentally enough, just the other day he caught another fugitive who said the same thing, and was so persuasive that the sheriff let him go. Big mistake, since that other fugitive was in fact lying about his membership in the 700 Club. TEN THOUSAND PIECES OF SILVER and SEE HOLLYWOOD AND DIE also feature guest appearances by evil fugitives who serve as foils to Kimble's goodness. In SEE HOLLYWOOD AND DIE, Kimble actually pretends to be a bad fugitive in order to manipulate the real bad guys into the hands of the law. This amazing double reversal --- a putative bad guy who is really good but is pretending to be bad to achieve a good end --- is as convoluted a plot machination as any espionage ploy from the pen of John Le Carré.

Episodes like
A TASTE OF TOMORROW, though, show the other side of the coin; the alter-ego Kimble meets up with is just as innocent as Kimble himself. In this case, the fugitive in the mirror is Fritz Weaver, a respectable citizen of an Idaho town who was framed for embezzlement and now is seeking revenge. Kimble teaches him a few things about fugitive-hood, and in the space of less than an hour, helps Fritz clear his name --- mere child's play compared with the more daunting task Kimble faces, namely, to clear his own name. FLIGHT FROM THE FINAL DEMON gives yet another twist to a similar theme; here, Ed Nelson is technically innocent before the law, but unfortunately, he's tried and convicted himself in the court of his own mind, holding himself responsible for a death that was ruled an accident.

Not all of the fugitives that Kimble encounters are fleeing from a criminal charge. The doctor in
THE BLESSINGS OF LIBERTY is merely trying to duck the immigration authorities, and Kimble points out that he could simply apply for citizenship. And in ANGELS TRAVEL ON LONELY ROADS, Kimble's co-fugitive, a nun who thinks she's fallen from grace, is only metaphysically guilty.

Even the one-armed man bears a certain distorted resemblance to Kimble, as the episode
NOBODY LOSES ALL THE TIME demonstrates. Like Kimble, one-armed Fred Johnson changes his identity, toils at many jobs, and has to keep running before a relentless pursuer --- Kimble himself! In this episode the parallels between the two of them are especially easy to see, since Fred Johnson borrows a bit from Kimble's bag of tricks in order to make his escape.


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