Created by Charlie Brooker
Starring Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Anthony Mackie, Andrew Scott, Damson Idris, Topher Grace, Miley Cyrus, Angourie Rice, Madison Davenport
Black Mirror is back and is better than ever. This season continues with the dystopian themes that have made viewers both fear and love their technology, as well as what that very likely has in store for them in the future. What’s most powerful about this series is its ability to make viewers seriously consider the moral ambiguities that are tied so closely to their current, and future technology. This season has only three episodes, but all are as unnerving as they are uplifting. Each episode in season five breaks new ground when it comes to questioning our morals, future technology and even our values. This is part of the reason Black Mirror is so compelling and provocative.
Ep 1 Striking Vipers gets 8/10
Striking Vipers explores a distant friendship between two men. They reconnect in a surprising way when Karl (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) gifts Danny (Anthony Mackie) with a Virtual Reality version of a fighting game they used to play with each other when they were younger on a console like we use today. In this futuristic world, however, VR technology has developed so far that players can now be completely physically immersed in the world they are playing in, allowing much more contact than just fighting, to the point where sexual intimacy is possible if players want. This episode is probably the most powerful out of all three as it poses a question to its viewers that has never been asked before: should VR corrupt our societal and personal ethics if the deeds we commit aren’t in the reality we are committing them in?
The extent of VR’s sophistication in this episode is very much exaggerated compared to how it is today. However, it reveals some grey areas with the technology that people in the near future will inevitably have to address if this technology is to develop further, which it most likely will. Between the powerfully passionate sex scenes and incredibly raw acting from all of the cast in this episode, Striking Vipers is a must watch.
Ep 2 Smithereens gets 7/10
Smithereens is probably the weakest out of them all when it comes to acting quality, plot variation and set variation. While this is the case, this episode intriguingly explores the moral ambiguity of how today’s social media companies engineer their platforms to be incredibly addictive to its users, a very important – yet rarely discussed – aspect of these companies. This episode follows a manic and broken man called Chris (Andrew Scott) who works for a company similar to Uber called Hitcher. He also has a very personal obsession with the world’s most popular social media platform, called Smithereen in this episode’s universe, which is similar to Twitter and Facebook and is owned by Billy Bauer (Topher Grace). When the driver strategically picks up a young man called Jaden (Damson Idris) who works at Smithereen, things take a frightening turn.
What makes this episode particularly daunting is that, unlike other Black Mirror episodes, all the technology depicted exists today. The events are therefore directly critiquing today’s social media companies and the negative effect that neoliberalism, as well as a lack of transparency, has had on their potential for making the world a happier place. On the other hand, an individual’s inability to detach themselves from the fantasy land that can be social media could also be argued as being an equal, if not even even bigger culprit, than the social media companies themselves.
Ep 3 Rachel, Jack and Ashley Too gets 8/10
Last, but definitely not least, Rachel, Jack and Ashley Too, is the third installment. This episode explores themes of identity and tragedy, following two separate storylines. One being of two estranged sisters in middle school that live with their widowed father and the other being an orphaned pop star called Ashley O (Miley Cyrus), living with her controlling aunt, Catherine (Susan Pourfar), who has assumed the role of her manager. Even as we are approaching the third decade of this millennia, young girls still have pressure on them from big corporations to look and act a certain way, with the obvious solution to alleviate this pressure being to buy things from these corporations – one of the more evil marketing ideas to ever be concocted.
This episode explores how artificial intelligence will likely play a role in this process in the not too distant future. In the beginning, Ashley is being forced by her aunt to promote a new doll product, with the ‘personality’ of herself, called Ashley Too. When one of the sisters, called Rachel (Angourie Rice) gets this doll for her birthday, it quickly becomes obvious that its intentions are a little more strategic than to just simply make friends. This episode is a must watch for parents, as well as young girls, to hopefully stimulate a healthy conversation about the pressure that technology can place on their mind and bodies.
What a roller coaster ride! Black Mirror always has a way of sticking in your mind, days and weeks after you watch. Humanity’s relationship with the technology around them, like all tools our civilizations have ever owned, should be taken seriously, and be thought about carefully. What’s worrying is that people tend to only learn after they see mistakes being made by others. But maybe shows like Black Mirror can show us extreme examples of technology going very wrong, and very right, saving us from making mistakes for ourselves in real life. Watch it, talk about it, learn from it. After all, we will have no choice but to in the coming years.