Black Mirror is widely popular for captivating its audience with the dangers of technology. With realistic, future-based narratives, each episode drops unexpected twists and turns to always keep the audience on their toes. After the release of the interactive “Bandersnatch” episode, fans were eager to see new directions explored by Black Mirror. However, the new three-episode season failed to meet expectations for the sci-fi phenomenon. Season 5 premiered on Netflix last Wednesday, leaving fans expecting more.
The season’s first episode explores the potential harm caused by using virtual reality games as a form of escapism. Long-time friends Danny (Anthony Mackie), Karl (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II), and Theo (Nicole Beharie) are dealing with the struggles of adult life. Karl invites Danny to play a newly-released version of a video game that they used to play, Striking Vipers. The episode focuses on relationships in the real world that are affected by choices the men make inside the virtual world. While it lacks in jaw-dropping twists, “Striking Vipers” contains emotional moments that deepen the characters. However, the first episode does not deliver the dark atmosphere typically associated with the series. Not only does it take too long to get to the conflict, but the episode also reveals its most surprising moment in the last scene. It becomes lost in the mix of the resolution.
Unlike “Striking Vipers,” the second episode of Season 5 immediately feels like a usual episode of Black Mirror. Taking place back in London, “Smithereens” follows a cab driver, Chris (Andrew Scott), as he becomes entangled in an international hostage situation. The plot is supported by unforeseen revelations that constantly keep the audience engaged. As Scott’s performance perfectly depicts a man spiraling into chaos, the audience cannot help but spiral with him. This episode executes the Black Mirror formula successfully: a man suffers from the consequences of constant use of unhealthy social media technology. In fact, “Smithereens” is the only one of the three episodes to bring a Black Mirror-esque plot.
“Rachel, Jack, and Ashley Too”
The final episode of the season offers a fresh take on the life of pop stars. Sisters Rachel (Angourie Rice) and Jack (Madison Davenport) interact with a toy brought to life by the consciousness of famous singer Ashley O (Miley Cyrus) and become involved in the celebrity’s private life. Like “Striking Vipers,” the third episode relies heavily on stellar performances by the cast to drive the plot. Similarly to episode one, “Rachel, Jack, and Ashley Too” brings a subpar story to its audience. While the episode is entertaining to watch, the plot itself is predictable, something that rarely happens with Black Mirror. Although it is predictable, episode three’s story utilizes both plot and subplot to reach a strong resolution.
Overall, Season 5 of Black Mirror didn’t quite reach the bar set by previous seasons and stand-alone “Bandersnatch.” Perhaps this dissatisfaction resulted from a lack of social media buzz surrounding this season’s new release. While it did introduce interesting technologies, the season felt uncharacteristically flat. Unfortunately, foreseeable and abrupt endings to the three episodes caused the fifth season to lose the shock-value associated with Black Mirror. Season 5 delivered intriguing storylines and characters, but it definitely lacks