TV Review: Black Mirror (Netflix) – Season Five

Written and created by Charlie Brooker, Black Mirror returns to Netflix with a fifth series compromising of three episodes – Striking Vipers, Smithereens, and Rachel Jack and Ashley Too.

With a series like Black Mirror, you expect to be thrown in at the deep end with a warning of how technology is advancing, but this is definitely a much more stripped back series. Technology and advances aren’t pushed in your face to make you fearful of the future. Instead, this series uses concepts which we already have – social media platforms, VR gaming, and simple AIs – to show you their everyday dangers (or possible benefits).

Episode 1: ‘Striking Vipers’

This first episode begins with an everyday drama, a blossoming romance, and a very natural setting. As two estranged college friends reunite in later life, Striking Vipers is an interesting and subtle exploration of how future gaming could affect our relationships.

Maybe it’s because I’m a 28-year-old who still plays the old versions of Sims for a bit of escapism, but this episode felt real to me. I’ve always loved playing a different character, although I’m not sure I’d be willing to go this far with one.

However, I don’t think there’s any doubt that this is how VR technology is going to evolve – as best it can, anyway. Just like the Striking Vipers game doesn’t promote the realities of what you can do with characters who you can feel every sense of, there will be games like this that people will be able to exploit for their own personal gratification.

But not only is Brooker looking at how technology is changing our lives, he’s also looking at the way that we, as humans, are changing and modernising, too, exploring the concept of polyamorous relationships. I’ve seen a few documentaries that explore polyamory before, but I actually find this episode to be the most convincing yet.

Anthony Mackie and Yahya Abdul-Maheen are both brilliant and I also loved Pom Klementieff in this.

It’s a great concept in itself to see real-life actors play the Mortal Kombat/Tekken-style characters. I only wish we could have seen some more fighting, as the few moves that we did get to see looked like great re-enactions of the game.

Episode 2: ‘Smithereens’

Another stripped backed episode but it’s not a very exciting one, although Andrew Scott gives an incredible performance.

The concept is still strong, though, and it’s even quite hard-hitting when you get into it. I think there’s definitely more to it than “social media is bad” with the revelations that the appearance of this app/site were supposed to make it impossible for you to look away from it.

I quite like these subtler episodes of Black Mirror as the series uses concepts of technology that are already available, so these threats feel like they’re creeping up on us more rather than being in the however-distant future.

Episode 3: ‘Rachel, Jack and Ashley Too’

It’s definitely a more playful episode of Black Mirror and I liked the concept of exploring technology alongside pop star culture (starring Miley Cyrus), but it definitely doesn’t have the impact of other episodes, even though there’s a lot of future advancements to be terrified about included.

You can currently watch the latest series on Netflix, and even catch up with from the beginning.

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