By Dave B.
The fifth season of Black Mirror (Netflix) continues the series’ theme of how near-future technology could impact society, and the individuals within it, in both marvelous and horrifying ways. The three, hour-long episodes that make up Season Five cover the technological areas of virtual reality, social media, and brain-mapping/transference. But at its core the show maintains its focus on relationships and how cultural, social, and technological changes don’t necessarily alter what it fundamentally means to be human.
The first episode “Striking Vipers” is by far this season’s strongest. Anthony Mackie stars as a family man who is a bit bored with life. Things heat up, however, when his longtime, but often absent friend shows up with a new virtual reality fighting game that allows players to inhabit the bodies and feel the physical sensations of their avatars. “Striking Vipers” hits hard and takes a deep look at how relationships of all types can be impacted by the reality of “unreality”.
“Smithereens” is Season Five’s second episode. It’s primary focus is on social media, specifically social media addiction. It maintains a decent pace and delivers some intense and emotional moments, but ultimately, it’s disappointing because it’s anticlimactic and may leave audiences feeling somewhat ambivalent about the fates of the characters. I applaud the way that the responsibility for social media addiction is dealt with relatively even-handedly, but the execution of the end of this episode leaves a lot to be desired.
Rachel, Jack and Ashley Too
The final episode in the fifth season is “Rachel, Jack and Ashley Too”. This is probably the most “light-hearted” of the episodes (if one wants to call an episode with an attempted murder at its core light-hearted) and deals with brain-mapping. This episode is lively and the performances are energetic and enjoyable, but it lacks emotional impact. The outcome is never really in doubt and even if it were, viewers may find it hard to care due to the relatively frivolous wrapping of the weighty subject matter.
Overall, the fifth season of Black Mirror is undoubtedly one of the weaker ones. It isn’t bad, but outside of “Striking Vipers”, this season isn’t especially edgy or thought-provoking. If you’re pressed for time and can only watch one episode, it should definitely be “Striking Vipers”. “Smithereens” and “Rachel, Jack and Ashley Too” are middling-good and mediocre respectively. Season Five is worth a watch because it’s Black Mirror, but I can’t help but suspect that it’s MOSTLY worth a watch because it’s BLACK MIRROR, instead of because it’s still as cutting-edge and insightful as it once was.
I have no clue what I'm doing, but I'll keep doing whatever it is to the best of my ability.