Black Mirror’s new series encapsulates our contemporary interaction with technology – its enhanced promises and impending perils. The fifth anthology series compromises of three episodes, with wide ranging stories that all highlight the worst possibilities of our interlocked relationships with technology. Yet, Brooker similarly challenges the far-sweeping illusions of science fiction, by bringing human psyche alongside dystopian technology in an interior fantasy world.
The season opens with Striking Vipers, exploring the relationship between close friends, Danny and Karl, who went to separate paths after college. They reconnect eleven years later through Striking Vipers X, a virtual reality version of the original game. Their friendship reawakens and ignite physical elements of surprise for both of them.
The story underpins themes of sexuality, marriage fidelity and fantasy in a world where the virtual and real life is almost distorted. We are left to ponder on several questions. Is online relationship cheating? What happens to us when we dedicate most of our times online? How then can we differentiate our real lives from our virtual identities? Such thoughts are left unanswered by the producers; the audiences are forced to make their own interpretations. We are rendered doubtful, seeking deeper meanings lurking under the surface.
The colour palette in Striking Vipers subtly demonstrates the potential benefits and marred reality of virtual reality. In one striking scene, Danny and Karl both lean at yellow fences in separate locations, looking away at the city. This colour choice charmingly unites both men together, as if technology has stimulated the intimate bond they used to have.
Smithereens follows the season, focussing on the implications of phone addiction. The episode centralises around Chris, a rideshare driver, planning to hostage an executive from a social media company called Smithereens. Chris mistakenly kidnaps Jaden, an intent at Smithereens, and now must change his plan.
Andrew Scott perfectly portrays Chris’ pent-up frustration over technology. His over-exaggerated performance once his original plan collapses contrasts with the seriousness of the episode. Scott’s excessive vocals brings a humorous characterisation whilst also adding a menacing edge to Chris.
Brooker interestingly utilises eyes as a visual montage to encapsulate phone addiction. This is truly reminiscent of today, with one’s inability to separate themselves from technology. Though repetitive, this cleverly demonstrates the seductive spectacle created by the prevalence of technology.
The series finishes with Rachel, Jack, and Ashley Too. Miley Cyrus stars as Ashley O, a pop star unsatisfied with her current music and is controlled by her own aunt.
Cyrus’ harmonious vocals excellently complements a rebellious and entrapped artist. She deconstructs Nine Inch Nails and reclaims it. ‘On A Roll’, a rendition of ‘Head Like a Hole’ presents a heart-warming message of self-worth. With its powerful and anthemic choruses, it is irresistible to chant and dance along to every line of the song. ‘Right Where I Belong’, sampled from ‘Right Where It Belongs’ contrasts perfectly with Miley Cyrus’ slow, deep and sinister voice. Her performance unravels two personalities of Ashley – a cheerful and positive artist, whilst equally capturing her repressed frustrations over the music industry. Her pop version of their songs fascinatingly serves as homage to the original rock artist.
A deserving mention is to Brooker, with his use of a mouse as an analogy to Ashley. This daring approach hauntingly resonates the contemporary celebrity industry, wherein artists are forced to act in a certain way for publicity and fans, thus risking their own creative freedom. Rachel, Jack, and Ashley Too sheds light to motivate artists to reveal their true identity and passion without any restrictions.
Black Mirror provides a warm, moving and thought-provoking new series. The three episodes altogether stresses humanity. It provides an insight into a possible bleak future, if compassion is risked with over-reliance on technology.
Last modified: 4th July 2019