Black Mirror Season 5: A Review

It’s that time for all Black Mirror fans to rejoice again — a new season has been released over at Netflix for this politically acclaimed technology-will-destroy-humanity-themed anthology series. As a super fan of their material, I was beyond thrilled for this and I immediately jumped onto the Black Mirror train as soon as the episodes were made available for streaming.

For season 5, there are there 3 episodes entitled Striking Vipers, Smithereens, and Rachel, Jack and Ashley Too respectively. For my review, I’m listing them them down chronologically how I watched them.

I guess by this time (more than a week after the Netflix release), it’s now safe to drop some spoilers… right? 😁

Rachel, Jack and Ashley Too

The teaser for this episode was the first one I got to watch amongst the three. Well it helped that I follow Miley Cyrus on Instagram. 😉 It was a surprise move for Black Mirror to have a prominent pop star for one of their episodes. Was it relevant that Miley herself portray this character in the story? We all know what Miley had to go through in the past recent years, starting from the time she broke up with Liam Hemsworth, her breaking out of the Hannah Montana image and the outrageous behaviors that she exhibited in the music videos / concerts that followed. I was somewhat curious in that aspect and so that’s one of the reasons this is the first episode that I went to watch.

I could relate some of the themes of the episodes that could possibly be autobiographical with Miley’s. Although I would guess that the target audience of this episode — the recipient of the warning of the dangers of technology — are artists, specifically musicians. It’s becoming a norm now to have posthumous music albums. One notable example is Michael Jackson’s two albums entitled Michael and XScape. What will be the role of technology in terms of producing music if the artist is incapacitated (in a coma, just like in the episode) or already dead? Will the music labels have the capability to milk out more content through technology? Would that be something that the artist would want? Are there bounds both legally and morally and how far they could do with all the artistic materials left behind?

A few days after I watched this episode, I heard that there was a new album by Avicii that came out. When he died in 2018, he was still in the middle of making an album so I guess a lot of material still on the works were left unfinished. I read in one article that his co-producers worked on finishing the album even though it was still hurtful for them. This was his family’s wish, to complete and release the album, in honor of Avicii’s memory. His co-producers have worked with him so closely in the past that they knew how Avicii would have liked the songs to turn out. Although he already passed on, his music still lives.

Another technology that was shown in the episode is holograms. It’s this technology that can substitute an artist’s presence in a concert or event. Personally, I find this disturbing and offensive at the same time, because as a fan, I won’t be fascinated with going into a concert to see an artificial projection of the artist that I like. My primary goal in going to a concert is to see the artist in person and to feel a personal connection with them. I first encountered this technology during my visit in Seoul at the Coex Atrium. We watched a show wherein different KPOP groups of SM Entertainment performed on stage. It was kind of an eerie experience because in reality, I’m just looking at an empty stage. Maybe other fans would like it? Hmm but it’s a no for me I guess. 🙄

Some of the other issues that I have noticed being touched by this episode are as follows:

  • Ashley Too (the doll)’s true intention for luring the kids to her house was to pull out the plug of the apparatus that keeps her body-in-coma alive. Is that morally acceptable? An AI equivalent of her consciousness made the decision to end her life because she knows she won’t allow herself to be in that kind of state even for a second. When the time comes that technology have reached the stage of making cookies have their equivalent human rights (if this concept is unfamiliar, refer to previous Black Mirror episodes 🙂), would they have the right to decide if euthanasia is to be performed to their physical bodies in real life, when the original mind is already incapacitated to express it?
  • Having robots as friends is a technological setup that is slowly and creepily becoming a reality, just like the Ashley Too doll. You’d want to talk to someone who tells you all the nice things that you want to hear, right?
This is from an actual existing app. Dare to talk with your replika?

Although I liked the plot overall, most people don’t see this as Black Mirror material. I agree.

Rating: 3/5

Striking Vipers

I think this is my least liked episode from the Black Mirror series. Although I appreciate the gaming side of the story (one of my dreams is to have a gaming room with a large TV screen just like in this episode… but for now all I can do is daydream 😅), the overall story just made no sense for me. While watching the episode, I felt like I’m being trolled, like seriously is this what’s really happening? Oh well, I guess I didn’t really get it, whatever message this one is trying to send the audience.

Rating: 2/5

Smithereens

I’m glad I got to watch this one last, because this is the best one on this batch! 👏 The episode tackled a lot of things, and I must say they were able to accurately portray on how a hostage scenario today would progress given all the technology we currently have.

First, I was highly amused on how this tech company was able to get information about the hostage taker way faster than the police itself. It just shows how personal information is so readily available in the internet. Second is how all onlookers and outsiders looked into the ongoing hostage-taking stage. The kids on the bike were taking pictures of the scene, and as expected, the hostage crisis became viral online in no time. People were hooked with every little update, curious on how things would turn out. Through social media, the hostage taker saw all these information from his own phone. Third is getting into the perspective of the creator of a successful social media site. In this episode, we get to hear the opinion of the creator himself on the state of the platform that he himself made. It might be a shade to real-life people (ehemMark Zuckerbergehem). We learn that some apps are made to become its users addictive to it. There’s a whole team that studies and implements dopamine triggers in the website so users would always be hungry for more. The psychological effects are super scary. I guess I’m proud to say I’m not part of the zombie race that mindlessly follow the feed from this blue-logo company. I’ve already f*cked out of it. 👍 Fourth is addressing a more effective way of communicating with someone who is in pain. It’s kind of a mockery towards psychological experts, but damn, there’s something in this episode that nailed the message. Tell him you are listening, that you know exactly how he feels. 🙄 I just had to snicker internally at how this exchange in the episode happened, and I did feel a sense of triumph when the tech owner just shut his laptop down and went on to conversing the way he wanted to. Sometimes others just want you to communicate with them like a human being. I’m just glad this episode pointed that out.

There are still a lot of sides and aspects that this episode shows the viewers, and these are some of the things that I was able to catch on:

  • Don’t text while driving. I know it’s kind of a given rule already, there’s officially a law that forbids this activity, but I guess this episode reiterates what kind of horrible things could happen if you do this — if not you yourself, a loved one can die because of this recklessness.
  • Don’t always be on the phone. Be aware of your surroundings. I see this message all the time when I open my Pokemon Go app, although this holds true also for this episode, especially if you are riding a car through a pool-sharing app like Uber or Grab. You might prevent yourself from getting into a situation if your attention is on the road, and you will immediately notice in case the driver makes a sketchy detour.

I liked this episode because it gave me that familiar “disturbed feeling” after. It was not revealed who got killed after the sniper launched the bullet. The episode only showed the reactions of the people directly involved, the people who were looking at the news feed on their phones showing nonchalant expressions. It disturbed me so much because this is how harsh reality is now. People are not so empathetic anymore. It’s so so scary and disturbing. 😓

Rating: 4/5

This season still got me entertained at least, but yeah I can’t help but feel a bit dissappointed. I guess Black Mirror has lost its touch on what made their series appealing? Or are they losing creative material? I don’t know, but for sure I’d still watch their next seasons (which would still be years from now I guess 😭). I seriously hope this is not the last one from them.

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