Season five of Black Mirror is indeed a far cry from what it was when it first burst onto on screens. We’ve gone from that shocking first episode, The National Anthem where the British prime minister is forced into having sex with a pig, to a Miley Cyrus turned into a doll. The disturbing finale of season four, Black Museum a collection of disturbing stories which end up having a common denominator, a man who’s involved in a car accident because he gets distracted looking at his phone. Black Mirror has given us surprising moments and ample food for thought and reflection on the misuse of technology, and in what robotic or evil beings it might become. And this fifth season, with just three episodes, pales to insignificance compared with the groundbreaking series that left us all reeling 8 years ago.
The secret to Black Mirror’s success is that it rattles our brains. There isn’t one episode that leaves you indifferent. You watch it and then spend hours mulling over how new technologies, the Internet and social media could result in the downfall of humanity as a race. Another of its strong points is that it plays with the surprise effect. The characters make unexpected decisions sparking many’s a ‘What the …?’ moments from our comfortable position on the sofa. It’s also a unique production in that it generates debate among audiences over which character took the right path. There’s a clear example of this in season four’s episode two, Arkangel. A mother implants a chip in her daughter to find out what she’s getting up when she’s not at home. With the help of an iPad, she can see through the girl’s eyes whether she goes to school, if she meets someone … even if she goes all the way with a boy. The mother defends this techno-spying with the excuse that it protects her daughter from harm. On the other hand, for the daughter it represents a serious intrusion in her private life. And so, the debate gets underway. Is it morally ok for your mother to spy on everything you do? Would we do the same with our own kids?E
In this fifth season, we are once again invited to reflect, but ‘Black Mirror’ had set the bar very high, and these latest three episodes are not up to scratch in terms of what we’ve witnessed from this revolutionary Netflix series. The first episode deals with infidelity. As such, it’s a reminder of what we saw in The Entire History of You episode, Season 1, episode 3. The one in which, thanks to a microchip, we can project our memories and discover whether someone has lied to us. In this new episode, the protagonist, played by Anthony Mackie (The Avengers), leads a parallel life in a video game, very similar to the famous Street Fighter. In the second episode, we are privy to how a man kidnaps a worker and forces him to call his boss, creator of a social media site, played by actor Topher Grace (Venom, in Spiderman 3). We discover that by looking at the phone while driving, to see if he has any ‘likes’ on his platform, he ends up killing his wife, who is his copilot. Something very similar to a spot from the Road Safety Authorities, and which invites us to ask: Just how hooked are we on our devices and the ‘likes’ we receive? A reflection that might have been original during the early days of Facebook, but now is outdated.
The third episode, finally, seems more a criticism of the bad influences that surround an artist than anything else. It’s even ridiculous to see singer Miley Cyrus dressed in a hospital gown, and you soon get the feeling that you’re wrapped up in a teen movie, where the fan must save her idol. In short, a disappointment (yet another, after the finale to Game of Thrones that’ll go down in history) we hope to overcome with another of this year’s long-awaited premieres: Season three of ‘Stranger Things’, this coming July 4th.