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'Black Mirror' Has Its First Mediocre Season With Season 5

It was three episodes of re-hashed material.

'Black Mirror' Has Its First Mediocre Season With Season 5

In December Netflix surprised viewers with its release of the first ever interactive episode "Bandersnatch" from the popular series "Black Mirror".

"Bandersnatch" quite literally crossed boundaries with its episode, as the message was relatively thought-provoking and a choose-your-own-adventure television show had not been something that was ever offered before. It was a fun experiment and showed that "Black Mirror" is a constantly evolving program that is willing to take risks with its story-telling.

However, with the release of season five (if you can even call it that with its three episodes) we can see that "Black Mirror" has grossly back-pedaled.

Warning: Season Five Spoilers Ahead.

The first episode "Striking Vipers" stars Anthony Mackie who plays a character that is in an unfulfilling, both romantically and sexually, marriage. After years of not seeing each other, Mackie's friend, played by Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, shows up and gives Mackie's character a virtual reality fighting game for his birthday. The two are able to play together online by choosing their character, and then becoming that character in the game, and using their thoughts to control it.

And it goes probably how you would expect it to when Abdul-Mateen's character chooses a female character and Mackie chooses a male: the two have sex. Multiple times.

To be fair, this would have been a great plotline, if executed correctly. Two men who use a virtual reality game to explore their own desires/love and sexuality but by using technology to still navigate that heteronormativity that they desperately want to cling on to for normalcy sake would have been extremely compelling. However, the episode ends with the pair finding out that they are not attracted to each other outside of the video game realm, as exemplified through them meeting up to kiss and deciding they didn't like it. Despite this, they continue to meet up in the video game at designated times throughout the year where Mackie's wife, played by Nicole Beharie, gets to go out and have affairs on her own as well.

Obviously, the ending isn't too pleasing for a variety of viewers simply because the two male characters end up deciding they only desire the other in a heteronormative way and the entire episode revolved around cheating, which can be damaging and contributing to pre-existing gay and bi stereotypes. Additionally, the only other episode to feature an LGBTQ+ relationship also included the use of virtual reality technology in season three's "San Junipero", which can imply that these relationships have no 'real' and physical intimacy (which is an obviously damaging trope to be continually having).

The second episode is titled "Smithereens" and seems more like an episode of "Criminal Minds" than "Black Mirror". Was it thought-provoking? No. Did it seem like a re-hash of an episode you've seen from any given television series at least once? Yes.

"Smithereens" is centered on a character played by Andrew Scott who works for a taxi app. He's slowly slipping from sanity, and eventually loses it and kidnaps his customer (Damson Idris) at gunpoint. Idris's character, however, is an intern for a social media company and Scott's one demand is to speak to the CEO of that company (Topher Grace) or else he will kill him.

The episode is long and drawn out, and plays out just how you think it would: Scott's character is guilt-ridden after using the social media app while driving, getting in an accident, and thereby killing his fiancé. Although the message of this episode is clearly referring to contemporary culture being obsessed with apps and social media to the point where it's difficult to even put it down for a minute and focus on something like driving a vehicle and ultimately having to pay the price for that, it's something that's been done before by other networks.

Yes, it's a commentary on modern culture. But it's something that we've seen over and over and over again, and "Black Mirror" did not bother to change the narrative in the slightest.

Lastly, there was the anticipated Miley Cyrus episode "Rachel, Jack and Ashley Too". The episode follows a lonely teenager (Angourie Rice) who is a die-hard fan of the pop-music star Ashley O (Miley Cyrus). When a new A.I. doll made to look like Ashley O comes out, eloquently names Ashley Too, Rice's character immediately purchases it and finds a new friend in the doll.

However, it turns out Ashley O is on a downward spiral in her music career and wants to change her music style and appearance (which may be a nod to what actually happened with Cyrus' career). After a fight with her manager, who also happens to be her aunt, she's placed into a chemically-induced coma so that her aunt is able to control her career, gaining complete access to her brain to make the A.I. doll, and using her unconscious mind to produce music that will sell without ever having to deal with her physically.

In an event that still isn't totally clear and doesn't make too much sense in the grand scheme of things, Rice's character and her sister are able to figure out how to get the A.I. doll to unlock the entirety of Ashley O's conscious and the three of them are able to put a stop to the aunt's evil ways.

Was it a bad episode? Not really, but it definitely seemed like a movie that Disney Channel would have made and "Black Mirror" has done this type of narrative before with "Black Museum" in season four. It's nothing we haven't seen before.

Was this all around a bad and unwatchable season? Not necessarily, but it did seem like a quick effort to put something out there after the release of "Bandersnatch". The writing was not as compelling as it normally is, and each episode seemed like a re-hash of a prior one. Right now it seems like the show is running out of ideas on what to say about modern culture, and hopefully, some better and brighter ideas are able to surface for season six.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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