Little Note: I’ve been kind of delaying this review, looking for more interesting things to write this month, but in the end, recalling the disappointment that June started with is what I’ll have to stick with. Don’t feel that this is my best work, but it’s June 30th, so c’est la vie.
Charlie Brooker’s Black Mirror has always had highs and lows. Amazing, thought-provoking episodes mixed in with self-serving nonsense. The latest season of Black Mirror still retains the self-serving nonsense but leaves out the thought-provoking part.
Is it that it’s 2019 and our greatest technological fears have already come to light? Is it that a lot of our fears have been explored already? Is Brooker burned out? Usually, Black Mirror leaves you with questions concerning morality in the face of an ever-evolving future. Nowadays, it seems to be preaching to the choir.
Sure, Striking Vipers actually asks an interesting question about fantasy, sexual identity and morality. At the same time, it doesn’t really explore the question, giving more time to over-the-top VR sex scenes. The acting, of course, is impeccable, however, the message gets lost in the gratuity of it all. That’s really all I can say about the episode as well. Sometimes, it’s helpful to take a break before writing a review. I feel like it’s telling that I remember a lot of the episodes of Love, Death & Robots after a few months than 3 episodes of Black Mirror. Hell, I can remember a lot of the episodes of seasons past way more vividly than the three we’ve been given in 2019. Given that Brooker aims to be memorable and thought-provoking, I would think that this makes season 5 of the series an unequivocal failure.
The problems continue with Smithereens. While the big plus here is the return to Black Mirror’s roots with the majority of the episode being set in the UK, the script fails horribly under scrutiny. More predictable than Chris Nolan’s over-the-top foreshadowing, the story tells us nothing that previous ones didn’t. Social media addiction is bad. Creators lose control of their life’s work. Yada-yada-yada. The story beats didn’t surprise me either, and while Andrew Scott & Topher Grace did just enough to keep me invested, the whole episode seemed half-assed and lazily written, although that’s nothing compared to Rachel, Jack & Ashley Too, the season closer.
Look, I get the idea Charlie Brooker had with this one. Miley Cyrus’ performance was really fun if a little bit self-serving, however, the whole concept of satirizing a Disney Channelesque romp just fell flat on its face. Sure, there was an attempt to discuss how much pop-stars are really products of themselves. It was also done in such an over-the-top way, that if you’d switched some of the bad words and softened the imagery a bit, it would literally be a Disney Channel original feature. The entire episode did nothing to really show itself as satire either. It went beat for beat, seemingly merely hoping that the viewers would get the joke. Well, I got it, but the problem is, it wasn’t a good one.
How did this happen? How did another highly rated series falter so bad? Apparently, a lot of the budget went towards developing Bandersnatch, thus robbing us of 3 additional episodes. Another problem might be that Andrew Brooker is out of ideas. It’s 2019. His fears have come to light. Waldo is president. David Cameron may have fucked a pig in front of people. China’s introducing a social score. At this point, Black Mirror seems redundant, because it’s not telling us about the future, it’s telling us about the present, and the dangers we’re very aware of by now. Is Black Mirror really needed nowadays? Is it able to tell us something we don’t know?
It probably will be, once we see the new limits of technology. In the end, Black Mirror explored most of our near-future angst nearly perfectly for 8 years. We don’t quite know what else the future holds for the time being. For now, we might not need it. For now, we might feel warned about the worst we can expect. It’ll probably change in the future, but at least for now, I’d like to see Charlie Brooker tackling different subjects. If the future’s all covered, perhaps he’s got some good ideas on how to make some interesting twists about the past?
We will see.