Through a mirror, darkly

Review: Black Mirror Season Five

After four seasons and an interactive ‘episode’/game, Black Mirror has covered a good deal of issues and ideas regarding humanity and our relationships to and through tech. While as tense and visually engaging as ever, Season five does not have the depth of social analysis that made earlier Black Mirror stand out.

The episodes’ setups remain over-the-top and occasionally quite campy.

The first episode features a new virtual reality platform where users are taken into a game’s world, experiencing the sensations and pain that their avatars feel. The episode brings up interesting questions about what it means to be embodied beings and sexuality, but seems like many of the interesting avenues that it could explore are only briefly glanced at.  The episode does, however, manage to depict how relationships can go sour without attention and care and the challenges for men to maintain social contact into middle age.

The second revolves around a hostage situation where a kidnapper demands to speak to the head of a Facebook-esque company. Tension is maintained well throughout the episode’s standoff, and the episode’s ending is quite strong. Much of the episode’s social commentary, however, is utterly predictable. Many of the usual notes about social media being addictive are there, like boxes to be ticked off and there is little more depth on offer.  

Episode three stands out as perhaps the most interesting of the season. Miley Cyrus plays a pop star who is forced to perform, drugged up along the way by her overbearing manager Aunt. In what might seem like a thinly veiled swipe at Cyrus’ previous Hannah Montana persona, she constantly throws out a pre-packaged ‘inspirational’ message, one that lies far from who she really is. The dissonance between her actual identity and the twee version presented in a new AI doll (similar in some ways to the likes of Alexa) calls some attention to the mass-produced ‘inspo’ culture that is prevalent online. Cyrus’ performance in this episode is one of the show’s standouts.

At only three episodes this season feels short. Although this is in keeping with tradition (season one had only three episodes), the chance to see more would have been welcome.

Despite lacking the same intelligence that made earlier seasons work, Black Mirror’s fifth season remains interesting, tense viewing.

All five seasons of Black Mirror are currently streaming on Netflix

Jonathan Foye is Insights’ Editor




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