The longer Black Mirror goes on the less it has to say about technology. Ideas from previous seasons are being recycled more and more. The show needs to move beyond “people use technology too much and that’s bad”.
Having said that, I still found these new episodes fun to watch. The
“Striking Tigers” Rating 2.5/5
Infidelity the episode. Except for the immersive VR this is a story that could be told with WOW or Everquest or even just Facebook. The new technology doesn’t create these behaviors it just enables it. You could tell this same story in 1910 with telephones. The cross-gender element was really underexplored along with the fact that they could have been any character but just choose the same ones each time.
“Striking Tigers” is one of the weakest episodes of the series. Only its actors save the uninspired plot from being unwatchable. Anthony Mackie and Yahya Abdul-Mateen II sell their friendship and romance incredibly.
“Smithereens” Rating 4.5/5
This is my favorite episode of the season. Set in present day, it is a dramatic thriller about addictive social media, big tech company overreach, and survivor guilt. There is an undercurrent of “social media bad” but the episode is more about unintended (and intended) effects of social media rather than a simple denouncement of such.
I don’t want to say too much about the plot because while there are no major twists the story unfolds beat to beat rather nicely.
“Rachel, Jack and Ashley Too” Rating 3/5
“Virtual actors/singers and who controls the rights” to them is not a bad premise for an episode but the side plot of toy copies and the one superfan mudded the waters. I think “Waldo Moment” from season two did the premise better.
I was surprised a little bit by the episode’s plot. I was expecting the Ashley Too to malfunction and become malicious or manipulative. Unlike most other episodes with a copied consciousness, there isn’t a lot of handwringing about what to do with the copy and she is simply allowed to continue to exist.
This episode has a happy light-hearted ending and while it isn’t not my favorite episode it was the perfect way to end the season of what is normally a pretty depressing series. I’m not saying every season should end with a happy ending but it was nice to not feel soul crushed when going to sleep.
Overall season five is about average for Black Mirror. Some repeated premises, but good to excellent acting and with the exception of “Striking Vipers” solid stories.