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Season 5 of the tech-drama series has arrived and it's a small package containing just three episodes. Interestingly enough, I think doing small seasons like this may work in Black Mirror's favor in the long run. It's also a much better experience not knowing too much of the episodes' premises, so I'll try to be as spoiler-free as I can. Each of the three episodes plays out like a feature film and contains more depth than one could've imagined. In this case, I will be reviewing each episode individually.
Directed by Owen Harris Starring Anthony Mackie, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Nicole Beharie, Pom Klementieff, Ludi Lin
Let's get one thing out of the way: I never thought I'd see Falcon and Mantis from the Marvel Cinematic Universe be in the same episode of Black Mirror before. So that in itself was a treat. Striking Vipers dives into the world of video games and showcases a level of virtual reality that seems kind of unobtainable and unrealistic, yet possible in the years to come based on how quickly technology has been moving. Apparently, the wave of gaming in the future is to cut off your physical abilities and only be able to move in-game. I'm going to leave it at that.
Striking Vipers, at its very core, is about human relationships, interactions, the mind, and knowing one's self. What would you do if you only felt a strong connection with someone online, but not in person? What kind of compromises would you and your partner make to stay together? What video game would you like to hyper-realistically explore? It's questions like these that are raised throughout the episode. Though it's not the strongest episode of the three (but still very good), you have to give it up for the all-black cast that took a topic such as this one and made it work. Watch the episode and you'll see what I mean. ★★★½
Probability that this type of VR gaming becomes real: 15%. It's not realistic. At least not within the next decade.
Directed by James Hawes
Starring Andrew Scott, Damson Idris, Topher Grace
Based of of the trailers that were released not too long ago, Smithereens seemed like it'd be the most boring of the bunch. Turns out that's not the case. In fact, it was heart-racing and a white-knuckle ride of an episode. What's most frightening about it is that it could absolutely become a reality and the technology presented already exists. The basic premise is this: a man takes another man hostage in the hopes of having a conversation with the CEO of a Twitter-like tech company.
What's most enjoyable about this particular episode is the unfolding of the events and how it jumps from one part of the world to the other without it being confusing or annoying. Smithereens truly is a story about modern technology and how it can be toxic in modern society. We've all heard someone say that "social media has our heads buried in our phones" and that it "shuts us out from the real world around us" and that's exactly what happens here. It also showcases how quickly a situation, like the one presented here, can spread internationally in a matter of minutes and seconds. The episode leads up to a single moment. A single moment that will leave you dumbfounded and left with more questions. ★★★★
Probability that apps like Smithereen and Hitcher come to exist: 100%. They already do exist. It's called Twitter and Uber/Lyft.
Rachel, Jack and Ashley Too
Directed by Anne Sewitsky
Starring Miley Cyrus, Angourie Rice, Madison Davenport
Rachel, Jack and Ashley Too might be the best of the three, although it did take a while for it to pick up and get exciting. The episode follows a shy tween, Rachel, who's new on campus, has no friends, and is obsessed with pop star, Ashley O. (Cyrus). An Ashley O. artificial intelligence robot called "Ashley Too" is then created and Rachel, of course, gets her hands on one. Ashley Too becomes Rachel's only friend while the real Ashley O. suffers from fame and being mismanaged.
Cyrus actually does a really great job here. I thought it'd be corny and lame, but she knocks it out of the park by playing a controlled, cookie-cutter celebrity who wants to be something else. The technology in this episode is also incredibly intriguing and could be developed, if it isn't already. Holograms of concert performances have already happened (shout out Tupac), but it's taken to the next level in Rachel and I could actually see something like this make its way to the mainstream within the next few years or so. ★★★★
Probability that a pop star releases an AI doll: 50%. Hopefully the right pop star is chosen to create one. I don't want to see a bunch of Taylor Swift robots rolling around.
Probability that hologram concerts become a thing: 95%. If I could attend a full Michael Jackson hologram concert, I absolutely would, but it'd have to cost, like, $20.
★★★★★ Classic | ★★★★ Excellent | ★★★ Good | ★★ Fair | ★ Poor