Black Mirror: Season 5
Charlie Brooker’s sci-fi anthology Black Mirror returns with a dampened and somewhat disappointing fifth season
The harrowing, hollowing dread and emotional vulnerability of Black Mirror’s first three series is significantly dampened in this fifth outing. The newest releases are perfectly watchable, even entertaining, but lack the terrifying bite or compelling moral quandaries that have defined the best of Charlie Brooker and Annabel Jones’s work.
The real world may be partly to blame for this series’ disappointment: with concerns about data privacy and the omnipresence of smart devices and social media in the news daily, the nightmare scenarios may lack the shock value they had back in 2011 when the show began. Likewise, the corporate powers-that-be at Netflix may be too focused on star talent and crowd-pleasing / shock value endings than they are on nurturing the human side to those chills (if this is the case, it is almost an episode-worthy nightmare of entertainment monopoly in itself). It could also be that the show is running its course: after eight years and numerous experiments in form and content, it could be time to say goodbye.
Striking Vipers, this series’ first entry, is its weakest, wasting a cast of MCU and DCEU supporting characters by refusing to fully invest in and interrogate the ethics and personal stakes behind its latest technological gimmick. Fortunately, the second episode Smithereens takes the series to its chilling heights. Its title references a social media conglomerate and the shattered lives it hides, exploring both through a highly personal hostage crisis. Unfortunately, it is let down by a finale that – while bleak – lacks the nuance and humanity that made Brooker’s trademark cynicism so unnerving in the show’s best episodes.
The third and final episode – Rachel, Jack and Ashley Too – is the most fun but also the safest. Considering star Miley Cyrus’s own popstar reinvention, this music industry satire could have hit harder had it not skirted the most twisted aspects of a sanitised public persona. That said, the energy and heart of its young cast earn an unqualified happy ending.