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Netflix – Black Mirror Series 5

by Hans A. Carpenter

hans@freeburgtribune. com

Release Date: June 5, 2019

Number: 2.5/5

Mister Marquee Says: The Good, The Bad, and the Miley

The latest Black Mirror series is out, and it’s entertaining stuff but kind of a mixed bag. On one hand, the beautiful style and dreamy tone of Black Mirror are alive as ever, and there are moments of poignance, tension, tenderness, and brilliance. At the same time, this series is a bit uneven with some great high points but entries with great buildup and minimal payoff.

Episode 1 – Striking Vipers

Director: Owen Harris

Writer: Charlie Brooker

Number: 4/5

 Danny (Anthony Mackie) is given a virtual reality fighting game for his birthday from his old friend Karl (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II). In the game, Danny and Karl play as their favorite characters, Lance and Roxette, respectively. The game allows Danny and Karl to feel everything their characters feel, and soon the game turns physical, and in a combat sense.

Striking Vipers is easily the high point of the three-episode Series 5. Mackie is particularly great as a husband beaten down by the monotony of married life who is torn between his family life and the ecstasy of the game. This episode is a solid relationship drama, and the technological aspect is used only as a way to explore the repressed inner desires of a relationship with poor communication.

Episode 2 – Smithereens

Director: James Hawes

Writer: Charlie Brooker

Number: 3.5/5

A ride share driver (Andrew Scott) takes a social media network intern (Damson Idris) hostage at gunpoint and refuses to release him until he can speak to the company’s founder (Topher Grace) on the phone.

Smithereens is perhaps the best example of this slate of Black Mirror episodes. It has some really, really good points, but is totally undone by a final act that sputters out and a message that’s half-baked and much more ham-fisted and preachy than other entries in the series. The tension throughout the standoff is great, and the acting is great, but the ultimate revival falls flat, and there doesn’t seem to be much point to this episode other than a clumsy critique of how companies like Twitter operate.

Episode 3 – Rachel, Jack, and Ashely Too

Director: Anne Sewitsky

Writer: Charlie Brooker

Number: 0/5

A lonely teen (Angourie Rice) receives an Ashley Too, an artificial intelligence doll with a modified brain scan of pop star Ashley O (Miley Cyrus) for her birthday. Meanwhile, the real Ashley O feels trapped by her controlling aunt/manager and the corporate machine. This episode flat out stinks, and may be the worst Black Mirror of all time. I can’t fathom what themes it was trying to address while clumsily intertwining Ashely O and Rachel and her sister Jack. This episode is campy, over-the-top, and incoherent in all the wrong ways. Also, how dare they ruin Head Like a Hole! This episode is a waste of time with no redeeming qualities, failing in the apparent quest to have a light palate cleanser after a the heavy second episode.

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