The past four seasons of Black Mirror were focused on the creepiness of technology, and how these advancements can f*ck up our lives. This theme continued with their interactive film Bandersnatch.
When the season 5 trailer came out, we all tried to theorize how it’s going to one-up the previous seasons. After watching all three episodes, I’m sort of glad it wasn’t as scary or messed up as the others. This season is more story-focused, and it asked important questions connected to technology and our relationship with it.
Whether you’ve watched S5 once or already rewatched it a few times, we want to discuss our thoughts on each episode. Also, why we’re low-key having an existential crisis after a couple of them. If you feel the same, then read on.
“Striking Vipers”: Is it cheating if it’s virtual?
This episode is centered on Danny’s (Anthony Mackie) marriage and how he found a “better” sex life through a video game. The twist? He’s doing it with his old roommate, Karl (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II), who is playing a female fighting character.
Striking Vipers X is a game with an advanced virtual reality function where players can move around and fight in their characters’ bodies. Both Danny and Karl has used Lance (Ludi Lin) and Roxette (Pom Klementieff), respectively, since they were roommates 11 years prior. But when their fight shifts from competition to passion, the lines of their friendship get blurred.
When he’s not playing video games, Danny is a doting father to his son and has a great, but spiraling, relationship with his wife, Theo (Nicole Beharie). Throughout the episode, the couple tries to have another baby and Theo often reminds Danny if she’s ovulating. But once Danny started an affair with Karl/Roxette, Theo starts noticing a decline in their sexual activity and how her husband expresses affection.
The tricky question of cheating in the virtual world comes up when Karl notes that the sex is only happening in a video game. Further, the two men also find out later on that they don’t have sexual feelings towards each other in the physical world. But Karl is still willing to engage in virtual sex in Striking Vipers X.
This could be seen as a jab at people who defend their cheating behavior online. As Very Well Mind noted, “[An] online affair is very much like a physical fling, one that can do lasting harm to a relationship or even an entire family. It can distract the unfaithful partner’s attention from his or her real-life partner and children, robbing them of important time and attention and causing them to feel neglected and taken for granted.”
Cheating is cheating—simple as that. It just so happened that Danny and Theo managed to find a compromise, and opted for a semi-open relationship.
“Smithereens”: What happened in the ending?
If you asked this question after the episode and you checked your phone for theories, then “Smithereens” made a point.
The episode, which starred Andrew Scott as Chris, is basically a rollercoaster of anxiety where a man is demanding to talk to a Zuckerberg-like figure named Billy Bauer (Topher Grace) about how Smithereen (it’s like Twitter) ruined his life. Long story short, Chris glanced at his phone while driving and got into an accident that killed his wife. He also rants about how people are hooked on the app—never looking up and always tapping on their screens.
“Smithereens” is a commentary on the social media culture where we’re more focused on posting updates and content that’ll catch people’s attention. This was evidenced by the two teens who were taking photos and videos of a hostage situation. It also takes a jab at people who only care about updates, but not the whole story (literally the last few seconds of the episode’s end credits).
The episode also has an open-ended ending—no one knows if someone got shot and who it was. It’s a smart move because it’s instinctive for us to check Reddit, Twitter, and whatever platform for answers. This simply proves Chris’ complaint that people always have their nose on their phones. Now I feel #attackedt.
“Rachel, Jack, and Ashley Too”: Is this Miley Cyrus’ Hannah Montana story?
“Rachel, Jack, and Ashley Too” feels like a teen comedy. It involves a teenage girl who looks up to singer Ashley O (Miley Cyrus). She’s very reminiscent of Hannah Montana who caters to kids and loves spreading word of positivity. But in reality, Ashley is being controlled by her aunt-slash-manager who’s stopping her from transitioning to a punk-rock star.
It gets pretty messed up once her aunt puts her in a chemically induced coma so they can create a hologram and just fish out songs from her brain. But yes, it feels like a satirical version of Miley’s Hannah Montana journey.
The singer-actress has always been candid about how playing Hannah Montana affected her. In an interview with CBS Sunday Morning, she said her touring as Hannah and Miley did “some extreme damage in my psyche as an adult person.”
On another note: I want an Ashley Too robot, too. The mean one, not the cheesy one.
What’s your favorite Black Mirror season 5 episode? Let us know in the comments section or tweet us @preenph.
Art by Tricia Guevara
Photos courtesy of Netflix
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