Black Mirror Season 5 Is Not The Black Mirror You Once Knew

by Alexei Rivera | June 6, 2019 10:14 am

First of all, how do you even call 3 measly episodes an entire season? Is it because instead of adding more stories they made the episodes so tirelessly long and yet really slow? I mean, I’d hate to start with a complaint but damn these 3 episodes were really badly paced. So many wasted minutes of setup and loooooooooonggggggggg pauses.

But I digress. Black Mirror Season 5 is out now on Netflix, and it kinda shows that Netflix calls the shots now. Its a very Americanized and boardroom-vetted re-imagining of the original weird Twilight Zone style anthology series called Black Mirror.

As I’ve mentioned before the season is made up of three episodes running about an hour and some change each. If you’re not familiar with the series, its a dark look into the world of technology; a creepy interpretation of what we might become in the near future based on what we do with our machines today. If I could describe the style of the show, it had a very dark, subtle humor about it. And I could describe the endings to always be ambiguous – and almost always somehow bittersweet; with lead characters not always getting the good ending.

Miley Cyrus stars in Episode 3 with an AI doll fashioned from her character

That was, until Season 5 came along. Season 4 hinted at this change a little bit, given that Season 4 was also when Netflix got control of the show. But I gave Season 4 a passing grade if only because it really had a go at it – it gave us some wild dark future aspects that was interesting to say the least: Robotic killer dogs, a crazy Star Trek episode, a dramatization of a dating app, etc. But it didn’t always have the expected dark ambiguous payoff. There’s also a lot less subtlety, a lot less irony, and a lot more bludgeoning you with obvious cues as to the moral of the story. That’s typical American-style writing for you.

This continues, and gets much worse for Season 5. Of the three episodes, the third is the weakest. Without getting into spoilers, it felt more like an “Are You Afraid Of The Dark?” type of whimsical happy-ending story. The plot for the episode was so ridiculous and kiddie I thought I was watching the Disney channel.

Anthony Mackie stars in Episode 1 across Yahya Adbul-Mateen II who reconnect in a video game

The first episode was the strongest one – but boy did it drag. Many, many moments of that episode could have been cut to make it a 30 minute show, but it lasted 61 minutes. It only works as a Black Mirror episode because it had a tech related dark future twist, and not even really that imaginatively used – because the characters supposedly discover a weird way to use the tech, but it would be the first thing people would obviously try given the technology. Worst you could even say about it is that it’s implausible for characters to act that way. I give this episode a, “meh”.

The second episode is probably the weakest – or strongest – depending on your definition. It almost fails as a Black Mirror episode, but it was the best written and most believable. The first episode was counter-intuitive to the characters’ personalities. The third episode was just ridiculous. But the second episode could be taken seriously. But it wasn’t Black Mirror. It’s a clear cut, anti-tech present-day retelling of a public service announcement. It didn’t have an “alternate reality” to it. It could have been an episode of NCIS without changing a thing. There was no dark future about it, and that’s why it fails to be a Black Mirror episode.

Andrew Scott – famous as playing Moriarty in Sherlock – plays a disgruntled tech user in Episode 2

Given all three were still well shot and the CGI was excellent, its still worth the watch. The stories are still good, but they just don’t make you think. It doesn’t get a discussion going because the writers’ point is so clear cut it might as well be plastered on screen.

But that’s where Black Mirror is right now. Some people would probably prefer it this way, but that means it would just blend into the current boring lineup of mostly American-written stuff. Maybe that’s a good thing for the bottom line, I don’t know. All I know is that I miss the old BM.

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