Episode Guide (Click The Episodes For In-Depth Recaps)
Black Mirror has always worked best with three strong, independent episodes. The first few seasons of this critically acclaimed sci-fi anthology did well to deliver unique, original stories with a dark undertone and an uneasy, dread-inducing narrative. It’s partly the reason Netflix took so kindly to Charlie Brooker’s show and snapped up the rights to this original Channel 4 offering when it had the chance. Fast forward to 2019 and after the mixed reactions to the Interactive film Bandersnatch, Black Mirror returns for 3 brand new stories and one of the most divisive seasons in its illustrious history.
The three stories themselves are reasonably well written, with the first two in particular delivering a lot of the usual conventional nods you’d expect from Black Mirror. There’s some uneasy undertones, a good amount of commentary around thought provoking subjects and the acting itself is good enough to keep you watching. The first episode revolves around virtual romance, the second discusses social media and its impact on our lives while the third episode looks at the pop music industry and it’s faults. These are certainly relevant topics although don’t expect any unusual tech or advanced sci-fi to rear it’s head here. Beyond an AI robot, there’s little we haven’t seen before.
The trouble with Season 5 is that it fails to really capture the essence of what makes Black Mirror so endearing. That dread-inducing tone, that uneasy feel of society hurtling toward this bleak, unstoppable future and an imaginative look at new sci-fi technology are all sorely lacking here. It’s even more surprising when you realize Years and Years, BBC One’s latest bleak dystopian drama, manages to nail the Black Mirror tone better than Black Mirror itself.
Perhaps its the weight of expectation hanging over this series, expecting quality of the same caliber as what’s come before. The episodes themselves are certainly enjoyable and do have some stand-out moments in them though. Andrew Scott’s acting is perfectly executed, helping to elevate the episode he features in prominently while Anthony Mackie’s subtle, but haunting, performance as Danny helps sell the troubled, internal conflict he faces. Unfortunately, it all comes back to that final episode again with Miley Cyrus overacting her lines and all too often devolving into a barrage of profanities and shouting.
Thankfully, the stylistic ticks of the season are still top notch here. The visual effects are impressive, some of the camera work is pretty slick and the editing in the first episode is excellent. From a stylistic point of view at least, Black Mirror does well to keep the same aesthetic and musical tones that made previous seasons so good.
Those going into this expecting another incredible season will no doubt be left a little disappointed. The first two episodes are pretty good to be fair, albeit a little tonally off-kilter, but have enough going for them to keep things interesting. The third episode takes this tone and replaces it with something that doesn’t even resemble Black Mirror. It’s akin to having a horror anthology and throwing a romantic comedy episode in the midst; it’s a bizarre choice and stands out more than it should. There’s enough here across the three episodes to make for an enjoyable watch, no doubt, but Black Mirror has a long way to go before it reaches the same lofty heights it’s achieved before.
Verdict - 6.5/10