TV review: Black Mirror, Netflix
- Brian Donaldson
- 5 June 2019
Series 5 of the dystopian anthology show fails to fully smash it
Producer Annabel Jones and writer Charlie Brooker have long insisted that we view Black Mirror as a show about people rather than zeroing in on rampant technology and its attendant madness. It is, of course, a show about both. The decline and fall of Bryce Dallas Howard's wannabe maid-of-honour in 'Nosedive' went hand-in-hand with the dire vision of people giving each other star ratings which ultimately determined the kind of job and house they would end up with; the jump scare-filled 'Playtest' has more than a few nods towards 'Resident Evil'; and the standalone episode, 'Bandersnatch', was as interactive a TV moment as you're likely to have experienced all decade.
In this batch of three new episodes, the first signs of treading water have seeped into the Black Mirror universe. While as entertaining as ever, the tales are rarely unexpected and don't carry the tension of 'The National Anthem' or 'Shut Up and Dance' or emotional heft of 'Be Right Back' and 'San Junipero'. In 'Smithereens', Andrew Scott is a vengeful taxi driver, while Miley Cyrus is a depressed pop idol with a robot alter ego in 'Rachel, Jack and Ashley, Too'. In arguably the best of this threesome, Anthony Mackie and Yahya Abdul-Mateen II are old gamer pals who catch up years later to play a new hyper-VR game that takes reality to a new personal level in 'Striking Vipers'.
As if highlighting that inspiration has left the Black Mirror building (hopefully temporarily), Andrew Scott has an apparently central scene where he rants and raves about people being obsessed with their devices. But when the nail is positioned correctly, it can still hit an issue flush in the head: again in 'Smithereens', a tech company appears to be at least two steps ahead of the police with crucial data-gathering during a tense siege. Like all the best bits of Black Mirror, this should make you shudder at such a worrying yet wholly believable scenario.
Episodes watched: 3 of 3
Black Mirror is available on Netflix, Wed 5 Jun.