TV Reviews

Thoughts on Black Mirror S5 E3; Rachel, Jack and Ashley Too

via Netflix

Spoilers ahead.

After finishing this episode, I initially felt underwhelmed. Then I sat and thought about it for a while and realized it is my favorite episode of what I believe was a stellar season. I think Black Mirror benefits from only having three episodes max.

The thing that got to me most about this episode was its disturbing parallels to Miley Cyrus’s own life. She talked about drawing from her own experiences as Hannah Montana on Disney Channel in a recent interview. It’s horrific to realize how capitalism will choke the life out of teen pop idols and, in turn, their young and impressionable fanbases without batting an eye.

The same can be said for how this episode dissects empowerment feminism. “Girl power” as a phrase has become so asinine and meaningless. What does that mean? It is supposed to be about strength, but the point is that it only goes skin-deep. Distract the masses by making feminism palatable and male-friendly. Make it harmless and marketable, so the real issues like racism, pervasive sexism, trans rights, and abortion are not in focus.

It’s easy for corporations to slap shallow messages of inspiration on t-shirts and sell it as them being “part of the change” when in reality they’re doing nothing but milking a cash cow, a fad. Wherein women will continue to suffer all over the world because this shallow form of empowerment is virtually meaningless.

As an episode, I liked the way this episode unfolded quite a bit, but I admit I still felt some aspects of it fell flat. I’m pretty confused about the entire sub-plot regarding their dad and the pest control. It seemed superfluous. I mean if it was just about their dad being a pest guy and having the truck, fine, but why add the extra scenes?

It’s a small gripe though, in an otherwise exceptional hour of television.

Also not to be a total hypocrite but can they please release all the Ashley Too songs in this… I need them.

TV Reviews

Thoughts on Black Mirror S5 E1; Striking Vipers

via Netflix

The latest bundle of Black Mirror episodes begins with the compelling tale of two friends who forge a new connection acting on latent affections for one another through the online world of virtual reality video gaming.

Spoilers ahead.

Karl and Danny have been best friends for years but they lost touch as they grew up and moved on. They’re reunited by a fighting style video game called Striking Vipers. In it, Danny plays the character Lance and Karl takes on Roxette. These are their standard choices. But as this is the world of Black Mirror, they are actually transported into the game (through technology similar to that seen in USS Callister) and able to embody the characters physically.

It doesn’t take long for their fight to turn into something sexual. Clearly this game has become an escape for them in multiple ways. Karl feels freedom to explore his gender identity after feeling dissastisfied and disconnected with the women in his life.

Danny is beginning to understand he may be repressing romantic feelings for his former best friend.

All of this culminates with the two men trying to figure out if their fictional bond can transfer over into real life – but neither is actually able to embrace what they truly feel for one another, or even how they feel about themselves.

The ending is deceptively happy. Yes, Danny and Karl continue their virtual relationship, and even Theo, Danny’s wife and the third wheel in their once strong trio friendship, gets to experiment with exciting new men outside of her boring married life with Danny. But no one gets to be themselves.

Theo has to pretend to be someone else at the bar, and both men can only be themselves so long as it is fiction and doesn’t crossover into the real world. They’ll always be left wanting, even if they’re unable to face it.

Unfortunately, while Striking Vipers is a great episode and I liked it, there was a level of heart missing that holds it back from reaching its full potential. Clearly, this is the yin to San Junipero’s yang, but it doesn’t feel as if the idea as fully realized as the former.

Film/Television

Black Mirror – Bandersnatch – Review: You’re In Control

After all the secrecy, theories, and buzz surrounding Netflix’s interactive “Choose Your Own” adventure episode of Black Mirror, “Bandersnatch” has finally arrived.

The idea of creating an immersive experience through which viewers will become an integrated part of the story they’re watching play out, is a novel one, albeit one that has been conquered before. The popular Telltale video game series isn’t unlike what Netflix was aiming to do with this special episode but it does open a door to an entire new avenue of storytelling and offer alterations to the television medium as a whole.

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