‘Black Mirror’ Season 5 is easily the weakest so far (TV review)

W

ith the failed experiment of the “choose your own adventure” movie “Bandersnatch” in the rear view, I was happy to hear “Black Mirror” Season 5 (Netflix) was finally on the horizon. I was very disappointed, however, to learn it’s only three episodes. With only a little over three hours of new material, my expectations were high for some quality episodes. Unfortunately, that’s not what we get. This is by far the weakest season yet.

(Spoilers follow.)

“Striking Vipers”

Starring Anthony Mackie, “Striking Vipers” is a story about two longtime friends in different places in their lives (one is married with kids, one is an eternal bachelor) who find time together playing a cutting-edge virtual reality fighting game. After some initial fighting, they end up kissing, and things get awkward. Over the course of the next few times playing, they basically end up solely using the experience to have wild sex with each other, and eventually fall in love. Is it cheating? Is it gay? Is it real? These are the topics explored, and although the story might sound good on paper, it comes off rather boring.

“Smithereens”

In the strongest episode of the season, an intern at a large tech company called Smithereens (basically Facebook) is taken hostage by a man who is intent on speaking with the owner. Most of the episode is a police standoff while the hostage-taker waits for his demands to be met. There is a good deal of technology explored as Smithereens has access to more information than the police do, and there is a good amount of tension and intrigue about the hostage-taker’s goal. The only complaint I have is that at the end of the episode, we are left to guess what actually happens to some of the characters. I would have preferred more of a closed story.

“Rachel, Jack and Ashley Too”

In another weak episode, Ashley (Miley Cyrus) is a huge pop star managed by her money-hungry aunt. In an attempt to cash in, the aunt releases the Ashley Too doll, which is like an at-home version of Ashley who can speak and interact with kids — like Siri with a personality. Long story short, the evil aunt ends up doing some bad things and the Ashley Too doll technology is unlocked to reveal a clone of the real Ashley’s full consciousness. At that point, a rescue mission ensues with two kids and a doll/robot. It’s about as bad as it sounds.