I love a good anthology series and Black Mirror is certainly no exception. After a recommendation from a friend, I dove into the British speculative science fiction series with mild trepidation. I had been warned that the first episode, The National Anthem, was of an acquired taste and, it certainly was interesting. Determined not to be put off by the quite sensitive nature of the pilot, I was please to discover that the first episode was not entirely indicative of the rest of the series. The series itself is about the dangers of technology and their extreme use in the future, or even the near present. The black mirror refereed to in the title, well most of us carry one around with us. Look at your phone without turning it on and you will understand.
After three mind blowing seasons it looked like Charlie Brooker’s incredible modern Twilight Zone had ended, but then Netflix stepped in and gave Brooker a chance to keep the series alive. Now with two additional seasons and a choose your own adventure movie under it’s belt, this is one that I look forward to with every new entry.
So, without further delay, lets talk about the latest entry, Season Five and the episode Striking Vipers.
Two old friends, Danny and Karl (played by Anthony Mackie and Yahya Abdul-Mateen II), reunite in a virtual world and soon discover that the virtual world of their past has serious repercussions in their real lives.
Is it a ‘Good’ Episode?
Video Games. They have become as much a part of our culture as novels, movies and even the myths of old. They have become our hobbies, our additions and, in many ways, our new ways to connect socially with others.
Recently VR technology has returned with a bang, providing people with an even more in depth experience with the virtual worlds of video games. Imagine the use that could come out of a fully immersive VR experience. You could explore new worlds, fight along side epic heroes, perform great feats and incredible tasks, or, as it would be used in most cases…for sexual experiences.
This is where the episode begins it’s exploration into not only the VR technology but also the deeper exploration of sexuality and sexual identity. Danny and Karl are old friends who never imagined that their relationship as friends could or would evolve into a sexual relationship. However, when they begin to play a new immersive version of their favorite fighting game, Striking Vipers, they soon develop a sexual relationship as their in-game avatars (Danny as Lance (Ludi Lin) and Karl as Roxette (Pom Klementieff)) in the virtual world. Soon they both begin to wonder if this means they have a deeper relationship or, if they are simply engaging in a form of virtual pornography. Things get even more difficult when the two begin regularly ‘playing the game’ at the cost of their relationships with their hetero partners in the real world.
As with many of the Black Mirror episodes, this entry explores deeper meanings in life through the use of an extreme technology. For both Danny and Karl they begin to have difficulty separating reality from fantasy with Karl realizing he is in love with his best friend while Danny desperately tries to deny his desires while hoping to keep his family from falling apart. These feelings come to a head when neither of them are entirely sure if they are in love with their avatars who are engaging in a simulated hetero relationship or with one another. I won’t get into the details so not to spoil the story for you but let’s just say, as with most relationships, the answer is much more complicated than a simple yes or no.
Not only does it explore sexuality but also addresses the concept of virtual porn addiction and infidelity. For Danny, this becomes a big issue as he and his wife, Theo (played by Nicole Beharie) are trying to expand their family with another child. They soon begin to have issues when Danny becomes addicted to the virtual sex in the game and finds more satisfaction with Roxette/Karl than with his physical partner. However, this raises the question, is physical intimacy the limit to infidelity or does infidelity include emotional and virtual actions? Could addiction to Pornography be considered infidelity? While it never gives a direct answer to these questions, we are left asking them and that is why Black Mirror exists. It is here to make us think and this is certainly an episode that succeeds in that effort.
This is a solid entry into the mythos that is Black Mirror. While it does fall somewhat short into exploring the nature of sexual relations and identity, it manages to open the door for questions about what these things mean. Whether your reaction was one of revulsion or acceptance in Danny and Karl’s virtual relationship, it tells you a lot about who you are and where you stand on the matter of sexuality in the modern age. With an excellent cast and a thought provoking story, this promises to be a solid season of Black Mirror.
Late To The Game 6/6/2019
Thanks for reading the SciFi TV Review I look forward to discussing the rest of the series with you!
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