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 Booker 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 Rachel, Jack and Ashley Too
Today’s episode shows both sides of fame by following a Teen Idol, Ashley O (Miley Cyrus) and Rachel Goggins (Angourie Rice) a lonely teen who idolizes the pop star. While Rachel only sees the bright side of Ashley’s life, we soon discover that fame is not all that it is cracked up to be. However, when their two worlds collide through an electronic toy, they both discover that what they want isn’t necessarily what they need.
Is it a ‘Good’ Episode?
On the surface, this is a fun episode about fandom and the price of fame modernizing the classic teen adventure from films like Adventures in Babysitting. While it manages to excel in those lights, Black Mirror is not known to be a series that is just there to present a fun story, but is one that is known to shed light on the dark parts of technology and this is where the episode fails.
Don’t get me wrong, there is a lot to unpack in this entry, from the implications of using a full brain scan of a person to simulate an AI in a toy (as seen in Ashley Too also played by Miley Cyruss) to the dangers of teen idolatry in fake idols (as seen in Rachel’s infatuation with Ashley O). Even though the episode touches on these things, and much more, Charlie Brooker never fully commits to any single idea, instead choosing to use a little of all of the ideas to create a teen comedy romp.
Acting wise, everyone was terrific, the two sisters Rachel and Jack (Angourie Rice & Madison Davenport respectively) were thoroughly convincing as teenage girls diverging in their personalities with the loss of their mother while Susan Pourfar was tremendous as Ashley O’s over controlling (and criminally negligent) Aunt/Manager Catherine. The real surprise was that of Miley Cyrus returning to the screen in a very meta role that mirrored her time as teen pop star Hannah Montana. With how utterly convincing she was I have to wonder if she was not channeling a little of her own personal experience of playing two roles in real life. Nevertheless, she was terrific and frankly, I would not mind seeing her in more films if she can keep up this pace.
Now, one interesting bit is the music of the episode. What good is a show about a teen pop star without the kitschy tunes? What Charlie Brooker did here was nothing short of genius, instead of rehashing old pop songs, with permission from Trent Reznor, he reworked classic Nine Inch Nails songs into pop tunes in order to make a clever parallel to Ashley O’s hidden and oppressed desires. The songs themselves are ‘fake’ versions of much darker and heavier tunes giving the character of Ashley O a much deeper meaning.
While the episode failed to fully explore the darker implications of several key plot points, the story itself is a fun one. I would not say it was worthy of a Black Mirror episode as it really does not fit the overall tone of the series but it would have been fine as a stand alone film or one off on it’s own.
Let’s just say, when you introduce the idea of a persons personality being trapped behind a limiter in a whole line of kids toys, THAT is the story you follow. THAT is the dark side of technology I want to know more about.
Till next time,
Late To The Game 6/13/2019
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