Our daily living situation changes seemingly every day lately, with the latest order from Oregon Gov. Kate Brown requiring Oregonians stay home unless absolutely necessary. While things can seem sort of apocalyptic, a Netflix original series takes society to the next level.
Black Mirror is in its fifth season, and each episode tells a unique, stand-alone story about a society that features a technology unfamiliar to us, yet some aren’t too far-fetched. Black Mirror has perfected the art of the twist, often when the technology is abused or takes a dark turn. Sometimes, however the twist is simply that what you believed to be true was wrong the whole time.
The episode of Black Mirror that messed up my mind the most was in season three, episode two titled “Playtest.” The episode synopsis states “An American traveler short on cash signs up to test a revolutionary new gaming system, only to discover the thrills are a little too real.”
You’re endeared to the America traveler from the moment he meets a girl and he woos her with his quirky, care-free personality (After all, I guess you do have to be a little quirky and care-free to backpack across the world without much of a plan or money). As much as I’m dying to spoil the 180 the story does in the last minute, I’ll let you experience the mind trip it will take you on for yourself. I had to watch the hour-long episode for a second time, this time with my college roommate so she could experience the floor dropping out from under her too, to grasp the extent of the finale plot element.
Each episode in this series has its own merits and qualities that make it a unique story about a society with a different relationship with technology. Some are happier than others. Some are gorier than others. I will say, though, this isn’t particularly a kid-friendly show. Some, not all, episodes feature some explicit content and some of the themes are mature.
In 2018, Netflix released a cutting-edge new “episode” (I guess you could call it an episode) of Black Mirror titled “Bandersnatch.” Black Mirror the series originated telling stories of foreign technology on a platform familiar to us: an episode on a streaming platform. But for “Bandersnatch,” grab your remote or pull it up on a computer. “Bandersnatch” takes the form of a Choose Your Own Adventure book but with moving pictures instead of fixed words in a book.
It’s an interesting dance, playing through the episode as the storyline escalates. As much as you, the viewer, are made to feel that you are in charge and controlling the story, some of the choices lead down roads you never expected nor wanted to go down. You’re in it now, though, and the only way out is through.
Depending in your choices, this episode could keep you busy for quite a while, playing each route through to its dead-end, then going back and taking a left instead of a right.
I’ll admit that episode one of the Black Mirror series is, in my opinion, the worst episode of the series. I’d argue that you wouldn’t miss anything if you skipped it entirely as each episode has nothing to do with the episodes before it.
Still, if I had the time I’d sit down and go through every episode of the series with you as each one is worth the rollercoaster it will take you on. Black Mirror doesn’t shove the idea that technology is bad or is ruining society down your throat like you might expect from the show’s premise. As I watched each episode, for the most part I saw the value in each new innovation featured and the appeal to integrate it into the world as much as they had. Instead, I think the show teaches us of the fragility of such innovation and the ease at which it can be abused or allowed to go too far. As dark as the show can seem at times, I’d argue some characters were changed for the better by the way their stories unraveled.