A few days ago the news dropped that season 5 of Black Mirror was ready to roll, and today Netflix released a handful of trailers detailing what we can expect in the new season. Landing on 5 June, the three new previews may few in number but promise to be monumental in stature. Featuring the unexpectedly diverse talents of Andrew Scott, Miley Cyrus and Anthony Mackie, to say that I’m hyped for it would be just a tiny bit of an understatement.
I’ve been a fan of Black Mirror for some time, but after the experimental choose-your-own-adventure Bandersnatch was released in December, the anticipation was only heightened for another set of expertly crafted episodes. Now, I’m pleased that the details for the fifth season of Charlie Brooker’s nihilistic take on an alternative reality have officially been launched, tackling some of the prevalent topics in society today and warping them into disturbing, thought-provoking fantasies that might just make you stop before ordering that Uber or flicking on the TV.
Official synopsis: ‘A cab driver with an agenda becomes the centre of attention on a day that rapidly spirals out of control.’
Starring: Andrew Scott, Damson Idris, Topher Grace
Why is it that we can’t disassociate Andrew Scott from playing psychopaths? First Moriarty, then Hamlet — there’s a crazy gleam in his eye that seems he’s just made for subversive roles like this. Scott is untameable as an unflinchingly distrurbed cab driver — and if it wasn’t for that accent, you’d think twice before hopping in for a ride. Anyone listening to the soothing notes of a meditation soundtrack through an AI-enhanced car isn’t to be trusted; it’s a golden rule of the screen.
Soon enough, he’s picking up an unsuspecting victim and laying down his ulterior motives on the road, taking a hostage from the company Smithereen. While all this is going on, we’re left to infer a huge media storm taking place the same day — observant viewers will have noted the #snoutrage during a breaking news segment on a passing screen, harking back to the very first episode of Black Mirror, The National Anthem. The intersection between these dark storylines promise to unfold in due course and I’d like to see how previous episodes are brought into line within the Black Mirror universe.
Rachel, Jack, and Ashley, Too
Official synopsis: A lonely teenager yearns to connect with her favorite pop star – whose charmed existence isn’t quite as rosy it appears…
Starring: Miley Cyrus, Angourie Rice, Madison Davenport
From the trailer for Rachel, Jack, and Ashley, Too, we learn two things. One: these screenwriters really like the Oxford comma. And two: media is almost certainly always toxic. I like to think that the screenwriters have deliberately played on Cyrus’ erratic career, casting her in a role where the idea of being a role model and companion is dissected in grotesque ways. While Cyrus’ popstar announces a friendly and unassuming toy version of herself to her fans, this is soon revealed to be a ploy, with dark figures brooding on the ‘fragility’ of the situation and a certain ‘dose’ to be administered. All the while, eery cries of ‘Believe in yourself’ ring out as a voiceover to the footage, somewhat contrapuntal to the clinical images.
This episode seems to show how others can prey on the vulnerabilities of young, impressionable teenagers, satire being one of the best ways to examine the damaging influence of the media. There are funny moments, for sure — a tiny Miley Cyrus robot providing some comic respite — but they’re likely to be mixed up in heavier subtext around the themes of AI, privacy and personal protection in a media-saturated society.
Official synopsis: Two estranged college friends reunite in later life, triggering a series of events that could alter their lives forever.
Cast: Anthony Mackie, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Nicole Beharie, Pom Klementieff, Ludi Lin
Of all the trailers, this one seems the most cryptic. There are some clear echoes of Hang the DJ, indicating a highly controlled reality, even when it comes down to choices of partners and families. The crooning soundtrack should signal warning bells, and as much as I want to see Anthony Mackie happy and successful in love and life, I just know something’s going to go awry. Sure, I totally believe ‘nothing is going on’ and a second later we glimpse a set of crazy enhanced cyber eyes… that’s totally normal.
As for the title, I think it’s perhaps too early to say what it means exactly — whether it’s to do with a fiery temptation or otherwise. As with every other episode in the catalogue to date, I imagine we’ll be kept guessing and need to infer it from subtleties in the story. It’s what makes Black Mirror so unique and still one of the smartest and intuitive shows streaming right now.
Clearly there’s only a certain amount one can accurately infer from trailers, as substantial as they might be. But on the whole, I’m looking forward to the new instalments. For those (like me) who’ve lapsed a little in their Black Mirror viewing, seasons 1-4 are all available on Netflix and are worth catching up on before the beginning of June.
I dislike the term ‘bingeworthy’, but Black Mirror offers something a bit more palatable than your average drama and is definitely worth a couple of hours’ attention. If you want to know where to start, you can go from the beginning, but my personal recommendation is to do a whistle-stop tour via Nosedive, Hang the DJ, USS Callister and, of course, Bandersnatch. We don’t know what the entirety of the fifth season holds, but if earlier episodes are anything to go by, the erudite screenwriting is bound to send us into spirals of existential questioning all in the name of entertainment. What more could you want to start off your summer?