“Black Mirror,” a show that explores the dark side of technological advancement, premiered its third season on Oct. 21. The show operates as an anthology, meaning that every episode has an individual plot that does not follow a continuous storyline. In many ways, “Black Mirror” draws inspiration from the cult classic show, “The Twilight Zone.” Both explore the dangers that subtly develop in society and delve into these underlying themes in a thought-provoking — often uncomfortable — manner.
The third season is the longest yet with six, one-hour long episodes that each tackle a different theme. The season opener, entitled “Nosedive,” takes a look into the consuming control that social media has on people. A great example of the tone that “Black Mirror” usually takes with its themes is through the episode that examines a world where everyone’s life is structured on a likeability point system.
People carry their phones everywhere and rate each interaction they have on a one-to-five star system. However, a person’s socioeconomic standing is determined by the credit rating they receive from these daily interactions. The episode follows a woman named Lacie, who attempts to increase her social standing by practicing her charm, wit and smile until people begin to rate her higher.
While it seems like a lighthearted story, it quickly becomes dark as it examines the devastating effects that relying on social media-driven gratification can have, as Lacie’s mental health deteriorates rapidly. The episode questions the importance that people place on instant gratification from social media, as it is shown to be a hollow system that destroys individuality.
The real standout of the season comes in the form of a quaint, coastal city named San Junipero. The titular episode follows a beautiful love story between two young women during the 1980s in the fictional city. One of the girls is an outgoing, social girl named Kelly who falls for her exact opposite in the form of a shy girl named Yorkie.
The two meet during a party that pays perfect homage to 80s genre films, with The Bangles playing and neon colors that splash the screen with a vibrant ecstasy as the heroines lock eyes. Kelly and Yorkie continue to see each other afterwards over the course of a few weeks, as they constantly run into each other at the perfect time and gradually end up spending more time together.
By the time they declare their true feelings for each other, a jarring tonal shift occurs as the story cuts to a different time, where the two characters are actually elderly women who upload their consciousness into a simulator that recreates whatever setting they desire. The network acts as a form of hospice, as patients about to die can experiment with the system and decide if they want to permanently upload their minds after they die.
What follows is a heartbreaking examination of the human desire for love, youth and longevity as both characters reach the end of their lives and commit to each other for eternity in the form of virtual Heaven. The episode closes with the two eventually finding each other as their younger selves again and they drive off from the beach into the sunset while the on-the-nose track, “Heaven Is A Place On Earth” plays. An unusually optimistic episode, “San Junipero” is actually one of the first stories so far to view technological developments in a positive light with the positive possibilities of innovation being the focal point.
For newcomers to the show, season three of “Black Mirror” offers an insightful, modern day version of “The Twilight Zone,” as it raises questions regarding the consequences of technological development. Fans will continue to appreciate the detail and complexity that drives the show’s stories, and they may even be shocked by the sudden optimism that drives “San Junipero.” By the time viewers have shut their laptops, they may see technology that has become all too commonplace in a different light.