Black Mirror; The Twilight Zone of Our Generation

Photo courtesy of Feline Dacat, Wikipedia

As technology has become further and further integrated into each and every aspect of our lives, humanity optimistically looks forward to the different ways it may make our day-to-day lives easier. However, the moral dilemmas technological advances can cause are often overlooked.

The third and latest season of the British series “Black Mirror” debuted exclusively on Netflix in America last Friday. It explores the ways technology can make everyday people miserable, much like its previous seasons did, by painting a grim picture of the future while simultaneously mocking our modern internet-obsessed culture. However, the latest season sets itself apart from earlier episodes by exploring a wider variety of emotions and messages than it has ever dared to before. At times, it even becomes genuinely heartwarming and sappy.

The show plays out like a season of “The Twilight Zone” written by tech-savvy conspiracy theorists. Twists and turns act as the series’ bread and butter and are played out to great effect. But this commitment to plot twists occasionally makes episodes predictable; even newcomers to the show may feel that the show falls into a very strict formula at times. However, the show always has a few standout moments.

With a runtime of an hour or longer per episode, each episode of “Black Mirror” feels like a short film. This is not an inaccurate take on the show’s format; no two episodes share actors or settings, only themes.

The show hammers home in about every episode that as the world becomes more consumed by technology, the search for something that is not artificial becomes ever more difficult. The first episode of the season, “Nosedive,” explores this in a world where one’s social media score plays a direct role into ones’ access to public services and a right to discounts on expensive items. It also is used as a form of social control, as anyone can rate anyone down for whatever reasons they choose.

Interestingly, this idea is not just something a writer conjured up one day, but instead a unique take on a similar social media program that China will be mandating every one of its citizens to sign up for by the year 2020. This ability to draw from real world influences and recontextualize them into an engaging and twisted narrative is surely the series’ biggest strength.

For a seasoned “Black Mirror” fan, the biggest fear coming into this season was things getting old. As mentioned before, the series knows its strengths and themes and sticks to them for the most part. However, this season is also the most experimental the show has gotten, and all of this culminates in the high point of the season, the episode “San Junipero.”

“San Junipero” ditches the show’s established formula, and instead decides to look at the beautiful and hopeful sides of technological advancements. It even touches on a few spiritual issues, which is an unexpected but welcome touch. It follows two women willing to experiment with their respective sexuality, and the issues that come along with doing so. Somber, hopeful and even inspiring, it is truly an episode that is not to be missed.

Called this generation’s version of “The Twilight Zone” by some, the third season of “Black Mirror” is a worthy successor to its previous seasons and it does not stay stuck in the past. That's a good thing for a show focusing on the horrors of impending technological advances.