Black Mirror: San Junipero

This post contains spoilers for Black Mirror Season 3 Episode 4

Finally! This is a Black Mirror episode. Jesus, I was really worried there for a moment. Three below average episodes in a row, the FIRST three, no less. Very disturbing.

The best Black Mirror episodes take something from our current reality and blow it out of proportion but to logical ends in such a way that they raise more questions than answers. San Junipero does this by exploring two modern themes that are looming on our horizon: clinical immortality and the singularity.

Personally, I’m more interested in the ramifications of extending human life and arresting the aging process than the prospect of uploading my consciousness into a computer, but in a way, they both present us with the prospect of eternity and what to do with it.

Everything about human life is defined in terms of limited time. We go through phases and we behave differently during those phases because that’s what’s expected of us at that age. Childhood leads to puberty which leads to young adulthood which leads to the roaring twenties which deposits us into the more responsible thirties which drops us off in braking lane of our forties which eventually rewards us with the easy fifties and then it just turns to shit from there on out.

But we do certain things based on the level of commitment that will be required of us. Can you imagine being at your job for two hundred years? Staying married for two centuries? How would you keep it interesting? What would make you get up in the morning?

What are the religious implications for those who lean that way? If you believe that you only get your morality from a fear of Hell and promise of Heaven, what would you do if you knew you could put off judgement forever?

This episode is Charlie Brooker back at his best. He drops us into a strange looking environment without explanation and immediately begins to build complex, interesting characters that pull us into a story we don’t really understand but are eager to investigate.

My first guess was that this was some form of purgatory. People often talk about “just passing through” and the two bars, Tucker’s and The Quagmire, could stand in for the good place and the profoundly bad place.

Gugu Mbatha-Raw (whose boyfriend I want to be just because I love her name so much… and she’s gorgeous) plays Kelly to Mackenzie Davis’s oddly named and even more odd looking Yorkie.

Davis is quite beautiful and very feminine but they’ve given her an odd, almost masculine look here. Especially in the early stages, she wears androgynous outfits and questionable glasses that had me thinking she might be playing a trans character. This suspicion only deepened when she said, “You wouldn’t like me if you met me in real life.”

Brooker is smart enough to tell us a love story in front while alluding to a dystopian story just out of view. Kelly and Yorkie fall in and out and back into love several times while their story unspools and we get a great big old happy ending to a Belinda Carlisle tune to wrap it all up but it wouldn’t be a Black Mirror story if there wasn’t something with jagged edges stuck in your mind after the credits roll.

What about Wes, the eternal nerd forever standing by a bank of arcade machines hoping to find a girl he can impress with his Pac Man skills? What about the horn dog Harvey, who is planning to spend eternity chasing skirts and has already ended up in the Quagmire just trying to feel something?

What about all those dead people living for hundreds of years as idealized twenty-something versions of themselves? How are they going to handle eternity? How are they going to keep it new? Or are they just going to pull the big red handle at some point and eject?

At the end, we see Kelly and Yorkie driving off into the sunset in a red convertible and it feels good and we’re happily tapping our toes to Belinda Carlisle’s “Heaven Is A Place On Earth” (bit on the nose, there) but in the back of our minds we’re left to wonder just how long they’ll be together.

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