At this point, I've worked my way through the entirety of Black Mirror's third season, and I'm pleased to report that Charlie Brooker's series has made an entirely successful leap to Netflix. Season three's got a few high points, a few bordering-on-middling episodes, and at least one all-timer. It's a classic season of Black Mirror, in other words, and I'd encourage all of you to check it out.
For right now, though, I'd like to discuss the season's all-timer episode, "San Junipero". It is, without exaggeration, one of the most powerful hours of television I've seen all year, and feels a lot like Black Mirror hitting a new high watermark.
What's interesting about all this is that "San Junipero" eschews much of the bleak, biting cynicism the show is known for. Everything else is the same (there's some tech-y stuff going on, there's a twist, there's quite a bit of heartache), but in jettisoning the show's standard-issue cruelty, Brooker delivers one of the biggest curveballs in Black Mirror's short history. "San Junipero" hit me like a freight train, and if the responses I've seen elsewhere are any indication, I'm not alone.
It's all so successful that one can't help but wonder (read: hope) if we'll see more of this dynamic at play in future seasons. I mean, don't get me wrong: I love Black Mirror's willingness to fly straight past bleak and deep into the realm of hopelessness. It doesn't always make for a pleasant viewing experience - it is, I have come to understand, quite the turn-off for some viewers - but I can't help but admire Brooker's commitment to an ugly idea (see also: "The National Anthem", "White Bear"). Maintaining that tone is vital to this series, and shouldn't be monkeyed with. All's I'm saying is: if Brooker wants to drop the occasional "San Junipero" bomb on us, I'd be totally down for it.
A lot of the conversation surrounding this episode has revolved around the emotional response it's yielded from Black Mirror die-hards. To use myself as an example: I'm not what you'd call an "easy crier". I can count on one hand the number of films (or TV shows) which have made me weep over the past decade, and my suspicion is that this is probably par for the course for the sort of person who'd be drawn in by Black Mirror's dark charms. But "San Junipero" made me full-on ugly cry, right there on my couch. While a Belinda Carlisle song was playing. I'm still stunned by that.
At the risk of sounding hyperbolic, the episode (directed by Owen Harris) is a full-on symphony, with each part being played to perfection: Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Mackenzie Davis turn in a pair of instantly iconic performances; Brooker's script unfolds with clockwork precision, doling out necessary bits of info and intriguing teases at just the right moments; the soundtrack sweeps over everything like a tidal wave of candy-colored nostalgia (the licensing fees on this episode had to be astronomical); and the story at hand - as heartrending as it is - is told gently, thoughtfully, and ends on a towering sense of hope.
I'm reluctant to discuss the plot in further detail. Everyone should go into "San Junipero" cold. But for those of you who have seen it, I wanted to provide a place for you to discuss your reaction to the ep (and, if it does you, your theories about the ending; I'm choosing to read those final moments hopefully, but it's my understanding that some viewers have a different take). Did this thing level you like it levelled me? Where do you think it ranks among the rest of Black Mirror's third season, or the show as a whole? And is it too early to award Brooker, Harris, Mbatha-Raw and Davis with the Emmy's we know they so richly deserve for this showcase?
Sounds off in the comments below, folks.