It’s another year and there is another season of Black Mirror. This will look at some of themes within the first episode of the fifth season of Black Mirror. In order to do that, there will be spoilers so consider yourself warned!
The nature of desire
A theme, which seems to be threaded through this entire episode is desire. Mackie plays Danny as a man who is removed from every situation that he is in. Even when he’s physically present, his mind is somewhere unreachable. This makes him a difficult character to empathise with and contributes to an inability to care about the consequences of the character’s actions. His relationship with his wife oozes inertia. He has a family and a stable relationship with his wife, Theo. The fighting game Striking Vipers allows him to explore his desires in an environment, which is outside of ‘real’ life. Theo too longs for a break in her mundane married existence. She considers going home with a man at a bar and giving in to her desires during the episode.
Karl is a much more oblique character in this respect. He’s successful, he has a beautiful girlfriend and can access any thrill he could think to try, What he finds most satisfying is the relationship that he finds with his friend in Striking Vipers, he playing as a female avatar, Roxette and Danny playing a male character called Lance. When he tries to convince Danny to start playing the game again with him (and having sex), he tells him that he’s tried it with other people in the game and that nothing has been like his and Danny’s relationship. This alongside the failed kiss between the two in reality shortly after convey a lot about Karl and Danny’s relationship. When they both said that the kiss held nothing for them, it felt unconvincing. At least on Karl’s end, we can see that this assertion that he felt nothing is untrue. At the end of the episode, Karl can be seen alone and keenly awaiting his annual rendezvous with Danny in Striking Vipers. Is Danny’s refusal to acknowledge a more concrete relationship with Karl a sign of his lack of attraction towards his friend? Or is it a more deeply embedded inability for Danny to address his desires in life? Perhaps it is only within an unreal environment that he can express himself truly.
Can technology save your relationship?
It seems as if what this episode addresses in many ways is the way that people feel unfulfilled and unhappy in any possible kind of relationship configuration that is possible in life. Even if it’s good, some need or desire is not being met. Black Mirror’s answer to this age old quandary is technology. Technology can fill the gaps in ourselves that ‘real’ relationships will always fail to meet. Danny and Karl obviously feel the effects of their virtual relationship in their ‘real’ lives. Does the fact that their relationship occurs in a virtual environment make it less ‘real’? It doesn’t seem that way given the ways that it affects their lives. It also clearly equates Danny’s and Karl’s virtual relationship with Theo’s future one night stand at the end of the episode. This episode doesn’t give us any simple answers about the nature of love or desire. The end felt contrived, their life choices felt half baked at best. The episode fell short of making any grander point about the role of technology in our lives, a point that many other Black Mirror episodes successfully make in a startling array of original and beautiful ways.
Black Mirror: Season 5 Episode 1 Striking Viper