Why Black Mirror is having an identity crisis

Oh, black mirror. What are we going to do with you? A sci-fi anthology series from the mind of the creator Charlie Brooker, he started in 2011 and caused a stir. Dark but incisive, it showed how the terrors of an increasingly technological world have intertwined with our own lives. Just as we shape technology, we are also shaped by it to the same extent. It’s a work of speculative fiction that became one of the most-watched shows of the genre once it was picked up by streaming service Netflix in 2015.

Since its most recent fifth season aired, there was a lot of uncertainty about what was to come next and if it would continue following disputes over who actually had the rights to it. All of that was put to bed with today’s news that development would begin on the sixth season with Brooker helming the ship once again. Of course, there is still a lot to settle from its fifth season.

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According to early reports, the hope is to increase the number of episodes made and also to increase their production budget to make them more cinematic. It’s not entirely unexpected as the series has already embarked on making a feature film with the choose-your-own story that was Bandersnatch. Whereas it was certainly an inventive take on the story that tried to chart its own course, it didn’t reach the same emotional heights as the seasons that preceded it. In addition to delaying the production of the fifth season, it also proved fortuitous as everything that followed was largely lacking in emotional impact. It’s all part of how the show is going through a bit of an identity crisis, wanting to become more of a cinematic event while losing sight of the best parts of its debut that made it so beloved. It gets more stars and gets bigger without being as well-written as it was at the start. It’s worth remembering that there was never any mention of star power or dollar signs of what happened there. It was more about the strong stories at the center and what they were saying about us.


There’s been a lingering sense that the show has gradually softened the darker aspects of its stories. Even as someone who found some redeeming qualities in the episode “Striking Vipers”, especially when it came to performance, it all felt safe and predictable with a genuine misunderstanding of what he actually wanted to be at the time. where it all ended. It was without the same grit and unwavering sense of dread that made episodes like “Shut Up and Dance” stick with you long after the credits roll. Season 5 had held back, playing with far too much emphasis on digestibility in the way it abandoned the more sinister subtlety that had been woven throughout the series before it. The intensity and insights we expected evaporated in favor of an inexplicably mundane storytelling that felt more like after-school specials than spooky reflections of our future.


Do you even remember the other two episodes of season 5? One was the confusing and winding “Smithereens” where a taxi driver takes a man hostage. It didn’t even really look like a black mirror episode, playing more like a laborious crime drama that didn’t end up working like that either. He tried to block some later thinking about the technology to make it more like what we expected, even though it all came across as forced and poorly constructed. The other was “Rachel, Jack and Ashley Too,” an episode about stardom that provided no specific observations before coming to a convenient conclusion that robbed it of any payoff. They would both be forgettable if they weren’t so completely forced and easy. They marked a real low in the series, becoming the lowest rated and least engaging episodes to date. Yes, the expectations were high, but it still turned out to be a real disappointment, even compared to the show’s most mediocre episodes. At least these episodes were going for big swings. These just felt like they were checking their swing, limiting their aspirations to the point of being wandering and almost completely absent from what made everything work before.


It’s all part of how the show’s current trajectory has been restricted to the point of being superficial, introducing what could be some interesting new ideas but never really taking them to the impactful depths it has the potential to deliver. ‘reach. It’s something that could and should be fixed, mostly by going back to its roots. Whether it’s the sublime “San Junipero” or the deeply unsettling “White Christmas,” the show is at its best when it doesn’t hold back from leaning fully into the sci-fi genre. The most recent release lost sight of that, reducing its more creative flair and sinister tone to next to nothing. Regardless of how the new seasons increase in budget, the writing cogs are what needs to be prioritized in whatever comes next. If he still lacks the imagination that made his previous seasons so striking, then all the money in the world won’t solve the problems that haunt him. Throwing more resources at something while playing it safe will only make everything feel like a higher budget show that remains creatively bankrupt in what matters most: a sense of inventiveness. Without it, we’ll once again be left with forgettable episodes that never find their footing and only fall flat on their face.


Indeed, the show is at its best when fully immersed in darkness on the other side of the black mirror. The episodes that remain etched forever in our minds are those that do not turn away from them, leaping with abandon into the unknowns of the future that we create for ourselves. Even the most futuristic ones find a compelling core in reflecting the truths that are already taking shape in our time. The new season of black mirror can’t be afraid to be both bold and dark like it was in its early days, delving into the ugliest aspects of ourselves without blinking an eye. It was a disappointment how recent episodes seemed to constantly flicker and look away, fixing their attention on more superficial stories. It is better to aspire to larger, evocative themes that can fail than not to try at all. To recapture the sense of creativity it once had, Season 6 should be ready to let loose more and embrace its bold origins.