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"Striking Vipers" - Black Mirror Review

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If you’re not someone who notices and/or cares about this sort of thing, it should come as no surprise that this episode was directed by Owen Harris – the same guy who did San Junipero.  Striking Vipers, just like Junipero, feels “different” from the majority of Black Mirror episodes; namely, a relatively happy ending.  Your opinion of the episode is likely the same as it was for Junipero: if your main reason for watching is the twists and turns that leave you saying “holy shit” at the end with a sense of fear and dread, then Vipers probably isn’t your cup of tea.  And that’s totally fine.  I have San Junipero at #2 on my all time BM Power Rankings, so you know where I stand: I like when the show switches it up and tries something different.  How many times can you watch the same repeated formula before you start knowing exactly where every story is going and get bored?

While Vipers never even comes close to matching the emotional impact and atmosphere of Junipero, it definitely wasn’t bad. The best part about Black Mirror, to me, is that it never fits perfectly into the “technology is evil” box – if it did, we’d be watching a strictly sci-fi show where we know every plot, no matter how many twists, was going to end up with our phones being BAD, our computer being BAD, our social media accounts and government surveillance and reliance on the internet being BAD,  evil robots conquering humans.  To me, Black Mirror shows the problems and conflicts and undercurrents that we currently have in the present world, using technology and our black screens as the vehicle to drive that discussion.  Each scenario is SLIGHTLY exaggerated and futuristic – but it’s a future that we can absolutely believe is a possibility.

Vipers is a “future” that is not only believable, but is pretty much already here.  They literally just opened a “VR store” around the corner from the office last week.   We’re one hack away from getting to have sex that we can actually feel in there.  So instead of focusing so much time and energy on establishing a new world, Vipers is able to just tell a story about people – a story that, for once, doesn’t end badly.

And frankly, sometimes it’s just nice to know that maybe there’s some hope for people.  That we’re capable of adjusting and adapting to technology and how it defines our world, and capable of using that adaptation to work on and fix our human relationships and connections instead of just plugging ourselves in and drifting off into a Matrix virtual reality.

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I’m not qualified to speak to this, but I would just imagine that this episode would strongly resonate with anyone who is either currently confused about their sexual identity or has gone through that confusion in the past.  The way Danny and Karl are doing this new unfamiliar thing without even really knowing what THIS is – is it “gay”?  If the literal physical aspects of the sex are straight, but the mind and behavior of the other person is the same-sex, which one takes precedence?  I guess leaving it open to interpretation parallels the real lives of real people living through this, where gender is fluid and “labels” are unimportant and dangerous.

In the way I watched it, with my experiences and relatively confirmed sexuality, I would have preferred it going in a bleaker direction for entertainment purposes, with a bigger twist and “holy shit” moment.  This is pretty fucked up, and I’m SUPER happy it didn’t happen, but I won’t lie, at one point, after the son kicked him in the shin, I considered the twist might be the kid finding his dad’s (or even worse, his dad’s friend’s) little VR button thing and entering the game and…you know.  I mean, they did focus on the kid a lot.

But instead, as opposed to that superrrr dark twist possibility, it ended with a rare happy ending for everyone involved.  Danny and Theo made the compromise necessary to save their marriage instead of throwing it all away (it wasn’t just Danny – they set Theo up very well to ALSO badly need that compromise), which is really what makes any relationship work.

(Well I guess it wasn’t very happy for Karl.  Unless he got some super effective counseling in the past year, he was a virtual sex addict who only got to fuck once a year now and in the meantime turned into the creepy cat dude wearing homeless Kanye hats.  But at least he had a big smile on his face when he finally got to bone his friend.)

Overall, it was a solid episode, that gets points for tackling a complicated issue in a very realistic way using a different formula, and points taken away for not doing what it was doing as well as San Junipero did.



-I didn’t like how they blatantly said Mr. Mackaroo has “no respect for his environment.”  That’s the kind of clue that you make people look up on Wikipedia to decipher for themselves.  And if Mr. Mackaroo is not a real thing then you gotta pick something that is.  I don’t like being dumbed-down to.

-“I fucked a polar bear”

-I’m a huge Anthony Mackie stan, and while his role may seem pretty easy and low key on the surface, I think he did an absolutely perfect job of conveying just how beaten down and bored he is with his life in not a long period of time.  His clothes, his posture, his facial expressions, his line delivery – everything he did made everyone relate to exactly what he was feeling.  Even the quick 3 second scene of him putting the garbage in the bins sums up everything you need to know about Danny.

-Is it cheating if your sidepiece is a video game character?  Or is it really “just like porn?”

-Phenomenal acting by the female characters.  Also, Theo was a sneaky rocket…

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…and Roxette – well there was nothing sneaky about that.

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Looks like SOMEBODY listened to Call Her Daddy last week!

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