When Season 1 of Black Mirror premiered in 2011 on Channel 4, it was met with critical acclaim. Earning an impressive 97% on Rotten Tomatoes, the series was unsurprisingly renewed for a second season. When the show moved to Netflix in 2015, it was poised to become a worldwide phenomenon. Succeeding ratings reflected this. Seasons 2 through 4 also enjoyed their share of positive reviews, and are likewise “certified fresh” on Rotten Tomatoes. But the show experienced a ratings hiccup with their interactive release, Black Mirror: Bandersnatch. This small blip spiraled into a ratings nosedive when Season 5 was released on Wednesday, June 6.
The negative reviews focus primarily on the season finale, entitled “Rachel, Jack and Ashley Too,” wherein Miley Cyrus fittingly portrays a troubled pop star, Ashley O, who struggles to break free from her image despite pressure from both fans and her management team. Critics have been quick to draw comparisons between Season 5’s finale and a former episode of Black Mirror, “Be Right Back” from Season 2. Just as fans connected with Ashley O through a device that simulated conversation with the otherwise unreachable pop star, in “Be Right Back,” a recent widow (Harley Atwell) attempts to reconnect with her late husband (Domhnall Gleeson) via an A.I. service. Critics embraced Season 2’s take on the storyline, a critic from Inverse going as far as to call it the “single most impactful episode of the series.” Unfortunately, they have not been so kind to Season 5’s finale.
Ben Travers of IndieWire was among those disappointed by the highly anticipated episode. “This is a mess,” he wrote in his review. “This overly cutesy entry feels like the biggest punt of them all. Somewhere buried within the 67-minute episode is a discussion about replacing pop stars with holograms and mining their memories for new marketable material, but the whole thing is so cartoonish it’s impossible to take any aspect seriously.”
Although harsh, Travers’ words proved gentler than Variety critic Daniel D’Addario, who called the episode “the most majestically wrongheaded installment not merely of ‘Black Mirror’s’ run but, too, of at least the past year in prestige television.” Vulture’s Kathryn VanArendonk echoed D’Addario’s sentiments in her review, calling the whole season “exquisitely dumb.”
Season 5 of Black Mirror is available for streaming on Netflix.