Black Mirror’s much-anticipated fifth season arrived at the start of the month, and there is definitely buzz. Season 5 recruited Miley Cyrus, Anthony Mackie, and Topher Grace among other big names. Unfortunately for the Netflix series, some reactions have been filled with their fair share of criticism. Those who do it for a living have weighed in with their reviews.
Rotten Tomatoes’ “Tomatometer” assesses that Season 5 has a 63% fresh rating. An audience score is still pending. Many shows would love to have a 60-plus% rating. However, such a number for the highly acclaimed sci-fi series stands out. To put that number in perspective, its fourth season got an 84% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes and an 82% positive score from the audience.
This brings us to an important question. What are the biggest problems with Black Mirror Season 5? Well, there is a general consensus that can be assessed from the reviews that were classified as “rotten.” Let’s begin with one of the most pervasive.
Season 5 Lacks Jaw-Dropping Twists
One of the reviewers that feel this way are GQ's, Stuart McGurk. He thinks that the spoiler embargo that critics were given to keep Season 5’s secrets was not entirely necessary. He cites the lack of “earth-shattering reveals.” McGurk wrote:
But watching season five, I wonder what all the spoiler-free fuss was about. Is it a spoiler to say there aren’t really any possible spoilers? There are twists, of course, but hardly earth-shattering reveals. And that’s partly the problem. Compared to the deep imaginative voyages of previous series. . .the new season feels woefully underpowered.
When a show known for big reveals suddenly goes without them, it can create a reaction among viewers. For those used to Black Mirror building to a dramatic twist – the lack of one can be destabilizing.
Not Up To The Bite Of Previous Seasons
The feeling that Season 5 does not deliver on the bite of its previous cannon is lamented by Mashable’s Alexis Need. She also believes there was a lack of the series’ trademark twists, which has led to another issue for the series. The critic adds that with Season 5, Black Mirror has its edge. Need writes:
It’s weird to feel so poorly about three arguably good episodes of television, but the short length of Season 5 only serves to highlight the deficiencies of the season as a whole. More new Black Mirror episodes may have spread the discontent around and allowed viewers to pick favorites, but with a trio to choose from it’s hard to be distracted from the toothlessness that pervades all three. With that toothlessness comes too few questions about technology instead of the usual deluge; without those questions it seems that Black Mirror has lost its edge.
It does not sound like this critic thinks a higher episode count would have helped Black Mirror. Having a more concentrated dose of the series only put it under the microscope further. The result? Its trouble spots showed.
The Show Is Running Out Of Ideas
There is a sense among critics that Black Mirror may need to take a break. It would not be the first time the show took one. There was a two-year gap between Season 2 and Season 3. A special aired in between them. Some are sensing a possible burnout happening. Time’s Judy Berman thinks that Black Mirror’s creator, Charlie Brooker, may be running out of ideas:
It’s possible that Brooker—who has scripted almost every episode of the show, occasionally with a co-writer—is running out of “what if” potent enough to strike fear into the heart of the typical Twitter junkie. While previous Netflix seasons have spanned six episodes, the new one runs only three. And instead of keeping viewers up at night with political hellscapes and other horror-movie scenarios, season 5 rarely departs in a meaningful way from what’s possible now.
Does Black Mirror really not have any more stories to tell? Maybe it can tackle its own place in the conversation about technology and its impact on people’s lives. A Black Mirror within Black Mirror.
It Lacks The Luster Of Previous Seasons
Taking a break was also the suggestion of The Gate’s Andrew Parker. He also believes that Black Mirror’s creator may be running out of ideas. Over 21 installments, a special and a film, it makes sense if it is time to take a step back. Making his case, Parker states:
The fifth series of Black Mirror is comprised of episodes that feel less like the work of Brooker and more like thin, wanting knock-offs that were inspired by him. It has the appearance of a clearinghouse for half-baked and underdeveloped ideas that were unleashed for the sake of having a product. I think it’s time for Brooker to take a break for a bit and find some new gadgets, social movements, and customs to arise and get worried about anew.
Again, this criticism goes back to the idea that Black Mirror may need to take a break. It is sometimes better to leave an audience wanting more than it is to give it to them quickly and receive problematic feedback.
It Needs To Take A Note From Bandersnatch
For those who think that Season 5 was a wrong turn for the highly acclaimed series, a question remains. Does the series still have a shot at redemption? According to one critic, it needs to return to the form of its 2018 movie. When it comes to the quality of Season 5, Vulture’s Kathryn VanArendonk pointedly states:
If the next handful of Black Mirror stories can return to the care and intensity of Bandersnatch, the show may well right itself. But season five is a mess, and nothing about it suggests that Black Mirror retains its original, unnerving insight into the ever-blurring borders between the digital and the human.
Where does Black Mirror go from here? Bandersnatch arrived on Netflix in late 2018 and less than a year later, the show released its fifth season. That is a lot of content for what is arguably a brief period of time. What, if any, impact the criticism has on upcoming seasons will be something worth following.