It's time for another season of Black Mirror wooooo! I come and go with BM, I really love the episodes I connect with and then I can't even finish some. Technically I have only ever hated 3 (you guess which - hint: they're not recapped) and the amount I have adored is much, much higher so I'm ready for season 5 wooo! Let's roll into S5:E01 Striking Vipers after the break!
We open in a club full of beautiful people listening to repetitive beats, Danny (Anthony Mackie - my kids know him from a superhero something or other but he'll always be Pain & Gain to me) scopes out gorgeous Theo (Nikkie Beharie - Sleepy Hollow!) and starts laying out lines. They seem to know each other, though, so maybe this is the type of complicated roleplay couples get into to "keep it fresh." They look hella young for anything to be stale?
Another couple comes up, Karl (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) cuddles up with Daisy (Monique Young), introducing Danny and Theo as his roommates. They hit the dance floor as foreplay then cut to barenekkid boning in their bathroom.
*Looks super uncomfortable for people with that low a percentage of bodyfat
Danny plays videogames with Karl while Theo wakes up alone. Apparently the video games are going to figure in, so I'll try to stay awake. Karl's avatar is Roxette (Pom Klementieff), Danny is Lance (Ludi Lin). Roxette definitely has the look, her animated character wins first round.
Theo comes out to complain about the noise and we cut to 11 years later.
Danny is grown now, because he has bit of grey in his beard and glasses. Also a gas BBQ and an aversion to talking to people about his age (38).
Jemma (Caroline Martin) and Simon (Jordan Carlos - read his IMDb - he's been in EVERYTHING) are guests, it's so awkward. Why is it so awkward? This is a barbecue at his house, why can't Danny talk to his guests?
Theo's in the kitchen with blonde hair, she opens the door to Karl who has split from Daisy. Danny's out in the backyard staring at Jemma's bumcrack. Karl's brought him a birthday present: it's an updated version of the videogame Striking Vipers that they were playing lo that decade ago. It comes with a virtual reality component now.
Karl and Danny bond and talk about the current state of their nether regions, their relationship seems to be in much better shape than Danny and Theo's.
Karl heads downtown for a date with Mariella (Fola Evans-Akingbola) from an app (I should tell stories!) and Danny and Theo clean up the kitchen. They seem better one on one, we only know it's Black Mirror in that scene because the dishwasher scolds them for putting the knives in unsafely.
Karl's date is not going well as there is a sizeable age gap (if your date has to pull out a phone to figure out who Dennis Rodman is, run). Theo tries to talk Danny into some perfectly planned babymaking, but he's not interested. Karl and Mariella do end their date with a bang, but he's frustrated when she pulls out her phone immediately after.
Danny plays videogames (INSTEAD OF SEX WITH HIS WIFE ON HIS BIRTHDAY), Karl jumps online and invites him to play Striking Vipers. Being Black Mirror, again, there's something that attaches to your melon and makes your eyes go weird.
Danny is transported into the body of his avatar, so is Karl. It's hilarious watching them figure out their bodies, although it's oft used, there's an originality here. Danny/Lance wants to know if it's going to hurt?
(Guessing that it's a Black Mirror YES)
But it resets!
Moar videogame fighting, Danny struggles to remember what his character can do and gets his ass whooped in the meantime.
Karl and Danny used to hook up in college? Wanted to? What?
Danny's awake now!! Karl stares at himself in the mirror while Danny hugs his pillow for dear life while his wife explores his unexpected arousal.
A long day full of introspection follows, I just want you fellas to know I am aaalll the way with you if you are discovering some latent same-sex feelings. Life doesn't always move in a straight line. So to speak.
Theo heads out for the night and I start the countdown to these two great friends meeting in Striking Vipers again.
Ooh and comes the invite. Will Danny play? Hell yeah he will, but just so Karl knows, last time they played he was drunk. (And it was college and a hot night and allll the other stuff that shows up in these conversations).
*I like this show much better now that I know it's not actually about videogames!! It's about playing videogames the same way Brokeback Mountain was about ranching. Lurve!
Time to have a serious game!
Lance and Roxette meet by the water, it's a beautiful setting and the fighters are gorgeous. The humping starts immediately.
Theo prepares to leave her party downtown, watching a couple make out passionately in the alley. Roxette and Lance are slowly dressing, there's a lot of desire and mixed feelings here.
"Guess that's us gay now, hey?" (That was a joke) and other post coital chitchat is interrupted by Danny's son Tyler (August Muschett) who was supposed to be sleeping but is thirsty, as little kids are wont be be. Theo gets home to find Danny pretending to sleep and falls asleep fully dressed.
*Countdown to next Striking Vipers game*
Theo got schwasted because she realised she wasn't pregnant, they're a nice, if distant couple.
*I can't believe I picked up on Karl and Danny having the better connection all those paragraphs above. Good job Anthony and Yahya!
More videogame humping, they don't even give the pretense of fighting any more. Karl isn't paying attention to his beautiful young dates any more and Theo can't figure out why Danny's never in the mood any more. She checks herself again and again in the mirror, what's wrong with her?
*Little bitta tears for the isolated wife who doesn't understand what her partner is dealing with
Ahh these guys love each other.
It's so messy, there's a wife and a child and a whole life out in the suburbs. What will Danny do? Besides forget his wedding anniversary, that is.
He texts Karl the change in plans, adding an x, then deleting it before sending.
A handsome young man approaches Theo as she's waiting at the bar, she's almost ready to drink him she's so happy for the attention.
A boring supper with Danny follows, she calls him on taking himself away from her. And not having sex for months, and not trying for a baby. He's been tired, see. She wants to know if something is going on, he hasn't touched her in weeks. Expected marital talk follows about commitment and cheating, he alternates between lying and not answering, so that's awesome.
Karl himself is having a bit of erectile dysfunction with Mariella, she watches porn on her phone to finish herself off while he stares at the wall and thinks about Danny.
*This is reminding me so much of a book called Small Town by Lawrence Block. He's one of my favourite writers, but this book was a departure from his gumshoe series. It featured a number of people coping with the trauma of 9/11 by branching out and exploring who they were at core.
Danny is scared of his feelings now, he hides the headpiece from himself and doesn't go online when he sees Karl. He calls Karl to end things, he can't do it any more. It's not fair to his wife.
*I would also venture that it's not fair to keep a woman you do not want trapped in a marriage you are only honouring out of duty.
7 months pass. Danny is "good."
Theo is beautifully pregnant, Danny is a great dad but Karl is falling apart. Guess who invited Karl to dinner? NO, YOU GUESS!
I don't even know if they've seen each other in person since Danny's last birthday, Danny is furious that Karl accepted Theo's invitation to come over. I think I saw Karl's heart break here.
Nothing is working for Karl, nothing else comes close (except this one guy from Holland who was okay when he thought about his ex), nothing gets him like Danny and him. He's tried everything, "I f*cked a polar bear and I couldn't get you out of my mind!"
Karl offers one last meet with Roxette at midnight, but he's too physically close so Danny freaks out. Theo even has to make them hug each other goodbye.
Midnight brings Roxette and Lance definitely not fighting, they're still trying to deal with the insane sexual chemistry. It goes from humping to making love, they truly love each other. Danny is not ready to hear that via Roxette, though.
Frustrated, Danny tells Karl to meet him by the old bar they used to hang out in during college. 30 minutes later they are in the rain in the middle of the night. Danny wants to kiss Karl in real life, if there are fireworks, they're in love and if not, it's an online thing.
It takes a bit of time to work up to it.
Karl says he feels nothing after, Danny hesitates then agrees.
Then they're actually fighting, sometimes that's what people do when they can't come to terms with themselves.
The police arrive, Theo has to pick Danny up from jail. She wants to know what they were fighting about, of course, the silence speaks volumes. What's he gonna say? He opens his mouth and we shift away.
It's Danny's next birthday party, he's happy and there's a new baby at the barbecue. Karl gets a cat.
Why is Danny so happy now? And they're so comfortable? Because on his birthday, he gets to meet Karl online and hump his brains out while Theo goes to a hotel to pick up a handsome stranger.
Well. Okay. I guess they found a way to make it work? I know you can't make everyone happy but boy did that ending ever piss me off. It started out beautifully done, the male version of San Junipero and so lush. Anthony Mackie, whom I've never really known for his acting previously, has made me a believer.
I would rail against people putting their feelings, desires and love in a box (literally in a box, the game piece and Theo's wedding ring set aside for the night) for the greater good of their relationships but I bet that's most people, isn't it? We don't all go wild and do whatever we want whenever we want to, or it would be chaos in the street! Dogs and cats, living together! But for real, marriage is about compromise and perhaps it seems sustainable to manage your thoughts, feelings and desires to a once-a-year blowout. It's not how I would want to live, but I accept that it's probably pretty common.
From a production standpoint, I can't say enough how extraordinarily well this episode was produced. The extra time to build the connections, the lushness of the feel, it was like a movie.
Until next time, you lot, I hear we've got SexySweary Priest Andrew Scott and Miley Cyrus to look forward to in future episodes. Cheers!
PS: I'm sorry, I went away and thought about it for a moment; that is complete and utter BULLSHIT. So Danny and Theo only get to experience passion and desire once a year but still maintain their happy home? And Karl has a cat now, so obviously he's okay for companionship. BULLSHIT.