Most episodes of Netflix’s dystopian anthology series “Black Mirror” make us want to locate the nearest tall building and fling ourselves off of it.
Maybe that’s why the series’ Season 3 episode “San Junipero” was a refreshing change of pace; it actually delivered a relatively happy ending that left us feeling hopeful instead of decimated.
Rife with throwbacks to the ’80s, ’90s and early 2000s, “San Junipero” tells the story of two women who meet in a digital reality world and fall in love. In the real world, Yorkie (Mackenzie Davis) is a quadriplegic, who has elected to euthanize herself and be uploaded and immortalized in the digital world. Conversely, Kelly (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) is a dying cancer patient using a trial run of the program to escape her ailing body and have fun for a few hours a week.
Obviously, when the episode finally reveals who and what is really going on in “San Junipero,” we expected the worst.
Yorkie’s decision to stay in the fake world contrasted too perfectly with Kelly’s desire to die a mortal death like her husband and daughter before her. Even when Kelly eventually decides to give up the ghost and join Yorkie in “San Junipero” forever, we half expected the final shot of the episode to be a computer malfunction that ended up killing everyone in the digital reality for good.
However, through some act of divine intervention, “Black Mirror” finally decided to give us a happy ending instead of a last minute hook that destroyed our hope in humanity.
Some of the more angst-obsessed fans might not have enjoyed the episode’s cheery ending, but in the grand scheme of things it was a good move to make in the third season of this dark show.
“Black Mirror’s” short seasons are easily binge-able, but when you consider how emotionally draining some of the episodes can be, getting someone to watch six straight hours of misery can seem like a big ask. “San Junipero” is ideally situated in the middle of the season, allowing viewers a brief reprieve from the hopelessness most of the other episodes tend to leave you with.
Yorkie and Kelly’s love story also had the added bonus of injecting some great LGBT representation into the show in a positive and meaningful way, while still touching on a few societal stigmas that need to be overcome.
Yorkie essentially got two coming-out stories — one which resulted in her paralysis and another which resulted in finding her soul mate — and Kelly is a shining beacon of what a good depiction of bisexuality really looks like. As Kelly very aptly puts it, being attracted to women and men didn’t change the love she felt for her husband; similarly that love also doesn’t change her attraction to Yorkie. Both are equal parts of who she is.
We hope “Black Mirror” makes this uplifting change of pace a trend in seasons from here on out. One hopeful episode in a lineup of terrifyingly morbid stories sounds just about right to us.
“Black Mirror” is available for streaming on Netflix.