warning! mild spoilers: I try not to go too much into plot details but this review still has spoilers on settings and premise of the episode. so if you haven’t seen it yet and don’t want to be spoiled do not read.
“San Junipero” is the fourth episode in series 3 of Black Mirror, and it’s very different from most of the other Black Mirror episodes. The episode begins with one of two main charcters, Yorkie. Yorkie is presented as a shy, socially anxious woman in her early 20’s as she strolls through a club in the mystery town of San Junipero which she’s visiting for the first time. Within the cloak of 80’s classic music, gaming and dressing, Yorkie sets her eyes on Kelly, vivacious party girl and the second half of our main characters. When Yorkie and Kelly starts socializing, Yorkie is intimated and leaves suddenly, it isn’t until a week later our 2 main characters passionately hooks up but their time together seems unlimited as much emphasis is placed on a the hour of midnight. The following week Yorkie returns to the club but cannot find Kelly. This is where the episode starts explore the stranger side of this ‘San Junipero’ town, as Kelly travels in time from the 80’s to the 90’s to the early 00’s week after week trying to find Kelly. She eventually does and the episode takes an emotional spin filled with twists and heartwarming, beautiful moments.
The build-up before you truly understand what San Junipero is makes for an engaging mystery, and the twists and turns as you realize the true stories behind the residents, and the two women in particular is heart-wrenching. But what sets the episode apart from the rest of Black Mirror’s third season is the way it beautifully balances character revelations with plot and setting revelations. Though the episode, like the others in this season, is over an hour, the pacing is incredible and the episode accomplished all it needed to with its limited time. It’s a love story, after all, one of the very oldest sorts of stories, and it mostly leaves viewers wondering if these two crazy kids will work through their differences and get together. But it’s also complicated, a tale of second chances that behaves like a story of first love.
Every element of San Junipero felt like a strong point. The production Values, the writing, the lighting and especially the music. I’ve known the song “Heaven is a place on Earth” for so long and I’ve never seen it used in any other films or TV the way it was used in this episode. It almost like the episode was inspired by the song and it brought much needed emotion to the ending of the episode. Maybe I’m just a sucker for good endings? But this was one of the best endings for any Black Mirror episode i’ve ever seen. The love story between two old, dying women, living out a “perfect” life in their younger bodies is phenomenal, and features best-in-series performances from both Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Mackenzie Davis.
When it’s all said and done I think this is most definitely one of Black Mirror’s best epsiode (if not the best), but definitely my personal favorite. Black Mirror is always at its best when it examines how technology stretches what’s human about us to its breaking point. And though the series deserves much of the credit it receives for its dark satire of tech, it’s simultaneously one of the smartest shows on TV when it comes to love stories, and previous episodes such as “Be Right Back” and “The Entire History of You” are proof of that.
Rating “San Junipero”
- Premise: 9/10
- Writing: 10/10
- Plotlines: 10/10
- Acting: 9.5/10
- Production: 9/10
- Cinematography/Visuals: 9/10
- SOundtrack/Editing/efx: 10/10
Overall Rating: 9.5 ★★★★★★★★★★