If you haven’t watched or heard of Netflix’s Black Mirror, I highly suggest that you give it a glance. Each episode of creator Charlie Brooker’s anthology series features a new cast and plot which explores the negative implications of technology use. Some entries are insights to what the future of technology may become, such as “The Entire History of You” which sees the invention of a product that records every moment a person has have ever experienced, whilst other episodes may simply display how technology can be used for blackmailing. The show aims to be extremely thought provoking and prides itself a little on how much it can frighten its viewers once the credits are cued. Although all episodes effectively do so, I believe none have done this as successfully as the fourth entry in the show’s third season “San Junipero“.
At its core, this episode is a love story following two young women, Yorkie (Mackenzie Davis) and Kelly (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), who meet in the party city. In true Black Mirror fashion, San Junipero quickly evolves past a simple romantic story and begins to explore the concept of life after death.
Yorkie, a reserved young woman, meets Kelly, a party girl, at local nightclub Tuckers on her first night out in San Junipero. One week after the two spend an intimate night with each other, Yorkie, who has explor3d her sexuality for the very first time, searches for Kelly hoping to rekindle their spark. Although the title card’s write “One Week Later”, Yorkie visits iterations of Tuckers in the 80s, 90s, and finally finds Kelly in what is the year 2002. Strangely enough the two, and all other residents of the party town, live within a simulated world. A world where about 85% of its occupants are dead in the real word and decided to upload their consciousness San Junipero for eternity. The other 15% which are alive and somewhat well, including Yorkie and Kelly, are allowed to trial the simulated world for only 5 hours a week. Kelly, who originally dismisses her true feelings for Yorkie, decides that they should meet in the real world.
Love, Life & Death in San Junipero
In reality, Kelly isn’t the bombastic, 20-something party girl she is in San Junipero but instead a 73 year old woman whoselife is winding down. She finds a dying Yorkie who has decided to “passover” or upload her consciousness to San Junipero’s cloud. Yorkie successfully “passesover” and requests that Kelly does the same. It isn’t an easy decision for Kelly who has a daughter that died prior to the invention of this technology and a husband who chose to passover the spiritual way by ascending to heaven.
Black Mirror has presented extremely thought provoking episodes but none as powerful and quite frightening as “San Junipero”. The power of where we spend our eternal life has always been at the hands at some higher power but now this ability has been obtained by human beings. The concept is unnatural and unholy but serves as a perfect device to strengthen the love story at hand. It’s a choice that I would never be able to make myself. Live forever in a beach paradise with a new found love or reunite with family members who have passed on to heaven.
“San Junipero” left me questioning about something I never really considered, the permanence of life after death. For certain, does their truly exist a heaven where we can reunite with loved ones? If yes, is it morally correct, or even in our right power as lesser beings to something greater, to create an alternative resting place? If no such place exists, then do we just simply disappear? In this future, it seems that people do not wish to deal with the ambivalent existence of heaven and select San Junipero as their alternative resting place. Do those who intend to “passover” know for certain that they truly will end up in the beach paradise or, as redditor bgrizz101 suggests , is their consciousness simply copied, uploaded to the cloud and their souls drift off elsewhere?
The ending of “San Junipero” fully realizes the ambiguity of life after death as a dying Kelly says in the final moments of the episode, “I guess I’m ready…..For the rest of it” and the camera shoots up at the clouds. Although, we see Kelly reunited with Yorkie at the end, redditor bgrizz101 theorizes otherwise. Symbolically, the cloud shot could mean that Kelly is in fact spending her eternal life in heaven or possibly that she was literally uploaded to the “cloud” of San Junipero. Whichever it may be, “San Junipero” is a head scratcher, philosophical, thought provoking and definitely the shows’s best episode to date.
Black Mirror is streaming now on Netflix and all episodes of the show’s 4th season are expected to release sometime this Fall.