On the tenth day of Christmas, Black Mirror gave to me…the sweetest romance I’ve seen in ages. Also don’t read on if you haven’t seen it yet.
Time-travelling romances always do it for me and without wanting to give too much away about San Junipero, it is a gorgeous example of the form. It’s also a rare excursion into the (largely) non-sinister for Black Mirror which gives it a welcome change of pace in terms of this third series, indeed across its whole life, and marks it as one of the finest episodes yet.
We open in 1987, in the party town San Junipero where introverted Yorkie, a bespectacled Mackenzie Davis, is making her first forays into club life and soon finds herself swept into the orbit of vibrant Kelly, the wonderful Gugu Mbatha-Raw, with whom she tumbles into a heady affair. As always, nothing is straightforward in this world though, and questions and hints and puzzles and clues point us towards the truth about what this place really is.
And when it comes, it emerges as a beautiful, queer romance. A complex, lesbian love story that is rooted deep in character and in feeling and even as the tech plays a big part in the episode, it doesn’t swamp the narrative because the focus is mainly on its emotional consequences. Directed by Owen Harris, the episode is hugely cleverly constructed and bears repeated watching as you pick up the loaded references, visual hints and musical clues that are peppered throughout (just think about the DJs playlist!)
Davis and Mbatha-Raw are both perfectly cast, as is Denise Burse as the older incarnation of Kelly, but enough talk – go and watch it now. It is worth getting a free Netflix trial just to see this episode (if you haven’t done so already that is).