The time has finally come: There are brand new Black Mirror episodes. While this is great and something that should definitely be celebrated, season 5 of the critically acclaimed Netflix series is much shorter than what we’re used to, clocking in at only three episodes. However, back before Black Mirror was a Netflix original — back when it was airing on the U.K.’s Channel 4 — each season (or “series”) was only three episodes to begin with. Honestly, since making the jump to Netflix we’ve been spoiled with six episodes for the past two seasons.
If you’re looking to place blame on the shortened season somewhere, that lies with the interactive episode Bandersnatch, which was supposed to be part of season 5. However, it just got too big (considering it’s interactive), so it was made a stand-alone special, and consequently slimmed down the episode count.
Just like every other episode of the series, each episode works as a stand-alone story. And, just like every other episode of the series, there are subtle nods and references to other things in the Black Mirror universe. As you dive into season 5, here’s what you need to know about the three brand new episodes.
Season 5, Episode 1: “Striking Vipers”
Cast: Anthony Mackie, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Nicole Beharie, Pom Klementieff, and Ludi Lin
Plot: Using some of the same technology from (spoiler alert) Season 4’s “U.S.S. Callister,” Mackie and Abdul-Mateen’s Danny and Karl are able to actually travel inside a Mortal Kombat-like game and fight against one another. Mackie plays as Lance (Lin), while Abdul-Mateen has a fondness for Roxette (Klementieff). However, when the game starts to interfere with their real lives, everything begins to unravel, both inside and outside of the game.
Season 5, Episode 2: “Smithereens”
Cast: Andrew Scott, Damson Idris, and Topher Grace
Plot: Maybe you live with the day-to-day fear that eventually staring at your phone (ahem, a “black mirror”) will completely break you. That’s what’s happened to Scott’s Chris. He’s got a huge vendetta against Smithereens, which is a Facebook-like company that actually runs a Twitter-like program (there’s something completely different for Facebook, called Persona). Without giving too much away, Grace’s Billy Bauer is in charge of Smithereens playing the leadership role like he’s a cross between Mark Zuckerberg and Silicon Valley’s Erlich Bachman. All Chris wants to do is have a phone conversation with Billy, and he goes to extreme lengths to make it happen.
Season 5, Episode 3: “Rachel, Jack and Ashley Too”
Cast: Miley Cyrus, Angourie Rice, and Madison Davenport
Plot: Miley Cyrus stars as a pop star! If that’s not enough for you, Cyrus’ Ashley O is slowly watching her career crumble around her and is in the middle of launching an AI device fitted with her personality, Ashley Too. Meanwhile, Rachel (Rice) is a lonely 15-year-old girl trying to fit in at a new school who is nothing short of obsessed with Ashley O. She gets an Ashley Too for her birthday and it helps fill the friendship void in her life, much to her sister Jack’s (Davenport) displeasure. But when things in the real world start to fall apart for Ashley O, the Ashley Too begins to break as well. There’s also a subplot about rat robots that can electrocute you.