Black Mirror's 'San Junipero': 2016's most life-affirming piece of television

In a year of doom and gloom, Black Mirror offered the world a truly wonderful episode 

Jack Shepherd
Friday 23 December 2016 17:50 GMT

There’s a reason people keep banging on about the Golden Age of TV. Just look at 2016: Atlanta, The People v OJ, Veep, The Night Of, Stranger Things, Westworld… the list of brilliant TV shows goes on.

Many of the best - including the likes of Bojack Horseman, House of Cards, and The Walking Dead - took viewers down dark, emotional roads. The latter show, for instance, saw numerous popular characters killed off. The former saw an animated horse’s continued existential crises hit a new low. House of Cards offered another petrifying take on the political climate.

One show many consider to have a doom-mongering, pessimistic view of life is Black Mirror, the Channel 4 show picked up by Netflix. Season three offered some of the darkest episodes yet: just look at “Shut Up and Dance”, centring on a young man being blackmailed into doing terrible tasks for a group of hackers, featuring a horrendous final twist.

Among those six new episodes, though, lies ‘San Junipero', a somewhat enigma when it comes to the series. Instead of telling a morbid, freighting tale about a dystopian future, creator - and the episode’s writer - Charlie Brooker decided to tell the wonderful love story of two women. **Spoilers ahead**

In the episode, the wonderfully awkward Yorkie - played by Mackenzie Davis - falls helplessly in love with Kelly (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) while partying at the Californian beach resort San Junipero. This is no ordinary love story, though, as the pair mysteriously meet each other in different time periods over a number of weekends. How? Because San Junipero isn’t a real place: it’s a realistic virtual reality; a place the consciousness is uploaded to rather than physically visited.

It transpires that Yorkie - despite appearing to be in her 20s in San Junipero - is actually an elderly, paralysed woman, living in an assisted living facility with only six months left. Kelly, meanwhile, is actually based in a separate retirement home, seeing out her days in San Junipero.

Eventually, after overcoming some reticent feelings, the pair meet up in real life and marry so Kelly can formerly authorise Yorkie’s euthanasia, putting her out of her pain. Yorkie is then uploaded to San Junipero. Kelly, however, rejects Yorkie’s advances to also fully upload her consciousness to San Junipero once she dies because of a promise to her previous husband. After months of deliberating, and a worsening condition, Kelly decides to upload her consciousness to San Junipero, living out her days with Yorkie.

Black Mirror Official Trailer - Season 3

Written down, it sounds like a semi-morbid tale of death. Yet, what transpires is a heartfelt tale of two women who decide, in spite of everything, to be together, their love overwhelming rational thinking. Is there really anything more life affirming than a love story where love reigns triumphant?

Well, there’s one issue. As the episode finishes, there’s a lasting shot of the computer servers keeping Yorkie and Kelly’s consciousness ‘alive' - the ‘TCKR’ system. A reminder, that everything could be flicked off with the switch of a button/power outage. A haunting reminder to live every moment to the fullest.

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