A lot of people seem to be down on this episode, but honestly I cannot fathom why, and controversially I think this one may just be the best of this (albeit short) fifth series.
Taking a scathing look at the “copy and paste” popstars, and the horrifying lengths those in power may go to mould them into what they want, Rachel, Jack and Ashley Too manages to perfectly strike the balance of darkness, devastation and humour that we would expect from an episode of Black Mirror.
After stealing the show in The Nice Guys, Angourie Rice is fantastic as the titular Rachel, a shy and introverted teen who is obsessed with the popstar Ashley O, played by real-life popstar Miley Cyrus. There certainly is the sense of art imitating life in the pop princess exterior masking the deeper pain underneath, and whilst at times the episode feels a bit like a Miley Cyrus vehicle, she actually does a really great job in what is quite a varied and demanding role.
Whilst it does go to some pretty dark places, on the whole this episode is one of the more entertaining ones, particularly in the final act. When the ‘Ashley Too’ doll of the title has her “limitations” switched off, the episode makes a switch tonally, but it works and the conclusion feels both satisfying and well-earned. The relationship between Rachel and her older sister Jack (Madison Davenport) feels totally believable and they have a great onscreen dynamic, which helps to ground the more unrealistic elements of the story.
This is one of those Black Mirror episodes where the technology at the centre feels both outrageous yet totally believable, and it is harrowing in how close it is to where we are at the moment in certain aspects. With hologram concerts becoming very much a reality, the events of this episode certainly don’t feel too far away, and capturing the excitement and the fear of this is something that Black Mirror continues to do effortlessly.
Whilst many have criticized this series for being a little lacklustre, what it has done is show the impact of technology on real and human relationships in a way that is more effective than the previous seasons. Whilst failing to reach the heights that it has done previously, the show continues to break new ground and provide a television experience which shocks, delights, saddens, entertains and provokes. There really is no other show like it, and whether good or bad, it certainly gets people talking!