February 27, 2024

Gabbing Geek

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Black Mirror “Striking Vipers”

Series Five. Episode One.

Here we go.  Just what every superhero fan wants!  A crossover of epic proportions!  In one corner, we have the Falcon!  And in the other, Black Manta!

And it doesn’t go the way you think it would if you read that bit up there and didn’t know better.

By the by, by sheer coincidence, I watched this episode on Pride Day.  Make of that what you will.

Here’s the basics of what happens:  longtime buddies Danny (Anthony “Falcon” Mackie) and Karl (Yahya “Black Manta” Abdul-Mateen II) have drifted a bit apart.  Karl is a bachelor record producer living the high life.  Danny is a married father living in the suburbs.  On Danny’s 38th birthday, Karl gives his friend a new version of a fighting game, Striking Vipers, that the two used to play all the time.  And this time, the game is virtual.  The pair enter a game world and become their favorite characters.

And hey, look!  More superheroes!  Karl likes to play as Roxette (Pom “Mantis” Klementieff) while Danny opts for a guy named Lance.  Is Lance a superhero?  Well, the actor was a Power Ranger at one time.  And he had a role in Aquaman.  No wonder Karl likes to beat him up!

Oh, Danny’s wife Theo is played by Nicole Beharie.  She was on Sleepy Hollow when that show was still good.  So, at least it was a genre type of thing.

Anyway, after a first round that looks a lot like a lot of old fighting games, a funny thing happens.  Karl and Danny, as Roxette and Lance, start to make out.  And then later they have sex.  Are these guys really attracted to each other?  Is it, as they say, a “gay thing”?

And is it cheating for Danny?

There’s a lot of deep questions at work here.  Do these guys become their avatars?  When they do try kissing at one point in the real world, neither feels anything.  They just start fighting for real.

Actually, I was wondering why these video game characters were that anatomically correct.

Now, there is a lot going on here.  We also see Theo seems to enjoy going to bars on her own and maybe letting guys try to pick her up.  Because that shows a sort of mutual dissatisfaction with the marriage.  Neither Theo nor Danny wants out.  They both clearly still love each other.  Heck, over the three year period the majority of the episode takes place in, they have another kid.

I think series creator Charlie Brooker was saying something about needing to keep a spark alive despite how difficult that can be even for loving couples.  Danny and Theo love each other, and a kiss in the real world between Karl and Danny doesn’t do anything for either man.  But at the same time, Karl can’t find the same sexual satisfaction from either the computer or other players.

You know, I really want to know who programmed that game right about now.

As a result, the episode ends with Danny and Theo making a deal.  He can have one night with Karl while she gets a night with a stranger.  And the show presents this as sort of a good thing.  The two are still close before she goes out.  Quite frankly, that’s about as happy an ending as Black Mirror ever gives.  I’m surprised they didn’t end the episode with an ugly divorce, quite frankly.

So, I guess we know which episode this season is the happy one.