'Black Mirror': Unpacking the Trailers for Season 5

Black Mirror season 5 still - H

The fifth season of Netflix's Black Mirror had teased a future "we should have seen coming." Now, a first look at the cycle's three new stories provides more context for that promise (or threat?).

One week after announcing that the long-awaited new cycle of Charlie Brooker's Emmy-winning sci-fi anthology will return on June 5 with three new episodes (or films, as referred to by the Black Mirror team), the streaming giant debuted trailers for the new stories, which are titled "Smithereens," "Rachel, Jack and Ashley, Too" and "Striking Vipers."

Though recent Black Mirror seasons have had six stand-alone stories, the fifth season has been trimmed down in number. The complex two-year process to bring Netflix's first interactive film to life with Black Mirror: Bandersnatch in late 2018 delayed the release of season five. (The fourth season released late 2017.) 

The idea for Bandersnatch actually came out of a story-idea meeting for the new batch of episodes. "We knew going into it that this would impact our time, but it hasn’t stopped us from doing other films," Brooker told The Hollywood Reporter of working on the other episodes simultaneously. 

Brooker, Black Mirror creator and writer, and executive producer Annabel Jones traditionally keep quiet about what they have in store for new stories in the franchise. In recent seasons, the often nihilistic techno-paranoia series has sprinkled in versions of a happy ending, including with the Emmy-winning sci-fi and romance takes, respectively, of "USS Callister" and "San Junipero." Below, THR takes a closer look at the three new stories — though, of course, with Black Mirror teasers, the true story (or twist) has yet to be revealed.

Plot: A cab driver with an agenda becomes the center of attention on a day that rapidly spirals out of control.
Cast: Andrew Scott, Damson Idris, Topher Grace

Black Mirror's version of an Uber driver, played by Fleabag and Sherlock star Scott, comes undone after picking up a passenger (Snowfall's Idris) for the airport. Guided by the voice on his meditation app that says, "calmly return your attention to the wrath," the driver eventually pulls a gun on the passenger and holds him hostage in the village of Ewelme outside of London after learning his connection is to "that place" called Smithereen. The driver rails about people being "hooked on the things." Nearby residents are able to capture the evolving scene on their phones and a social media app reveals the story has gone viral. "Man, last week the most interesting thing happening in #ewelme was a cow breaking into someone's back garden and now ..." writes one person. "How do you take someone hostage in a field?" writes another. The end of the trailer cuts to a peaceful character (Grace) as the voiceover from the app says, "Calmly and without judgment." The title, "Smithereens," is then shown with a location tag.

Rachel, Jack and Ashley, Too
Plot: A lonely teenager yearns to connect with her favorite pop star — whose charmed existence isn’t quite as rosy it appears.
Cast: Miley Cyrus, Angourie Rice, Madison Davenport

Cyrus hops into the Black Mirror world to play a famous performer named Ashley, with her own demons, who voices an advanced Alexa-like doll from the future called Ashley Too. "It's really important to be who you want to be," Ashley says while promoting the doll on television and her message speaks directly to a young girl watching at home named Rachel (Rice). Behind her seemingly perfect image, Ashley is shown battling depression. A scribble in her notebook reads "JUNKETS SUCK" and her team talks about how fragile she is and whether or not they should "up the dose." Later, she is offered pills and what seems to be studies on her brain continue, until eventually the Alexa Too doll short circuits on Rachel and her friend (Davenport). "Get this cable out of my ass! Holy shit, pull it out! God, that's a relief," says Ashley Too (or Ashley?) when the girls disconnect her and seemingly free her up to have a mind of her own.

Striking Vipers 
Plot: Two estranged college friends reunite in later life, triggering a series of events that could alter their lives forever.
Cast: Anthony Mackie, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Nicole Beharie, Pom Klementieff, Ludi Lin

A husband and wife (Mackie and Beharie) are trying for a second baby, but the husband is growing distant. Despite their app letting them know they are at peak fertility, he gives her an excuse that he ate too much to have sex. His friend (Abdul-Mateen II), meanwhile, brags about the women he is dating. "You know the thing about you, sometimes you just sort of go away," says the wife as Mackie's character is shown retreating to his phone. "There's something going on," she adds; a charge that he denies. Then he is shown using tech all-too-familiar in the Black Mirror world, as he puts those shiny metal discs on his forehead and escapes to an alternate reality.