Posted on Jul 20th 2019 at 08:00:00 AM by (GrayGhost81)
Posted under tv, netflix, ai, pop

I'm not really a big fan of Miley Cyrus. I think "Party in the USA" is a great song, but I find her more recent material to be too hedonistic and oversexualised for my tastes. However, as a fan of pop music in general I was excited to hear about Miley being involved with one of the few live action television shows which I find interesting, Black Mirror. The most recent season launched on Netflix in my region recently, and I've watched "Rachel, Jack, and Ashley Too" a few times now. I have found the general consensus to be that this new season in general and that episode in particular are rather weak. I actually agree with this assessment, but I still love the Miley episode. Let's see why.

The story involves a pop musician named Ashley O. Her positive message and flashy persona have earned her the obsessive fandom of Rachel, much to the chagrin of her too cool for school sister Jack. The sisters live with their father and their mother has passed away. The death of their mother has had a strong impact on Jack, who retreats into her own music which is decidedly not pop (Sonic Youth and Savages are called out by name, among a few others).

For her upcoming birthday, Rachel asks her father for an Ashley Too robot, a Furby type toy which actually contains a version of Ashley's actual personality. The transfer of consciousnesses is a common plot device in Black Mirror, but it is conveyed here in a clumsy way. I will get back to that later.

As the episode shifts to Ashley O's perspective, we discover that her positive message is a marketing ploy and she is actually a troubled individual. An orphan, Ashley's career has been manufactured and managed by her aunt. When Ashley decides to let her actual emotions come through in her music, her aunt puts a plan in motion to incapacitate Ashley while still being able to take advantage of her songwriting talent. Here the consciousness plot device comes into play again, where the aunt drugs Ashley into a coma, which she publicly blames on a food allergy. Her plan is to "steal" music from Ashley's consciousness during the coma.

The episode begins to crescendo when Rachel's Ashley Too robot sees a news broadcast involving the actual Ashley O's coma and begins to glitch out. The sisters connect Ashley Too to their father's computer and discover that a "limiter" has been placed on the doll's consciousness. They remove the limiter, and a hilarious scene ensues. The Ashley Too doll now has Ashley O's full, unfiltered personality. From here, the episode takes on a more adventurous, comedic, and slapstick tone. The sisters and the Ashley Too robot set out to rescue Ashley O and expose her aunt as the grifter she is.

I can see why this episode is not very well received among longtime fans of the show. Most older episodes include some kind of Faustian bargain or a "be careful what you wish for" scenario related to technology from slightly in our future. The aforementioned consciousness transfers and manipulation are also a major plot device used since the early episodes. In this episode the Faustian bargain is too out in the open and is quite cliche. The performer who sold his soul for success is a well trodden morality trope. Additionally, the use of the consciousness transfer in the episode wasn't intriguing at all. It just felt like "that thing they do in Black Mirror."

I agree with the consensus that this episode missed the mark in many ways, so why do I like it so much? Despite its flaws, I was into this episode because I could identify very clearly with the sisters. In the beginning of the episode, Rachel is set up as the young, optimistic and positive one, while Jack is the dark, brooding introverted one. We all have these sides to our personality, but I identified with these characters in a more specific way. I saw Jack as myself when I was her age. Dressed in black from head to toe, avoiding human contact, and lost in my favorite music, which happen to be the very bands name dropped by the character in the episode. One the other hand, I enjoyed Rachel's character for her generally upbeat attitude and love of colorful pop music, which suits my current frame of mind in general. For what it's worth, I also loved that their father is a pest control technician who is concerned with the welfare of the rodents being dispatched and is working to develop humane rodent removal methods.

For me personally this episode was mix of things that appeal to me coming together into a whole that does not appeal to me as much as past Black Mirror episodes. Even though I think it is weak as a Black Mirror episode, I've watched it multiple times because I like the characters and the music. Speaking of which, the episode contains one song in particular that is such a banger that I love jamming it in my car with the windows down. If Ashley Too dolls were real, I would want one for my birthday.

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I thought this episode had some pacing issues. It took a little too long to get where it was going but when Rachel, Ashley and Jack team up, it becomes a fun heist type episode.

Also, I love any time NIN gets mashed up with pop music.
My one thought on that episode was: Nine Inch Nails did it better.

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