The 13th Floor

“San Junipero” Is The Most Important Episode Of BLACK MIRROR Ever

Plot points from Season 3, Episode 4 of BLACK MIRROR will be discussed. THIS IS YOUR SPOILER ALERT.

If you haven’t obsessively binge watched Season 3 of Charlie Brooker’s masterpiece, BLACK MIRROR, stop reading this article and catch up. BLACK MIRROR is quickly reaching the same status as THE WIRE as being the show everyone is watching and loving and cannot believe you haven’t seen yet. BLACK MIRROR is known for its TWILIGHT ZONE-esque look at the not so distant future. In some instances, like Season 3 Episode 3’s “Shut Up And Dance,” the horrifying stories could very well be happening at this very moment. BLACK MIRROR is a favorite of many horror fans, because its brutally honest look into a bleak dystopian future often has an effect on us that lasts for days at a time.

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Season three of BLACK MIRROR is already breaking the mold of television standards by having three of the stories centered around women, and the male-lead episodes featuring female characters as being in positions of power. The show is already applauded for its diverse approach to casting, but episode 4 of Season 3 will be something hailed as nothing short of brilliant for generations to follow.

“San Junipero” is a virtual destination where people can choose to upload their consciousness, and spend the rest of their lives after they die on Earth. Until people actually die, they can only visit San Junipero once a week for five hours until midnight, or they will go crazy. Unlike most utopian futures, San Junipero can also be experienced in different decades. Kelly (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) and Yorkie (Mackenzie Davis) are two “tourists” visiting the town (they’ve chosen the 1980s version of San Junipero) to see if this afterlife is one for them to spend the rest of their days. It’s a beautiful and idealistic version of the 1980s complete with bright neon lights, pastel-colored outfits, and arcade games as far as the eye can see.

Kelly and Yorkie meet by chance in San Junipero and the two quickly fall in love. The beauty of San Junipero is that you are able to live the rest of your days as “your best self.” When we meet Kelly and Yorkie, they’re both two young, beautiful, and full of life. In reality, Yorkie is a lesbian who became a quadriplegic on life support due to a car accident that followed the confrontation of her coming out to her parents, and Kelly is an elderly widow in an assisted living facility counting down her final days.

San Junipero is a perfect showcase of the talent of Charlie Brooker. We are so accustomed to the bleak and unforgiving world of BLACK MIRROR, that an episode like this catches us completely off guard. I will admit, fully, that this episode brought me to tears. Not only is it the first episode where advancements in technology are presented as an incredible gift without any depressing twists or catches, but it’s also one of the strongest representations of a queer couple ever presented on television. According to a study presented by Autostraddle, 65% of all lesbian characters shown on television have been killed off. Over half of the portrayals of lesbians in TV don’t make it out alive.  OVER HALF. The “Bury Your Gays” trope is a horrifically offensive belief that gay characters are undeserving of happy endings, but San Junipero kicks that trope to the curb and smashes in its archaic fucking face.

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As we’ve already established, the only way to become a permanent resident of San Junipero is to have a mortal death, and in that regard, Yorkie and Kelly technically DO fall in the “bury your gays” trope, but it’s Brooker’s storytelling that concludes with these two characters living together, in love, and married, for the rest of eternity that turns this offensive trope on its head in the absolute best way possible. When you’re binging through a show that brings you a constant flood of heartache, terror, and despair, you thirst for any form of relief. Not only does “San Junipero” deliver that relief, but does so through the incredibly touching tale of an interracial lesbian couple.

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For a show that is praised for its gut-punching twists, the lack of a twist ending is perhaps what makes this episode so truly memorable. It’s remarkable to me, to see show after show after show fail to represent queer female characters as anything more than a body count, but the most horrific and cynical show in recent memory is able to shed all of that stigma away and present the most incredible representation of a queer female couple, perhaps, NO EXAGGERATION, of all time.

From now until forever, I will scream at the top of my lungs that “San Junipero” is the best love story I’ve ever seen, and it came from a dystopian future horror television anthology. Get the hell out of here with THE NOTEBOOK or TWILIGHT or whatever other nonsense people try and peddle as “love.” Kelly and Yorkie are living forever in ever in San Junipero, happy and in love with each other in their own personal “Heaven on Earth,” and now I have to go cry again.

*All Photos: BLACK MIRROR (2016) Netflix

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