I love Black Mirror‘s “San Junipero.” You love “San Junipero.” We all love “San Junipero.”
What’s that? You’ve never seen “San Junipero”? Even worse, you’ve seen it and think it’s overrated. Well, you’ve got some nerve, mister. Are you just dead inside? Huh. Are ya?
[Calm down, man. Take some deep breaths. Say your mantra. I am one with the force, and the force is with the me? No, not that one. Um, serenity now? Bingo. Serenity now. Serenity now. Serenity now.]
Sorry. I don’t know what just happened. I saw a white hot flash and next thing I knew I was chanting “serenity now.” What was I talking about? Oh, yes, “San Junipero,” one of the most heartwarming and life-affirming stories about the deaths of two old women you’ll likely ever see because, really, that’s a pretty limited category. A brilliantly told 80s coming of age story with a sci-fi twist, “San Junipero” has been the subject of seemingly endless praise ever since it debuted as part of Black Mirror‘s 6-episode third season. Heck, I even half-jokingly argued it should have won some Oscars (because if ESPN could game the system with OJ: Made in America why couldn’t Netflix with “San Junipero”?).
Now, here we are nearly 7 months removed from the episode’s premiere and we’re still finding new ways to talk about, or at least I am. Black Mirror creator Charlie Brooker (and co-creator Annabel Jones) recently sat down with IndieWire’s Filmmaker Toolkit podcast to discuss the show in general as well as the status of season 4, which is due to wrap production soon with a debut date of sometime later this year. When “San Junipero” came up, Brooker revealed it was actually the first episode he wrote for the third season, partially inspired by his own love for the various 80s songs which populate the episode’s memorable soundtrack but also inspired by spite, “I’d read people moaning, ‘Oh, I see Black Mirror’s gone to Netflix, it’s going get all American, it will be all Americanized.’ Ok, sod you [‘piss off’] — opening scene, it’s California, 1987, that’ll confuse you. So in that respect, definitely there was an element of wanting to confound the viewer.”
He also wanted to rethink what a Black Mirror could be, and “San Junipero” is certainly unique in the Black Mirror cannon for its uplifting ending and more hopeful tone. Of course, there is much in the episode which is heartbreaking and deadly serious, but there would have been just a bit more of that if Brooker had kept one particularly depressing scene in there:
“I started writing a scene where [actress] Gugu’s [Mbatha-Raw] character Kelly, where we see she’s at a kindergarten [SPOILER] If you’ve seen the full episode, you know what’s going on there – it was the deceased children – which is extremely poignant and very sad thing. It made sense from a character point of view – you’d realize later, why she’d want to spend time there. But it was such a big note to hit within that story, I stripped it out.”
Plus, apart from whether or not such a moment would be too sad it also would seem somewhat extraneous, not central to the 80s party vibe and the burgeoning romance between Yorkie (Mackenzie Davis) and Kelly (Mbatha-Raw). Still, Brooker hasn’t ruled out revisiting the world of “San Junipero” in a follow-up episode, just looking through the eyes of brand new characters. So, a virtual reality kindergarten class where we know all of the kids are actually dead? Presumably still on the table.