Hey guys! This is (for now) the last Black Mirror review post! Thank you all for putting up with this series, while I managed an actual solid schedule (for once in my life!). Today, we’re looking at Rachel, Jack and Ashley Too!
There are several plot elements to this story – we have Ashley O, who is a huge pop star that is creatively restricted by her management, specifically her aunt, Catherine. Rachel and Jack are sisters that are practically polar opposites – Rachel is obsessed with pop music, and a huge fan of Ashley O, while Jack doesn’t really give a shit about that, and is into rock music – so the whole opposite sisters trope, I get it. It works in this story, I suppose. Both sisters are struggling with the recent loss of their mother, and Ashley O struggles with her image and the inability to create music that she fully believes in.
Rachel get a new AI robot named Ashley Too, which is based on the persona of Ashley O. Rachel confides in the toy, and is convinced to dance to ‘On a Roll’ at the talent contest, but chokes. Ashley Too is hidden away by Jack.
Ashley O stops taking the medication that Catherine gives her, so Catherine laces her food with a large dose of the medicine, which results in a coma that is later publically blamed on shellfish. After a while, Ashley Too is reactivated, hears of the real-self’s coma. The AI malfunctions, and the girls fix her and unknowingly removes a limiter mechanism that opens up the entire inner workings of Ashley O’s mind, which includes her real personality. There’s some espionage involved with the girls actually going to Ashley O’s house, waking up the real Ashley in a coma, they all escape and head to a venue. Catherine had been presenting Ashley Eternal, which would be a holographic replacement that would be able to go on tour and release new music, courtesy of the technology that was used to extract music from real Ashley’s dreams and turning them into pop songs.
Later on, Ashley is rebranded as ‘Ashley Fuckn O’ and performs alt rock with Jack as her bassist. Turnabout is fair play, considering Jack never liked Ashley O as a pop artist in the first place.
Overall, like with Striking Vipers, this episode could have gone a lot darker. The second half was compared to a Disney Channel film rather than that of a Black Mirror episode. The technology used to extract music from dreams is interesting, and I kinda want some of that technology for story ideas, because I oftentimes get ideas from dreams. Ashley Eternal could have been popularised, Ashley O could have stayed in her coma, the entire world would have been taken over by Ashley O fever, much like a more exaggerated version of Bieber Fever, or K-Pop stans (Disclaimer: I have no problems with K-Pop stans, I meant as in hugely exaggerated, like literally taking over the world kind of exaggerating).
This episode could have been better, and I feel that the first half of the episode was actually the better portion of season five. It does feel that there were so many ideas that they wanted to implement in one episode, but
The rewrites of Nine Inch Nails songs Head Like A Hole to On a Roll, and Right Where It Belongs to Right Where I Belong were interesting, and a good take on how such rock and metal songs can be rewritten to suit the music industry’s desire for bubblegum pop music. On a Roll was popularised with a music video to go along with it. It’s ironic that the release of that video and the popularity of the song encompassed the meaning of the episode without having to watch the episode itself.
I do have to give credit to Miley Cyrus though, especially for the cover of Head Like a Hole at the episode’s close. I’ve never really been a fan of hers based on the actual songs she’s released, but after hearing Head Like a Hole I’m convinced she should start making alt rock music, especially when she performed Zombie last year. Choosing Head Like a Hole to perform at the end provides the turnaround compared to its pop counterpart, On a Roll. Her performance as Ashley O and Ashley Too was the highlight of the episode.
Overall, I wanted the episode to focus a lot more on the impact of the music industry and the labels on its artists, as well as the potential for holographic musicians. I wasn’t particularly interested in the affairs of one family, if that makes sense?
Next week…actually, I don’t know what to review next…