Rachel, Jack and Ashley Too
|"Rachel, Jack and Ashley Too"|
|Black Mirror episode|
|Episode no.||Series 5|
|Directed by||Anne Sewitsky|
|Written by||Charlie Brooker|
|Cinematography by||Stephan Pehrsson|
|Original air date||5 June 2019|
|Running time||67 minutes|
"Rachel, Jack and Ashley Too" is the third and final episode in series five of anthology series Black Mirror. Written by showrunner Charlie Brooker and directed by Anne Sewitsky, the episode first aired on Netflix on 5 June 2019, along with the rest of series five.
The episode follows Ashley O (Miley Cyrus), a pop singer who is creatively restricted by her management team, and Rachel (Angourie Rice) and Jack Goggins (Madison Davenport), teenage sisters who struggle with the recent loss of their mother. Brooker based "Rachel, Jack and Ashley Too" on a sitcom script he'd written years prior.
Nine Inch Nails's songs "Head Like a Hole" and "Right Where It Belongs" are used in the episode alongside Ashley O's respective remixes, "On a Roll" and "Right Where I Belong". The episode received mixed reviews from critics, who praised Cyrus's performance but criticized the plot and pacing.
For her 15th birthday, Rachel Goggins (Angourie Rice) receives a new AI doll named "Ashley Too", which has a personality modeled after her favorite pop singer and superstar Ashley O (Miley Cyrus). Rachel begins to confide in Ashley Too, treating it as a friend rather than a toy, to the annoyance of her older sister Jack (Madison Davenport). Ashley Too convinces Rachel to perform a dance to Ashley's song "On a Roll" at a school talent contest, but her routine ends badly when she falls. Jack hides Ashley Too in the attic and tells Rachel that she threw it away.
Meanwhile, the real Ashley O is unsatisfied with her current image and writes out new songs that Catherine (Susan Pourfar), her manager and aunt, believes will undermine the pop star's growing success. Catherine discovers that Ashley has not been taking medication intended to counter her darker moods. At dinner, she confronts Ashley, who declares that she can get out of her contract with Catherine, as this medication is illegal. However, Catherine has laced Ashley's food with a large dosage of this medicine, causing a coma. Catherine alleges to the press that Ashley had a severe allergic reaction to shellfish to explain her absence.
Upon hearing the news about Ashley, Jack gives Ashley Too back to Rachel, who puts the toy on a shelf. Six months later, Ashley Too is activated by a news report and learns of her real self's coma and that Catherine been using technology to extract music from Ashley O's dreams for a new album, coupling scans with the voice recordings made for the Ashley Too dolls. The Ashley Too doll seemingly malfunctions, so the two girls hook it up to their father's computer and unknowingly remove a "limiter" that forced the doll from fully expressing Ashley O's full personality. Ashley Too, it turns out, has a full digital copy of her mind.
The doll convinces the two girls to take their father's mouse extermination van to Ashley's home to collect digital evidence from her real self's laptop. They bluff their way past Ashley's bodyguard, only to have Ashley Too disconnect what it believes is Ashley's life support, having intended to euthanize her. However, it turns out the equipment was keeping Ashley in a simulated coma. Ashley O wakes up and the three escape with the doll, racing to the venue where Catherine is presenting Ashley Eternal, a holographic replacement for Ashley O that can perform at music tours. Followed closely by cops, they crash onto the stage. Ashley steps out and Catherine realizes her plan has failed.
Some time later, Ashley is now an alternative musician (relabelled as 'Ashley Fuckn O') and performs together with Jack, as Rachel and Ashley Too watch. Meanwhile, their father tries to talk to the bartender about his mouse inventions and two of Ashley's former fans walk out in disgust at their idol's new direction.
| "Black Mirror: Season 5"|
The trailer for series five of Black Mirror.
| "Rachel, Jack and Ashley Too"|
The trailer for "Rachel, Jack and Ashley Too".
| "On a Roll"|
Official music video for "On a Roll", the remixed version of "Head Like a Hole", sung by Ashley O (Cyrus).
Series five of Black Mirror was released on 5 June 2019 and produced by Netflix. Production began with Black Mirror: Bandersnatch, an interactive film which grew in scope to the point where it was decided to separate it from the series and release it as a standalone film. It premiered on 28 December 2018. Though previous series of the programme produced under Netflix contained six episodes, series five consists of three episodes, as series creator Charlie Brooker viewed this as preferable to making viewers wait longer for the next series. Netflix released a trailer to the fifth series on 15 May 2019 and an individual trailer for "Rachel, Jack and Ashley Too" on 21 May.
The episode was written by Brooker. It was based on a comedy sitcom script that he wrote years prior about a punk band who are hanged by a Conservative minister and later return to life to see their manager exploiting their deaths for profit. The episode took inspiration from real life holographic performances of dead artists such as Prince, Whitney Houston and Amy Winehouse; Brooker opines that the holograms are "ghoulish" and notes that the figures "often pass away in extremely tragic circumstances".
Executive producer Annabel Jones said that Miley Cyrus was able to convincingly bring personal experience and vulnerability to the role of Ashley, and also handle how the episode's mood "gets increasingly heightened and sarcastic and satirical".
While the episode takes place in the United States, the filming took place in and around Cape Town, South Africa; Brooker stated that they have never filmed in the United States as it is too expensive there, and they can get similar settings from other locations around the world. Cyrus' involvement with the series was first hinted as a result of filming around November 2018.
Songs performed by Ashley in the episode are remixes of songs from Nine Inch Nails: "Head Like a Hole" was retitled "On a Roll", and "Right Where It Belongs" was adapted into "Right Where I Belong". Trent Reznor approved of the adaptations with Brooker's rewritten lyrics to make the songs more "chirpy". A rewrite of "Hurt" to "Flirt" was made but not included in the episode. Brooker commented that music videos have been made for all of the songs used in the episode, which Netflix will release over time. "On a Roll" was released via YouTube on 13 June 2019, and added to various music streaming services on 14 June.
The episode holds a 47% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, based on 38 critics, indicating mixed to negative reviews. It is the lowest rated episode of the show to date.
Alexandra Pollard of The Independent rated the episode four out of five stars. Criticising that the first half of the episode has poor pacing, Pollard notes that "there is a slight over-abundance of ideas", but praises the latter half of the episode as a "fun, high-concept heist film".
Adam White of The Telegraph gave the episode three out of five stars. Calling the plot "needlessly fragmented" but "thematically prescient", White found that the script relied on "vaguely banal statements on the vapidity of pop and the lack of care afforded to some of its most profitable stars". However, he praised the last third of the episode for its tonal shift and for Cyrus' "enjoyably potty-mouthed performance".
David Sims of The Atlantic praised the episode as a "bizarre and intermittently fascinating bit of pop-music melodrama", though he believed that it required "tighter editing". Sims commented that the episode had several disparate themes: the effect of their mother's death on Rachel and Jack; the actions of music labels and their influence on artists; and the potential for a performing holographic musician. He praised Cyrus' performance, particularly as the voice of Ashley Too.
In her review of series five, Jennifer Bisset of CNET said about the episode: "Brooker chooses to focus on wilder, more fantastical tech over the human connections... the result is more humorous than profound", adding that "the emotional setups see little pay-off".
Michael Love Michael of Paper and Christopher Rosa of Glamour noted parallels with the Free Britney movement. In the episode, Ashley O is held and drugged against her will by her aunt, who serves as her handler. In April 2019, a whistleblower alleged that Spears’s father, who serves as her conservator, institutionalized her against her will for refusing to take her medication.
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