“Rachel, Jack and Ashley Too” is a standout episode, but only in how it’s either the best or worst of the season but nobody can really decide.
This Black Mirror Season 5 Episode 3 review for the episode titled “Rachel, Jack and Ashley Too” contains spoilers. You can check out our thoughts on the previous episode by clicking these words, and you can also check out our spoiler-free thoughts on the entire fifth season by clicking these ones.
It’s an inspired bit of stunt casting to employ Miley Cyrus, a lifelong global pop sensation, as a lifelong global pop sensation, especially since she emerged from within the saccharine clutches of Disney with a series of drastic appearance and personality reinventions that would seem, were she not a lifelong global pop sensation, like something of a mental breakdown. And that’s kind of the point of “Rachel, Jack and Ashley Too”, an overly busy and only intermittently effective critique of soul-sucking superstardom.
Cyrus plays Ashley O, a beacon of teen-girl empowerment whose entire pop persona is rigidly managed by her aunt Catherine (Susan Pourfar). Her songs are braindead and set to the melody of Nine Inch Nails hits, and the latest attempts at merchandising her are to transplant her anodyne personality onto a saleable robot doll.
The doll is attractive to Rachel (Angourie Rice), a lonely and obsessive Ashley O fan who has a rivalrous relationship with her sullen sibling Jack (Madison Davenport) and sees, in the doll, something of a companion; an earnest font of encouragement that just happens to look and speak like her idol. The problem is that Rachel and Jack accidentally unlock the doll’s full personality, which isn’t exactly as advertised.
From this point, “Rachel, Jack and Ashley Too” becomes less interesting but more energetic, morphing into a kind of upbeat heist movie bolstered by an elastic — and, if we’re being fair, rather impressive — performance from Miley Cyrus. Questions of where this episode stands in the show’s overall oeuvre will be dependent, I suppose, on whether you’re okay with this season’s most conceptually audacious hour being content to abandon most of its ideas in favor of something more fun but less thoughtful.