In the most optimistic episode of all three seasons of Black Mirror, San Junipero proves there is love in the afterlife.
We visit San Junipero, a seaside town with a rich nightlife during the mid-1980s, and we meet Yorkie, played wonderfully by Mackenzie Davis, a twenty-something girl eager to fit into the crowd. While at the local club, Yorkie meets this girl, Kelly, played marvelously by Gugu Mbatha-Raw, a confident and self-assured girl living life at one moment at a time. Yorkie becomes enamored by Kelly while dancing with her on the dancefloor. Yet she felt like she was being watched and judged by the surrounding crowd, thinking that her feelings about Kelly would be frowned upon. But being the person she is, Kelly assures Yorkie that the town of San Junipero is one of acceptance. Yorkie and Kelly meet again the very next week at this same club, and their relationship propels to the next level. Yorkie doesn’t know what to do in a town like this, so Kelly takes her on an adventure across town where they got to learn more about each other and their true intentions of visiting San Junipero. Kelly had been visiting the town only for a couple of months; she wanted to have a great time there.
Kelly and Yorkie have sex, and while in bed, they discussed their past relationships, including how Kelly realized she was bisexual and Yorkie’s current engagement to a guy named Greg. Kelly always knew she was bi, although she had been married to a man most of her life. And Yorkie had been a virgin for most of her life, even with her and Greg. Kelly’s husband Richard passed away two years prior, and he chose not to experience San Junipero. The clock strikes midnight, and a week goes by.
Yorkie goes to find Kelly again at the club where they first met. She was nowhere to be found. Another club patron tells Yorkie that she might be at the other club in town, the Quagmire. The Quagmire can be described as a club designed by whoever made the club from From Dusk to Dawn and the set from the Nine Inch Nails’ “Wish” video. Yorkie finds this club to be very frightening. Yet she asks one of Kelly’s previous conquests, Wes, if he had seen her around, and he responds with Yorkie having to find her in a different time, literally.
This is when the true nature of San Junipero was revealed; every week in that town was a new or different decade. So Yorkie goes through three different decades in the span of three weeks to find Kelly hanging out in the 2000s. Yorkie confronts Kelly in the club’s bathroom about her disappearance. Kelly boldly tells her that she doesn’t owe her any of her time and that San Junipero is not all it seems to be. Yorkie storms off and Kelly punches the bathroom mirror, which magically fixes itself. Kelly goes outside to find Yorkie sitting on the ledge of another building, looking as if she is going to jump off it.
Yorkie calmly asks about the amount of people in San Junipero that were already dead, which is about 80 to 85 percent. The town served as an afterlife option. Kelly was acting distant from Yorkie after their sexual encounter because of her not wanting to get attached to anyone in San Junipero. (She did the same with Wes.) Kelly also admitted that she was afraid of her feelings about Yorkie. Yorkie and Kelly made up again. Yorkie’s wedding to Greg was going to happen the following week, despite her family’s disapproval of him. Kelly reveals to Yorkie that she has only three months to live after being diagnosed with cancer, and that she won’t be returning to San Junipero because of what happened with Richard. Yorkie knew she wouldn’t have met someone like Kelly outside of San Junipero, and Kelly insists she wants to meet Yorkie outside of the town. Kelly lives in Nevada, and Yorkie lives in California.
Fast forward to present day, an older Kelly goes to visit Yorkie, who had to be in her sixties, at her assisted living facility in California. Yorkie had been a quadriplegic for forty years because of a car accident. Greg, her fiance, explains to Kelly that Yorkie came out to her very religious parents at 21, and they didn’t accept her. So she drove her car off the road, and almost died. Feeling remorseful yet hopeful, Kelly kisses Yorkie on the forehead, knowing that Yorkie could only hear her and that she had planned to die the next day after getting married to Greg. Greg was only getting married to Yorkie to override her family’s wishes and because of California’s euthanasia laws concerning San Junipero. San Junipero, as described by Greg, was an ‘immersive nostalgic therapy program’ that was helpful for people with Alzheimer’s and for people in hospice. Kelly visits Yorkie again in San Junipero, asking her to marry her instead of Greg. Yorkie agreed. Back in California, Yorkie passes away and ultimately decides to live in San Junipero forever.
Kelly goes back to her assisted living place since she doesn’t have that much longer to live. She goes to visit Yorkie again in San Junipero to truly celebrate their marriage. Yorkie asks Kelly to pass over early so they could immediately enjoy the town together. But Kelly refuses due to her uncertainty over the town and because of her ex-husband. Kelly sadly exclaims to Kelly that Richard didn’t want to live in San Junipero because of his and Kelly’s daughter Alison not getting an opportunity to experience the town since she died at 39. After Kelly and Yorkie’s heated argument, Kelly tried to run her car off the road, but survived because of how San Junipero is set up. Kelly returns to her assisted living home to die. She decides to live in San Junipero with her wife, Yorkie.
This might be my favorite episode of the season. York and Kelly got to experience more life while in San Junipero than they did in their previous lives. We as an audience got to witness an amazing love story between two LGBT-identified women that did not fall into the Bury Your Gays trope. How they love each other was handled with such grace and care.
The episode also highlighted how technology can alter how we view and experience the afterlife, no matter your religion. San Junipero seems comforting and fun, but a little monotonous. Kelly spoke to how much it was a gamble in deciding to stay in San Junipero. But I’m happy she decided to stay there with Yorkie. I wish there could be a part two to this episode to see how Yorkie and Kelly fared in San Junipero after a few years. Well, I guess, we can imagine that.
Jasmine E. Crenshaw is a young public health professional, a writer, and the media curator of the online space, Curated in Color. In her downtime, you can find her cooking, eating lots of Ben and Jerry’s at home, and crying at videos of baby animals. You can follow her at twitter.com/JECrenshaw.
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