Unraveling the Mind-Bending Conclusion of Black Mirror's 'Rachel, Jack and Ashley Too'

Unraveling the Mind-Bending Conclusion of Black Mirror's 'Rachel, Jack and Ashley Too'

Black Mirror's 'Rachel, Jack and Ashley Too' delves into the impact of technology on celebrity culture and personal identity, exploring a pop-music melodrama

Titled "Rachel, Jack and Ashley Too", the third episode of Black Mirror's fifth season is a refreshing departure from the show's typically gloomy tone. Directed by Anne Sewitsky, it explores familiar themes of artificial intelligence and memory storage, but with a surprising touch of optimism.

Although it doesn't delve extensively into the intricacies of fame like the episode "Fifteen Million Merits", "Rachel, Jack and Ashley Too" effectively depicts the commodification of celebrities for financial gain. Unlike many other episodes of Black Mirror, it concludes with a more uplifting tone.

What Is Black Mirror’s ‘Rachel, Jack and Ashley Too’ About?

Unraveling the Mind-Bending Conclusion of Black Mirror's 'Rachel, Jack and Ashley Too'

Introducing Rachel Goggins (played by Angourie Rice), a lonely teenager trying to adjust to a new school while dealing with the loss of her mother. She resides with her older sister Jack (played by Madison Davenport), who sports a septum ring, and their father Kevin (played by Marc Menchaca), an innovative rodent exterminator focused on creating a groundbreaking mousetrap alternative. On Rachel's fifteenth birthday, she receives Ashley Too, an AI robotic doll designed after her favorite pop idol Ashley O (played by Miley Cyrus) (a concept similar to that seen in the episode "White Christmas"). Adorned with bubblegum pink hair and glowing eyes, Ashley Too emanates an overwhelmingly cheerful persona, spouting empty words of encouragement like "If you believe in yourself, you can do anything". Rachel quickly becomes attached to the doll, finding confidence to participate in a school talent contest. However, during her performance of Ashley's song on stage, Rachel slips and embarrasses herself. Concerned by the doll's influence, Jack, who is somewhat repulsed, confiscates Ashley Too and hides it in the attic. She falsely claims to have thrown it away, causing a rift between the sisters.

Meanwhile, the real Ashley O is far from her virtual persona. She struggles to create songs that do not conflict with her established image and yearns for reinvention. Unfortunately, her exploitative aunt and manager Catherine (played by Susan Pourfar) discourages her from experimenting with her music, constantly providing her with sedative pills. Feeling more like a commodity than an artist, Ashley is reminded by Catherine that she has 20,000 adoring fans who want to see the version they adore, urging her to remain bound by her contract. Discovering Ashley's secret stash of medication, Catherine crushes the pills into powder and mixes it into her food, rendering her in a "chemical coma". News outlets report this as a shellfish allergy, and a sympathetic Jack returns Ashley Too to Rachel. However, Rachel refuses to reactivate it.

How Does ‘Rachel, Jack and Ashley Too’ End?

Unraveling the Mind-Bending Conclusion of Black Mirror's 'Rachel, Jack and Ashley Too'

Six months later, Ashley remains in a coma, yet Catherine has found a way to profit from her name and talent. Using advanced technology, Catherine taps into Ashley's unconscious mind and extracts new songs. These songs are then recorded using a voice mimicry software originally created for Ashley.

During a news segment about Ashley, Rachel's Ashley Too inadvertently receives a command to wake up from the TV. This causes the doll to malfunction upon discovering its true identity. Jack and Rachel attempt to fix Ashley Too by connecting it to their computer, unknowingly removing the device's restriction that limited it to using only four percent of Ashley's brain. This unlocking allows Ashley Too to embody Ashley's genuine and sarcastic personality, almost like a mirror image of her thoughts and feelings. The truth about Catherine is revealed to Rachel and Jack, prompting them to join forces and rush to Ashley's home in Kevin's distinctively themed van with mouse ears.

Upon arrival, Jack pretends to work for a pest control service as a decoy to deceive Catherine's team. Meanwhile, Rachel and Ashley Too locate the comatose Ashley. Believing that Ashley would not want to remain in a vegetative state, the doll makes the decision to disconnect Ashley from life support. Unexpectedly, this action leads to Ashley waking up, contrary to their intentions.

They all escape together and head towards Catherine, who is presenting Ashley Eternal, a hologram of Ashley that can perform at multiple locations simultaneously, to potential investors. Jack, being chased by the police for running a red light, reaches the venue and crashes into the equipment. Ashley gets out of the car and confronts a defeated Catherine.

The scene then shifts to Ashley, now performing under the name "Ashley Fuckn O," singing a song at a dive bar about her unpleasant aunt, with Jack playing the bass. Rachel and Ashley Too watch from the audience, while Kevin tries to explain his new invention to an uninterested bartender. Two former fans of Ashley O leave the show, criticizing her new appearance and music as "awful."

“Rachel, Jack and Ashley Too” explores the current state of the entertainment industry, which tends to commodify creativity. The episode depicts this by introducing a line of mass-market toys that are clones of Ashley's consciousness and altering her music for the sake of marketability. This accurately portrays how celebrities are manufactured creations of the industry. In an interview with The Guardian, Cyrus, who has experienced her own transition from a teen idol to a more mature artist, discussed how the episode reflects the overt exploitation of artists, where numbers often overshadow creativity.

Charlie Brooker, the creator of Black Mirror, revealed in an interview with EW that the concept of Ashley Eternal was inspired by the rise of holographic versions of deceased artists like Prince and Amy Winehouse. Brooker described this as ghoulish, as these artists had already been chewed up by the fame industry and are now being resurrected through technology. The episode showcases the audience's excitement at the idea of a hologram, even when it involves a person who is near death, highlighting the power technology can usurp from the artist.