Within hours of the Netflix debut of Black Mirror‘s third season, the deliciously nostalgic and endearing episode “San Junipero” became a newly minted fan favorite. But the surprisingly sweet tone of this romance-driven story made some suspicious, spawning a fan theory Nerdist took to the man himself, “San Junipero” writer/Black Mirror creator Charlie Brooker.
WARNING: spoilers For “San Junipero” lie ahead!
Starring Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Mackenzie Davis, the California-set “San Junipero” follows tourists Kelly and Yorkie as they fall in love against the backdrop of 1987 glamor. Of course not all is what it seems. We soon learn the titular party town is not real, but a heavenly simulation where the uploaded consciousness of the dying and dead are placed so they might “live” out eternity in youth and bedazzled ’80s attire.
In the third act, Yorkie goes from tourist to resident when she passes away. But will Kelly follow? Or will she choose to die the way her husband and daughter did before her, surrendering to nature and possible nothingness?
To our relief, the episode concludes with a happy ending. The pair romp about the beach in white dresses, seemingly taking their IRL marriage to the virtual plane for all time. However, Reddit user bgrizz101 argues this finale hides a”secret downer ending.” In a multi-point theory,bgrizz101 posits the Kelly frolicking with Yorkie in the final scenes isn’t the real thing, but just part of the titular simulation meant to keep Yorkie happy.
Could it be? Was “San Junipero”‘s uncharacteristically upbeat ending a clue? In New York, we sat down with Brooker to discuss this very ep. When we presented the fan theory, the ep’s writer quickly and enthusiastically shot it down.
“Wrong!” Brooker proclaimed. “They are together.”
Addressing the episodes’s origins, he went on, “As I was doing it, I wasn’t sure what the ending was. I thought, ‘Let’s gift these characters (a happy ending).’ It was the first one I’d written in this season as well. And I wanted to reinvent what I thought a Black Mirror episode was, because I’d read people grumbling, ‘Oh the show’s going to Netflix. What if it gets all Americanized!?’ I thought, ‘Right.” Mugging, Brooker gives the double Vs sign, then mimes typing furiously as he continues. “‘It’s California! Ha!’ And then I wanted to give it a very different tone, almost as a sort of clearing of the pipes…and it sort of came out quite quickly, the story. The reaction to it’s been really pleasing.”
Brooker also confessed how the happy ending meant even more as the script developed, saying, “In the first treatment, it was a heterosexual couple…And then I was trying to think for this season, ‘Let’s just try to revisit my initial thoughts.’ So then I thought, ‘What if it isn’t (a heterosexual couple)?’ And that gave it an extra level of thematic relevance, because gay marriage wasn’t possible in 1987.”
So no points to fan theories this time. But on the plus side, this denouncement is great news for the growing Kelly/Yorkie fandom, confimring that heaven can be a place on Black Mirror’s Earth.
More from this interview–as well as others with the Black Mirror cast and crew–will be coming soon.
What’s your favorite Black Mirror episode?