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In fact, the past five or so years of dating men might best be described by involved parties as bleak.
It’s into this landscape that dystopian anthology series has dropped its fourth season.
Among its six episodes, which hit Netflix on Friday, is “Hang the DJ,” a heartbreaking hour that explores the emotional and technological limits of dating apps, and in doing so perfectly captures the modern desperation of trusting algorithms to find us love—and, in fact, of dating in this era at all.(Spoiler alert: major spoilers for the episode “Hang the DJ” follow.)The story follows Frank (Joe Cole) and Amy (Georgina Campbell), millennials navigating an opaque, AI-powered dating program they call “the System.” With disc-like smart devices, or “Coaches,” the antiseptically calculating System leads participants through mandatory relationships of varying durations in an enclosed campus, assuaging doubts with the cool assurance that it’s all for love: every assignment helps provide its algorithm with enough meaningful data to eventually pair you, at 99.8% accuracy, with “your perfect match.”The System designs and facilitates every encounter, from pre-ordering meals to hailing autonomous shuttles that carry each couple to a tiny-house suite, where they must cohabit until their “expiry date,” a predetermined time at which the relationship will end.
Palpably disappointed but obedient to the process, they part ways after a night spent holding hands on top of the covers.
Alone, each wonders aloud to their coaches why such an obviously compatible match was cut short, but their discs assure them of the program’s accuracy (and apparent motto): “They spend the next year apart, in deeply unpleasant long-term relationships, and then, for Amy, through a parade of meaningless 36-hour hookups with handsome, boring men.
It’s the shocking truth: they have been in a Matrix, but are also part of it—one of precisely 1,000 Frank-and-Amy simulations that collate overhead to total 998 rebellions against the System.
They are the dating app, one that has now alerted the real Frank and Amy, standing at opposite ends of a dark and crowded bar, to one another’s presence, and their 99.8% match compatibility.
Later she describes the experience, her frustration agonizingly familiar to today’s single women: “The System’s just bounced me from bloke to bloke, short fling after short fling.
I know that they’re short flings, and they’re just meaningless, so I get really detached.
They smile, and the Smiths’ “Panic” (which prominently and repeatedly features the episode's title) plays them out over the pub’s speakers.
I’ll admit, as a single millennial particularly invested in speculative fiction ( and much the targeted audience for an episode like this.
It’s like I’m not really there.”But then, miraculously, Frank and Amy match again, and this time they agree not to check their expiry date, to savor their time together.