***** SPOILERS – Episode 2 in particular. You should watch these first. It’s a great show! *****
If you haven’t heard of Black Mirror, well, don’t feel too bad, because this show has been a bit of a sleeper hit since it’s inception. Spawning from the mind of Charlie Brooker, Black Mirror is essentially a modern, British-made Outer Limits, but with a large dollop of misanthropy and social commentary. When season one premièred on Channel 4 in December 2011, it’s 3 episodes made quite a splash with it’s bleak outlook on the future of human existence and it’s portrayal of our own contempt at the modern age. This splash was more than big enough to warrant a second season, and here we are, at the end of the first quarter of 2013, with another 3 episodes to delve into and explore.
Kicking off proceedings, Brooker decides to tackle the average person’s seemingly endless need to post their lives on social media with the altogether quite horrifying ‘Be Right Back’. The premise is simple, what if, in the near future, when we die, it was possible to create an artificial intelligence based on our online persona. Literally taking all the information we have ever posted on social networks, and using it to re-create us as a non-organic living entity that can and will communicate as we would. This is what happens when one half of a young couple dies in a car accident and leaves his ex-girlfriend to raise their child alone. The ex-girlfriend, completely grief stricken, gets volunteered for this program by a friend, and begins to fall in love with her dead boyfriend all over again, through this artificial intelligence. Sound a bit creepy? That’s because it is. This is easily my favourite of this season, and with good reason. Social media is becoming more and more of a necessity in our daily lives, and as such, it is compelling people more and more to share their lives on it. It begs the question, are we leaving ourselves behind when we die, just to be re-created so our friends and loved ones never have to say goodbye? This is a terrifyingly real prospect for the future and one I personally hope to not be alive for, especially not the second time.
Next up is the morality conundrum, White Bear. A woman wakes up in a seemingly abandoned house, and as she leaves the house and attempts to gather her thoughts, she finds that instead of helping her, everyone is just following her and videoing her on their phones. Suddenly, a ‘hunter’ shows up and starts trying to blow her head off with a shotgun. Cue a long and engaging mystery as she meets other survivors and tries to end the signal that is infecting everyone. Up to this point, you’re already hooked, and there’s already enough social commentary to give you food for thought and keep you hungry for the next episode.
Nope, not on Charlie Brooker’s watch.
Cue one of the best turnarounds this writer has ever witnessed as it is revealed that our protagonist is in fact part of a twisted theme park experience. Turns out, she filmed her boyfriend brutally murder a young girl they had kidnapped, and while he died in prison, she has been prosecuted for their crimes. Her punishment? Everyday her memory is wiped, and she begins the same ordeal over and over again, with people paying in to be able to film her being degraded and hunted down. This ends with it all being revealed to her at the end and then being lauded as a murderer before it all starts again. This is as philosophically heavy as they come as it asks the question, is spectating for an act of evil as bad as committing the act itself, and are we not as bad if we condemn the perpetrators to the same fate? Unfortunately, this debate feels almost too big for the episode itself, and it feels that if this had of been a film, that every avenue could have been adequately explored.
On a production level, however, this is the most flashy of the episodes in this season, with the most different sets and most dense storyline. This is by no means bad, it just flounders a touch on the shores of it’s own great debate, but the pure entertainment is there.
The third episode really let’s the season down unfortunately. ‘The Waldo Moment’ features an almost slapstick storyline in which a cartoon character runs for office in Britian in an effort to satirise the political comings and goings. While there’s still plenty of sci-fi gizmos and comedic pleasure to be entertained by, the episode as a whole feels very 2 dimensional, much like the Waldo cartoon character. The point the episode seems to be trying to make is a touch obvious and feels like it doesn’t quite meet Brooker’s standard set over the previous five episodes. A great pity, but one episode out of 6 is not bad, and considering the quality held within the previous 5 episodes, this is nothing to bat an eyelid at.
tl;dr – watch Black Mirror. It will engage your eyes and make you think, both of yourself, and of yourself in context of the current world. There is very little television of this sort of quality making the rounds these days, please support it. The first season can be found of the 4OD Youtube channel, and the second season can be found on 4 on Demand.