Rusty's World

Black Mirror | January 22, 2017

We just finished watching Black Mirror and, for some reason, I decided I wanted to write about each show.

There will be lot so spoilers, but let’s get the preamble out of the way first.

For anyone who doesn’t know, Black Mirror is a British show that is an anthology. There are no on-going stories. Think of the Twilight Zone or Outer Limits as a comp. Each show gives a look at the dark side of technology, each in different ways.

The seasons are short. There are a grand total of 13 episodes. The first two season s were produced for British TV and are 3 episodes long, with a Christmas Special in the second season, for a 4th episode. After that it was picked up by Netflix and they produced a 3rd season of 6 episodes (and there is another season coming out at some point).

I had previously read about the serious and heard how dark it was. Due to this, I added it to my Netflix list but did not suggest it to Ruthanne. It sounded darker than I thought she would care for. Then she suggested it to me! A friend told her it was good, so we took the plunge.

We accidentally started on season 3. Since it in an anthology is didn’t matter. Having said that, I think I am glad we did and I would suggest to other people that they start on Season 3. Ease into it, as it were. The British shows are MUCH darker.

Okay. From here on out this is a MASSIVE SPOILER WARNING.

If you haven’t watched this and want to, read no further. If you haven’t watched this and don’t want to, this post will probably be boring. This is more for those who have watched it and want to discuss it… or something.

SEASON 3 – EPISODE 1 – Nosedive

We didn’t know this but one of the things about this new season is that they started recruiting ‘name’ actors that American audiences would recognize. This time out it starred Bryce Dallas Howard and had Alice Eve and a great appearance by Cherry Jones.

This one was a world where social ranking means absolutely everything. You have a score at all times and it affects where you an work, where you can live, who will talk to you etc.

Basically it is ‘what if your Klout score actually mattered?’. (Does Klout still exist?)

This was not actually that dark. We were laughing at times. Yes we watched someone completely crash and burn, but it was inevitable and predictable. And funny.

Was the message that we shouldn’t worry so much about such things? Sure.

SEASON 3 – EPISODE 2 – Playtest

Here we go. This one is a bout Virtual Reality and tapping into someone’s fears and subconscious. Ultimately it was the same ‘trick’ as in every v.r. story – where does reality end and virtual reality begin? We already saw Existenz, right? (If not, go watch that.) Heck, they did the same things with dreams way back in American Werewolf in London.

But, whoa. When you knew he was in v.r. we saw a really cool implementation of it. When you weren’t sure if the story was still going in v.r. or if it had gone off the rails, it got better. When he got out… not shocking but it sure gave a better idea of the difference between surface fears and what people are really afraid of.

This is the episode that made me a full convert.

SEASON 3 – EPISODE 3 – Shut Up & Dance

This is where they showed for the first time (this season) how they can turn things slightly on its head. We have a variation on The Game (Michael Douglas movie), but the people involved are being blackmailed because someone has hacked into their computers and has dirt on them.

We spend the whole episode feeling bad because the main character was caught on his laptop camera watching porn and having a wank. He is told the the video will be shared everywhere. He goes along with the plan, and it gets darker and darker. There are points when we said ‘it is time for him to pack it in. Sure he’ll be embarrassed, but…

And then, at the very end, we find out that the porn he was watching was child porn.

You want to feel kind of… off? Realize that the person you were cheering for all along was a pedophile. Ick. (But really well done. And Bronn from Game of Thrones was in it.)

One of the interesting things about this episode is that as we start to find out what people are being blackmailed for, it seems that some popes are being ‘over’ judged. Bronn cheated on his wife, for example. But at the end you realize that the punishments WERE scaled. There were two pedophiles and they ended up either dead or arrested. Others with lesser ‘evils’ just had their lives upended or destroyed.

SEASON 3 – EPISODE 4 – San Junipero

This one was a bit of a breather after the last. It was also kind of neat how the setting unfolded so you could figure out that it wasn’t just set in the Eighties. A lighter episode that still had emotional content. I was kind of disappointed that in the end Kelly changed her mind and chose to stay. I thought it would be better if they showed both decisions – Yorkie wanting to stay forever and Kelly wanting the normal lifespan.

SEASON 3 – EPISODE 5 – Men Against Fire

This was my least favourite episode of the season. It had an interesting look into how you can change someone’s perception. It also had a segment about how will try to dehumanize the enemy in war to make it easier on the soldiers. Not terrible, but not great.

SEASON 3 – EPISODE 6 – Hated in the Nation

Pubic shaming taken to its ultimate limits. Kelly MacDonald starred in this one, and she is really good. This whole episode comes across as one of those British Crime Dramas with a twist, which works in this context quite well. It kind of overwhelms the message, to be honest. Then they give us a satisfying tag-on to end the season.

Then we switched back to the REAL first episodes of the show.


SEASON 1 – EPISODE 1 – The National Anthem

The Prime Minister of Great Britain is blackmailed into having sex with a pig on live television.

An actual pig. It takes us some time to get there but… whoa.

And for nothing. (Though he didn’t know that.)

I came out of that episode a little stunned. Then we watched the next one.

SEASON 1 – EPISODE 2 – Fifteen Million Merits

This episode actually made us stop watching the show. I don’t mean we stopped for good, but it made us need to take a break.

When Abi tries to sing her way to a better life and is convinced to turn her efforts towards porn, there is a really sick feeling. Later, when we see her in her new career, it gets worse and worse. The last time we see her, her makeup is running down her face as we see how they are torturing her. This is not voluntary. It is systematic rape.

And then Bing tries for revenge. Here is a very important point – when Abi did her audition, she was drugged. She was susceptible to suggestion. ‘Compliant’. When Bing did his ‘audition’, he was not.

He sold out everything just because they asked him to. He got the exact thing he railed against. A bigger box.

I hoped that he did it so he could buy Abi out of her situation, but there was no sign of that.  There is a tragedy in this show, but it wasn’t Bing.

SEASON 1 – EPISODE 3 – The Entire History of You

This one dealt with memory and the ability to rewatch memories, including refocusing on different things – zooming in, etc.

There is no question that Liam was the villain in this piece… but his suspicions were also correct. It really showed what could happen if someone who has obsessive tendencies had access to this kind of technology.

I didn’t like watching this episode. It was very well done, but I didn’t like it.

I was afraid that the show really lived up to the series title for the first time.

I don’t mean I could see myself as abusive like he was, but the way he drove himself there… maybe. A little too much ‘maybe’.

I was glad to roll over to the next season.

SEASON 2 – EPISODE 1 – Be Right Back

A little aside here – I am a Hayley Atwell fan. Let’s just leave that there.

If you could bring a loved one back, would you? Sure. If you could bring an imperfect copy of a loved one back, would you?

This is rabbit hole territory, because I think there first part – the text chatting – could actually make people feel better. The android version is just creepy. It also doesn’t feel possible so the episode lost a little resonance there.

It won it right back in the credits scene. Damn. Creepy.

SEASON 2 – EPISODE 2 – White Bear

Speaking of winning it back during the credits. This episode didn’t really work for me UNTIL the credits scenes. It felt like it was just a way over-produced torture scene that served no real purpose. Re-doing a torture over and over if they can’t remember it doesn’t really achieve its purpose.

And then came the credits. This wasn’t about the torture at all. It was entertainment.

This series touched on punishment a few times, yeah.

SEASON 2 – EPISODE 3 – The Waldo Moment

This episode was about the current American election.

It didn’t say that. I mean , it couldn’t have been since it came out in 2013, but come on. A cartoon bear runs for election?

Well done. Interesting that he doesn’t win but manages to ruin a couple people’s lives (including his own) in the process.

SEASON 2 – Christmas Special – White Christmas

This one used a framing sequence to tell multiple stories but they were tied together very well. Jon Hamm was the main character and through him we learned about ‘blocking’. Blocking on social media is nothing compared to this.

I think they overplayed their hand on this one. Everything about the episode was good until Hamm’s character was ‘blocked’. The punishment was so severe that it beggared belief. A person could not function this way. At all.

The stories that got there were great, though. The pick-up artists stuff was creepy, of course. That was nothing compared to the torture of the cookies. Really disturbing, as was much of the series.

This series is really, really well done… but you need to be prepared for it. There is a lot of darkness in here – not always, but often. But hey, why does everything have to have a happy ending anyway?


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