Okay, I’m going to continue with this month’s theme of “Speculative Fiction things that I just happen to be watching”. And let me start out by saying this: if you have Netflix, use it. Watch things that you might not have watched. You will never know when you might discover something that is a true gem. In the case of Black Mirror, this one is really good.
At least the first season is. Before I get into that, I will talk about how Black Mirror is essentially an anthology show from the U.K.. I honestly cannot remember the last time an anthology show was on the air in the United States. I suppose Masterpiece Theatre could be considered one, but except for remakes of The Twilight Zone, The Outer Limits, and Spielberg’s Amazing Stories show in the mid-eighties, the anthology show is a lost art, really.
Of course, this is Britain, and they tend to have some really good shows. Black Mirror follows the same season and episode plan as Sherlock. That is, there is only three episodes per season, and each episode feels like a mini-movie. I wish all television was like this, honestly. Most television is just a bunch of subplots so jumbled together that I rarely remember the Plot A on the show.
I had a chance to watch 2 seasons on Netflix, and I will attempt to review every episode so far:
“The National Anthem”
I was told that Black Mirror is supposed to be speculative fiction, but this first episode was pretty believable. That is, I could see this situation happening. The plot is about a member of the royal family being kidnapped, and the only way the kidnappers will give her back is if the prime minister performs a sexual act with a pig. If that summary makes you not want to watch the show, then I don’t blame you.
Still, the way that the showed how the prime minister’s advisers and staff responding to it was quite realistic. I think the situation is meant to show how we are a society of spectators, and how we are content at seeing what is trending and watching stupid videos all the time. I may not have been pleased with the outcome of this video, as far as the reason why this was happening, but I can’t deny this episode make a very powerful statement.
“Fifteen Million Merits”
This episode took me completely by surprise. The story is about a man named Bing who lives in a world where going to work consists of going to stationary bike and pedaling all day. By pedaling, he earns merit money, and everyone lives in box-like apartments where they are all consumers.
Why is this society stuck in this giant building and pedaling? What happened to the world outside? How in the world has society got this way? This is the best part of this episode: it is not answered, and everything about this episode is show and not tell.
Bing meets a woman who has a terrific singing voice. He wants her to be on this X-Factor/American Idol type of a show, and even gives her 15 million merits to do so. Unfortunately, the system corrupts this girl, and Bing then exacts his revenge on it.
I have to say that this episode ends really well, and makes a good point. It is my favorite episode of the series, and I highly recommend watching it first or last if you do watch the series.
“The Entire History of You”
This show takes place in a world where your memories can be recorded thanks to a chip that can be surgically implanted in your head. The memories are in the form of a video, so you can constantly watch what happened to you, and even share it with friends.
Personally, I think this is probably where we are headed as a society, but this episode shows how this is not a good thing. For example, we can relive memories until they are bad by repetition. The main character keeps replaying the last few seconds of a job interview until he is sure that he didn’t get it. Then the main character begins to notice subtle things about his wife and her relationship with a man.
In case you are wondering, this can only lead to paranoia. I won’t spoil the end of this, because there is only two ways it can go: either the wife has committed adultery or she hasn’t. I like this episode because it shows how simple technology that we have can really change the world, and not necessarily in a good way.
“Be Right Back”
This episode is kind of interesting, as it is about a woman, Martha, who loses her husband Ash, just as she discovers that she is pregnant with his baby. Martha wants so desperately to have him back, and she then hears of a service that will allow him to return in a limited degree.
There is a computer program that can replicate texting from Ash, and she then takes it a step further. She discovers that it is possible to receive virtual phone calls from the deceased on her phone. Then she discovers that she can create a clone of her deceased husband, and things get kind of creepy after that.
I can understand what this episode was trying to do. As someone who as lost someone close, I can understand why you would want to try to communicate with him or her, even if it is artificial. I can even understand wanting to clone him or her, but there will always be an unreal quality that we can’t overlook.
If I have one major complaint, the world presented in this episode didn’t seem to show what would really happen if we have technology like that. Martha seems surprised that this ersatz resurrection tech exists, when it should be well-understood that it already does. I believe that is how it would play out realistically.
I had to admit, I really loved the nightmarish quality of this episode. It starts out with a woman who wakes up after amnesia. She sees this weird symbol on the TV, and then discovers that the rest of the world around her is compelled to film her on cellular phones. Then she is hunted down by masked gunmen.
The episode has a creepy vibe that really drew me in. The explanation was that some signal was causing people to do this, but there is an actual explanation that I personally didn’t like. In short, I was upset with how this episode ended, but the beginning was nothing short of pure psychological thrills that is missing from television and cinema these days.
“The Waldo Moment”
This is a very interesting episode that I honestly believe could happen. It begins when an animated bear has a politician on his comedy show, and then the bear, Waldo, somehow becomes a write-in candidate.
This is one episode that had a lot to say, and there is a great scene where Waldo just rants on politicians. The issue is how we love entertainment over politics, and that we probably will just elect some person who tickles our funny bone regardless if whether he or she can lead.
Like the last episode, it has an ending that I also don’t like and kind of ruins it.
Well, check out Black Mirror, and make certain you watch it through the credits, because they often tag on more of an ending, good or bad. I wish the season 2 was as good as the first.