TV Special: Black Mirror


I usually don’t write about television much on here, because although I watch a good deal of it, I don’t have anything worth saying about the shows other than Tina Belcher from Bob’s Burgers is awesome. Not really shining television criticism, but that is about the end of my opinion on most things that relate to television. So I decided early on that this would be a mostly film blog about my opinions about things that only last two and a half hours instead of several weeks. It makes things simple on me and I really didn’t have to dive into the whole Breaking Bad craze that was just starting when I started this blog. (Good show, not great)

However I break this iron clad rule today to talk about a series that just went up on Netflix Watch Instant a few weeks ago called Black Mirror. Black Mirror is different from most other shows that we get imported from the Brits here in the Colonies. It has no awkward comedy, no melodramatic science-fiction plots and there are no impossibly hot guys that go around just being British (Cough Matt Smith Cough) and doing very little else (cough Benedict Cumberbatch cough). Black Mirror is an anthology series so the situations and the content are different every time. It is like the Twilight Zone in that way. It also like Twilight Zone in that it has science fiction overtones but is really about how a human reacts if put within a science fiction high concept like situation. While each episode is great, I have some personal favorites that I would like to highlight here.

The National Anthem is the first episode in the series. It can be summed up by a simple log line: the Prime Minister must fuck a pig on national television or a member of the royal family will be killed. While that may induce chuckles in you, like it did in me when first heard the description, the concept is actually taken very seriously. It goes through a step by step process of how the prime minister would actually be induced to fucking a pig. A live pig. The abduction and the rules for getting this royal family member back is posted on youtube so when the news breaks in the morning most people have already seen the video. The general population is aghast that something like this could happen and that the government would never give in to the demands. However, as the day progresses and the government is found out to be cheating by creating a CGI figure of the Prime Minister over another man who is actually going to do the deed, the tide turns and the public demands that he go through with the it himself. The royal family and his party also demand it. Then he actually does and it is not nearly as funny or as absurd as it should be. It is actually really sad and heartbreaking. He is crying the whole time and it goes on for a painful amount of time. What is fascinating about this episode is given the absurd concept just how heartbreaking it ends up becoming. While the prime minister ends up saving the royal family member, keeping his job and his popularity soars, his personal relationship with his wife deteriorates into nothing. Rory Kinnear who plays the prime minister in the episode does a fantastic job of externalizing the internal debate that must go through a person’s head when faced with such a damning and humiliating decision. If he decides that he can’t do it, then the royal family member is dead and so is his career. However if he does do it, then his marriage is essentially over. Plus there is the humiliation of fucking a pig over a national broadcast. It is a fascinating insight into how a political figure can be pushed into decisions he does want to make via the pressure he receives through many outlets, media, political party, and even the general public. What seems to be the right and moral decision (not fucking the pig) becomes outlawed by the pressure to do what the “public” demands. He ends up sacrificing love for the ability to keep his office.

The other episode I want to highlight is actually the first episode of the second series. It is titled Be Right Back. This episode is why I really like this series. I will give you a brief synopsis real quick and then I will dive into why this episode stands out from the rest of them, at least to me. A couple is seen in a small smart car together. They have a silly conversation that consists of whether or not the BeeGees is a good band. Once they get to their destination, we realize that this is a couple and this is a house that they have inherited. The girl chastises the boy for being on his phone too much and they have a conversation about the fakeness of a photo taken by his mother when he was young. After that they have a failed sexual encounter. In the morning they wake up. She has to do some work, so he is forced to return something by himself. After a whole day waiting for him, she starts to get scared and calls her sister. While on the phone with her, police show up at her door. He was killed in a car accident. At the funeral, a friend of hers signs her up for a new service that allows you to message your dead loved one. It culls material from comments on social media websites that the person said while they were still alive and forms a virtual identity of that person. At first she hates the idea, but eventually when she finds out she is pregnant, she decides to give it a try. At first it is just texting, then it is voice chatting and it finally evolves into a robot that has the same features and the same mannerisms as her dead husband. She gets wrapped up in the process and shuts everyone else out. However this robot is not her husband. It is a mere resemblance which makes her hate it. Despite all the information that we put on the internet, it is just a shadow of our real selves. Through my posts on this blog, you might get a sense of who I am, but you would never truly understand me and my mannerisms until you meet me in person. This is why this episode is so great. At every turn, the woman who has lost the one person who was dearest to her wants him back but knows deep within herself that this robot can never be him. Technology no matter how advanced, no matter how life-like and no matter how perfect it may seem can never replace human interaction. It will never give you the nuances of seeing someone else react to something like a kiss or a hug or even something as monumental as a snowstorm. You can read about reactions, but unless you really truly understand that person you still cannot get the actual reality of the situation. Once you have known love it is hard for it to be faked by a robot. This is what the woman learns in this story and yet she cannot destroy the robot that has her dead husband’s face. Instead it becomes like a pet to her and her daughter, something that her daughter can play with. But it will never be her husband. Ever.

This was easily the saddest story in the entire run of episodes because it was acted so well and it was structured perfectly. I have seem to be on a role with Domhnall Gleeson these days. He of course is in this episode as well. He plays the husband that gets killed and the robot that replaces him. His turn from altogether human into a robot is fascinating to watch, but I think he is really helped here by a fantastic script. Especially at the beginning when we get a glimpse of how cute their relationship is. He does seem to have the hardest job out of the two people involved with the story, but I will be remiss if I don’t mention Hayley Atwell. She quite surprised me. I have to admit that I watched the first episode of Agent Carter (she plays Agent Carter) and was vastly underwhelmed by her performance. I thought she was nothing more than a pretty face in period clothing. However, here she shines. Her devastation at losing someone so dear to her is so complete and so heartbreaking that I was balling almost immediately upon it happening. There was one scene in particular where she is extremely good. She has just heard the heartbeat of her daughter for the first time. She is walking out of the doctor’s office and has called this robot voice who sounds just like her husband. While she is talking to him, overjoyed with hearing this monumental thing for the first time, she fumbles with her phone and drops it, breaking it into a couple of different pieces. Her horror-stricken face spoke volumes for the emotions that she needed to convey at that moment. Here was her one connection to her dead husband and it was completely useless. It was great and made me burst out crying. Haha.

Each episode of Black Mirror is fantastic. I wish that I could have something original and cute to say about each one, but alas I do not. If you haven’t already watched it and you have some free time, why not give it a chance? At least you see someone fake fucking a pig. That seems pretty entertaining doesn’t it?

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