Charlie Brooker’s triptych of dystopian tales that make up Black Mirror are a perfect reflection of our modern life lived in 21st Century Britain.
Three cautionary tales of sex, power and technology gone awry, all viewed through the opaque black mirrors of plasma screens, smartphones and monitors. All shared and viewed in real time through a lens of distancing while the bigger picture at times hides in plain sight – very much as a tangible, physical form.
The National Anthem – the first, and perhaps most troubling tale – tells of Prime Minister Michael Callow who is roused from his sleep to be informed that the nation’s darling, Princess Susannah, has been kidnapped, and in order for her to be returned safely the only stipulation is that the Prime Minister is to have sex on national television with a pig.
This opening episode very much sets the tone that the increasingly outrageous plot is played as if it were a more restrained British version of 24, where any situation is treated entirely seriously by both actors and creators alike. The speed at which the situation is socially networked across the world (the video is initially uploaded to YouTube, propagated on Facebook and discussed on Twitter) is as truthful as it is prescient. The next “big” world event will be transmitted immediately and very publicly, though whether pigs will be involved is another matter.
The second instalment, 15 Million Merits, co-written with Brooker’s wife Konnie Huq, takes a more futuristic look into consumer-driven lives and earns a significantly longer running time than the other episodes.
Bing (Daniel Kaluuya) is a drone in a Brave New World where riding an exercise bike daily earns merits which can be used to procure (meaningless) commodities. He falls for fellow cyclist Abi (Jessica Brown-Findlay), an above average singer who auditions for X-Factor-style show ‘Hot Shot’ which enables the underclasses to achieve a seemingly meaningful life.
There are obvious holy cows to slay here with Bing delivering an impassioned speech about the banality of life lived through consumerism and greed rendered useless without the reality of emotions. One delicious aspect to the episode is the world’s inability to skip commercials without it leading to a loss of merits.
Brooker takes more of a back-seat for the final episode, entrusting writing duties to Jesse Armstrong of Peep Show and Fresh Meat fame. The Entire History of You is perhaps the best of the bunch with its flirtation with the concept of memory and propelling us further into a more tangible future than the previous two outings.
Tiny chips called “Grains” are implanted in adults, acting as a virtual hard-drive which is able to record and “redo” past events, allowing for in-depth analysis and unforgiving recall. Liam (Toby Kebbell) is a nervous young father, married to Ffion (Jodie Whittaker) whom he suspects of having an affair with smarmy Jonas (Tom Cullen).
Evidently Armstrong, much like all of us, has found a catharsis to be able to relive moments and prove statements that are said, at times here years ago, and then corroborate or contradict the information with the facts played out on screen in real-time. If only more allowance were given to flesh out the concept and the characters to a greater extent then this would contend with some of the best television the country has produced in recent memory. It’s a shame I can’t check my grain to see if it agrees with that statement…
Released on DVD on Monday 27th February 2012 by 4DVD.
Watch the trailer…
What did you think of Black Mirror? Let us know below…