There really isn’t a better Christmas present than the return of the wickedly compelling British series, Black Mirror. Series three starts off with a ‘festive’ tale starring one of the show’s fans, Jon Hamm. So, how did the ‘mad man’ do?
Let’s bitch it out…
For those who aren’t familiar with the series, Black Mirror premiered in 2011 and features stand alone episodes that serve as cautionary tales, primarily exploring our relationship (or persistent reliance) on technology. There are other juicy issues mixed in there (depending on the episode) but universally, the series pushes boundaries resulting in terrifying conclusions. All episodes take place in the not-to-distant future, compelling its audience to think about the consequences of rapidly developing technologies. Think of it as a modern take on The Twilight Zone or Tales from the Crypt.
‘White Christmas’ is less of cohesive narrative as I’ve seen in the other episodes, functioning more as three little mini-stories that have a purposeful through line. Matt (Hamm) is the uniting character, a self-proclaimed spiritual guru of sorts. In truth, I found the first story of Matt, coaching Harry (Rasmus Hardiker) to pick up chicks along side a plethora of accompanying coaches/voyeurs, to be the strongest. The story was the most relatable if we consider how quick we are to consult google for every single one of our life problems.
What’s even more disturbing is when Matt investigates the three people Harry’s meant to mingle with at the party. A quick face match via his tablet, and Matt is instantly privy to enough private information and detail that he can coach Harry into deceiving them all. It’s the online creeping we all do (admit it!) amped up so that it becomes unsettling when we see it. We’ve naturalized our creeping, but when we see how it can be used ‘in action’ via Matt, it bothersome. The dating coach narrative fizzles as we see the untimely death of Harry (which feels like a lazy way to wrap up that narrative quickly), but in terms of really getting to the heart of what Black Mirror does best, the first story vignette is the most successful.
The way the rest of the narrative unfolds with the cultivation of the ‘cookies’ and the revelation of Joe’s (Rafe Spall) confession, is interesting, but I found myself nit-picking details rather than being completely engrossed. The time-lapse for example just doesn’t hold weight. Greta’s (Oona Chaplin) cookie is supposed to be left alone for three weeks and then subsequently six months(!) in an attempt to break her. When Matt returns, she’s not nearly as messed up as one would be if in solitary for that long. I know, I know – the cookie is not a real person, but it pulled me out of the narrative because it just didn’t seem believable.
Same goes for the whole ‘blocking’ phenomenon. It’s definitely a frightening thought to believe that some one could just block you in the heat of the moment – but the execution of the blocking doesn’t really make sense. I can get on board (barely) that a user can actively block another person, but in turn to have that person’s perception (i.e. eyeballs) be altered as well? Who is then controlling the implementation of these blocks? I couldn’t help but think that some powerful puppet master behind it all. At the episode’s conclusion, when Matt is blocked from the entire world, it’s incredibly eerie to witness a sea of white pixelated blurs, but how is Matt supposed to function on the day-to-day? How will he buy groceries if everyone is blocked and he in turn is block from everyone? Perhaps I’m being overly critical in focusing on these details, but on the whole, it was too far-fetched for me to fully invest.
Details aside, I still found the episode ambitious and it had me thinking long after it ended. That’s the power of Black Mirror. I wouldn’t say this was one of the stronger episodes of the series, but it’s still far more elevated than most other shows on air. I’m delighted that we’re getting more of the series and I genuinely hope that the next episode isn’t too far away.
What did you think viewers? Did you find the commentary on our reliance on technology particularly scathing in this episode? Was I the only one wondering how Beth (Janet Montgomery) knew that the baby wasn’t Joe’s (arguably she would have been sleeping with both Joe and Dan Li’s Tim at the same time)? Did you care about the details or were you just happy to get more Black Mirror? Sound off in the comments below.
Black Mirror will air a third series, but currently no premiere date has been announced for the remaining episodes. Previous episodes are currently streaming on Netflix (and should be required viewing).