“She didn’t know it was fake”
On the fourth day of Christmas, Black Mirror gave to me…Hayley Atwell and a Humans protoype
Be Right Back, the first episode of Series 2 of Black Mirror, finds all sorts of interesting pre-echoes in Series 2 of Humans which has just finished airing this month on Channel 4. There, Carrie-Anne Moss’ grieving scientist was looking at ways in which to effectively transfer the consciousness of her comatose daughter into the digital realm and here, Brooker imagines a possibility where the process has been exploited into something one can buy.
Hayley Atwell’s Martha is devastated when her husband Ash, Domhnall Gleeson, is killed in a car crash in the remote area where they live, all the more so when she discovers she is pregnant. Lost in the throes of grief, an acquaintance – a brilliantly gobby Sinéad Matthews – offers to sign her up to something that will help her cope and Martha finds it impossible to resist. For it is an online service that collates the digital footprint of the deceased, their social media profiles and suchlike, to create a virtual replica of the deceased with whom you can ‘communicate’.
Equally heartbreaking and eerie, its an ingenious example of Charlie Brooker’s twisted genius, taking an idea which doesn’t seem so bad, a technological innovation with the power to do good, and shows how human nature will always take it too far. As Martha progresses from instant messaging to actually speaking to ‘Ash’ and then taking it way way further, what seems like it could be a coping mechanism to help with grief can transmute into a terrible dependency, which arrests the grieving process and leaves it crucially unresolved. Fantastic work from Atwell and Gleeson make it beautifully, horrendously, believable too.