12 Days of Christmas – Black Mirror 3:6

“He wants people to face the consequences of what they say and do”

On the twelfth day of Christmas, Black Mirror gave to me…the bees, THE BEES!

After a slight hiccup in previous episode Men Against Fire, feature-length episode Hated in the Nation restored Black Mirror to its rightful glory to round off this third series. Adopting something of a police procedural approach and aligning itself closer to today’s society than the majority of previous instalments, this was a proper thriller and hugely enjoyable with it.

In a world where mini-drones have replaced the collapsing bee population, Kelly McDonald’s DCI Karin Parke is investigating a series of deaths where the victims are celebrities who have recently provoked the ire of social media. Along with newly transferred colleague and tech wiz Blue (Faye Marsay), solving the crimes leads them down a merry path of murderous hashtags, governmental misdemeanours and social responsibility. Continue reading “12 Days of Christmas – Black Mirror 3:6”

12 Days of Christmas – Black Mirror 3:5

“We don’t actually really want to kill each other”

On the eleventh day of Christmas, Black Mirror gave to me…its first disappointment

Well it had to happen, and I’m impressed that it took me until the eleventh out of twelve episodes of Black Mirror before we hit a duffer. We’re talking relatively of course, Men Against Fire is still a good hour of television but the bar has been raised so consistently highly that there is an amazing standard to live up to, especially in having to follow San Junipero, which I’m currently ranking as the best so far.

Men Against Fire sees Black Mirror take on the world of the military, surprisingly for the first time, in a world where biological war has ravaged Denmark and resulted in a mutation of those exposed. Labelled ‘roaches’ by the survivors, a military squad (who all have an implant called MASS to make them better soldiers) is in charge of controlling and purging them, but though new recruit Stripe manages to kill two on his first mission, the ramifications of his actions prove to be huge. Continue reading “12 Days of Christmas – Black Mirror 3:5”

12 Days of Christmas – Black Mirror 3:4

 “Uploaded to the cloud, sounds like heaven”

On the tenth day of Christmas, Black Mirror gave to me…the sweetest romance I’ve seen in ages. Also don’t read on if you haven’t seen it yet.

Time-travelling romances always do it for me and without wanting to give too much away about San Junipero, it is a gorgeous example of the form. It’s also a rare excursion into the (largely) non-sinister for Black Mirror which gives it a welcome change of pace in terms of this third series, indeed across its whole life, and marks it as one of the finest episodes yet. 

We open in 1987, in the party town San Junipero where introverted Yorkie, a bespectacled Mackenzie Davis, is making her first forays into club life and soon finds herself swept into the orbit of vibrant Kelly, the wonderful Gugu Mbatha-Raw, with whom she tumbles into a heady affair. As always, nothing is straightforward in this world though, and questions and hints and puzzles and clues point us towards the truth about what this place really is. Continue reading “12 Days of Christmas – Black Mirror 3:4”

12 Days of Christmas – Black Mirror 3:3

“I’m a decent bloke really”

On the ninth day of Christmas,Black Mirror gave to me…a skin-crawlingly dark episode

Even now, at the point where I’m trying to second-guess every episode of Black Mirror, Charlie Brooker is always two, three, four steps ahead of us. With co-writer William Bridges, Shut Up and Dance manages the trick of repeating the key theme of a previous instalment but twisting it just enough so that you never suspect and that the self-referencing doesn’t feel too cheeky a move. 
 

Alex Lawther’s Kenny is a regular teenager, enjoying jerking off to porn on his laptop and getting enraged when his sister borrows said laptop without asking. When he gets it back with a virus on it, he attempts to clean his system but in doing so, unwittingly lets in a hacker who has secretly recorded Kenny’s exertions on his webcam and is threatening to release the vid unless he does exactly as he’s told. Continue reading “12 Days of Christmas – Black Mirror 3:3”

12 Days of Christmas – Black Mirror 3:2

“It’s more like…layers on top of reality”

On the eighth day of Christmas, Black Mirror gave to me…proof that video games are evil

Not being a fan of video games at all, the second episode of Black Mirror’s third series Playtest properly creeped me out with its vision of experimental augmented reality games gone wrong. Wyatt Russell’s US tourist Cooper is stranded in London when his credit card details are stolen and to earn a quick buck to pay for his flight home, he signs up to a video game trial thinking nothing could go wrong…

But though the technology that the company SaitoGemu uses initially seems innocuous as in a 3D version of Whack-A-Mole, the non-disclosure agreement and rights’ waiver that he signed come into play with the new game they want to test. Using a small device that has been drilled into his head, this technology is designed to probe the brain for the specific things that make you scared and convert them into a personalised haunted house-type experience. What could possibly go wrong? Continue reading “12 Days of Christmas – Black Mirror 3:2”

12 Days of Christmas – Black Mirror 3:1

“If we drill down into the numbers, you’ve got a solid popularity arc here”

On the seventh day of Christmas, Black Mirror gave to me…a Hollywood makeover courtesy of Netflix

In what could be seen as a rather ironic move, Black Mirror found itself the subject of a bidding war, the result of which was its third series of 12 episodes, later split into 2 series of 6, was commissioned by Netflix and shown exclusively there, Channel 4 losing out and protesting about such behaviour until they did the exact same thing to the BBC with the Great British Bake-Off that is… 

There’s no defined order to the six episodes, that’s the nature of an anthology series, but there’s no mistaking the order Netflix want you to watch them in, leading with Nosedive, the episode featuring a Hollywood star in Bryce Dallas Howard. Directed by Joe Wright, it also deviates a little from standard practice by having a teleplay written by Michael Schur and Rashida Jones from an idea by Charlie Brooker, rather than Brooker himself like the majority of the other episodes. Continue reading “12 Days of Christmas – Black Mirror 3:1”

12 Days of Christmas – Black Mirror Christmas

“So thanks to you, some dork meets a girl, not much of a Christmas story…”

On the sixth day of Christmas, Black Mirror also gave to me…only bloody Jon Hamm!

Well this was a White Christmas but necessarily like the ones you used to know. Black Mirror’s 2014 Christmas special saw writer Charlie Brooker go feature length and director Carl Tibbetts get crazy fortuitous as Jon Hamm just declared his love for the series and his interest in appearing in it one way or another, the result being this interlinked triptych of stories, combining as ever to chilling effect.

Hamm plays Matt, a man working in some unspecified remote location and sharing a cabin with Rafe Spall’s Joe. They’ve been living together for five years without really communicating but this particular morning, Joe wakes up to Matt making Christmas dinner, determined to get the story of how he ended up in this isolated place. And sure enough, it is a tale of human exploitation of technological advancement. Continue reading “12 Days of Christmas – Black Mirror Christmas”

12 Days of Christmas – Black Mirror 2:3

“Sod ‘name in lights’, you’re an app now my brother”

On the sixth day of Christmas, Black Mirror gave to me…the always welcome Tobias Menzies

It’s little surprise that Black Mirror returns to the world of politics in The Waldo Moment given how effectively it skewered its contemporary shallowness in The National Anthem. Here, the focus is larger than just the Prime Minister, centring on a protest vote movement that builds up around Waldo, a profane animated bear who interviews celebrities disarmingly in an Ali G-like manner. 

Waldo’s latest victim is Tobias Menzies’ insidious prospective Tory MP Liam Monroe and when an encounter between the pair goes viral, the powers-that-be behind the cartoon decide to enter him into the by-election. But the man who voices and plays Waldo via motion capture technology is far less convinced, failed comedian Jamie (Daniel Rigby) has no confidence in himself and as the public get thoroughly behind this new anti-establishment candidate, he finds it harder and harder to disentangle himself. Continue reading “12 Days of Christmas – Black Mirror 2:3”

12 Days of Christmas – Black Mirror 2:1

“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’. Continue reading “12 Days of Christmas – Black Mirror 2:1”

12 Days of Christmas – Black Mirror 1:3

“Sorry I go a bit weird and wonky sometimes”

On the third day of Christmas, Black Mirror gave to me…three cheating lovers

The Entire History of You
is the final part of the first series of Charlie Brooker’s Black Mirror and finds itself somewhere in the middle of the preceding two episodes in terms of its sci-fi/reality interface. Here, future technology has advanced so that people have ‘grains’ implanted that record memories and allow them to played back whenever but the story it is used to tell is an all-too-familiar one of human jealousy.

Toby Keggell’s Liam is an unhappy lawyer whose miserable state of mind after a difficult work appraisal leads him to suspect his wife, Jodie Whittaker’s Ffion, of having an affair with a former lover called Jonas, a suave Tom Cullen. It played out eerily effectively, especially in the look on people’s faces when ‘recalling’ but never really took flight into as superlative a piece of television as episodes one or two. Continue reading “12 Days of Christmas – Black Mirror 1:3”