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Black Mirror series 2

September 30, 2013

Black-Mirror-coverCharlie Brooker’s series returns with a second set of three stories and a minor format change. I held off as long as I could before breaking into the second series of Black Mirror. I actually got the series awhile back but, I prefer to savor a quality television shows. Like series one, this is a three episode anthology series. However, unlike the previous series each episode runs a standard one hour slot (about 45 minutes). I generally don’t have a problem with this as long as there is enough time to properly tell the story and I think there was for two of the three episodes. Like my previous review I am going to avoid spoilers in the vain hope that this show makes it to our side of the pond.

The first episode is titled Be Right Back. The story opens with a young couple, Martha and Ash, who are moving into Martha’s parent’s house. Ash is one of those individuals who are addicted to social media and it is this which leads to his untimely death early in the story. During the funeral a friend signs up Martha to a service that she claims will help her deal with the loss. I have to say that I was a bit let down by this episode because it not only didn’t have the standard edginess that I had come to expect from a Black Mirror story but, on top of that, it looked like a “back from the dead” theme that I have seen a number of times before. Fortunately, it turns out the story is not quite that simple and the next few days I did find myself turning over some of the story’s concepts in my head. As a result, I changed my opinion of the episode and while it does not really push any buttons it definitely made me think enough to respect it.

The next episode, White Bear, is easily the best of the season. It thrusts us into the life of a young woman named Victoria in a hit the ground running kind of way. Victoria wakes up from apparently being hypnotized by some strange television broadcast. She leaves her apartment to find out what’s happened and discovers that most of the population has been turned into mindless individuals who simply stand around watching and recording her with their cell phones. There are a small percentage of people like her, who have come out comparatively unharmed, and an equally small percentage that have turned into hunters. And by hunters I mean psychopathic killers going after the normal people while the rest of the population just watches and records the antics. Victoria hooks up with another normal girl named Jem who has a theory about what has happened and, furthermore, how to stop it. Ultimately, we learn exactly what is happening and, over the course of the credits we see various scenes from earlier in the episode replayed from the perspective of our new understanding. I really thought this was a brilliant bit of story formatting and was a much appreciated touch. The only thing I’ll say further is that, at its heart, White Bear really addresses a social construct that I feel humanity as a whole, and America in particular, has not properly examined for a number of decades. What I especially like about White Bear is that this issue is the backdrop and remains firmly in the background without the story trying to feed us any easy answers. Great stuff.

The last episode is The Waldo Moment and is a story about a cartoon character called Waldo who nominally looks like a blue teddy bear. The character is far from a children’s character though as he is part of a late night political commentary program. It turns out that Waldo is computer animated and both run and voiced real-time by a comedian named Jamie. After Waldo’s introduction we see him rapidly get drawn into the current local election as the result of going on a harassment campaign against the Tory incumbent. This is the episode that I felt really should have been longer as there seemed to be only part of the story told here. I did like what I saw, especially when discussions about how exactly Waldo should be used touched upon some very dark territory. Like White Bear, the episode does a post credit segment. This one takes place quite a bit after the events of the episode and I really would preferred to have seen more story on how things got where they were, especially given the earlier discussions of how exactly Waldo should be used to market ideas. I think this episode would have really benefited from about twenty more minutes to give us that part of the story as well.

Overall, I would say that the second series of Black Mirror carries on nicely with the same level of quality from the first. Mr. Brooker has indicated that he has enough material to do a further Black Mirror series and it is my sincere hope that he is given the opportunity to do so in the future.

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