After last series dizzying opening, Charlie Brooker is back for a second series of Black Mirror with three more twisted tales to leave us pondering just how much we’re glued to the “black mirror” that is our smartphones, computers and televisions.
Last night saw the return of Charlie Brooker's Black Mirror and after watching, much like with the previous series, I came away stunned, impressed and envious at the cleverness of it. At its core, Black Mirror is a drama of ideas. Each episode has Brooker asking a simple and ridiculous question before turbo charging it with his own twisted logic that somehow still scarily remains within the realms of possibility. The first episode of series two, Be Right Back, stars Captain America actress Hayley Atwell and Harry Potter’s Domhnall Gleeson and asks the simple question of “What happens to your Twitter account when you’re dead?”
Without wanting to spoil much if you missed it last night, I’d describe Be Right Back as similar in tone to the third episode of the previous series in its exploration of the impact of technology on a married couple. Atwell plays Martha, a grieving widow who, in a moment of desperation begins to use a piece of software that replicates her dead husband Ash’s personality (played by Gleesson) via information gained from his tweets and Facebook messages. Imagine talking to a version MSN Messenger Smarterchild that possesses knowledge of all of the public information of one of your nearest and dearest and you’re not far off the mark. Martha soon begins to rely on this service, giving it more and more information of her late husband as things rapidly escalate in an interesting and powerful study of technology’s effect on the grieving process.
Set “the day after tomorrow”; with razor thin smartphones and touchscreens that wouldn’t be out of place in an Apple Store, Black Mirror’s strength lies in its cast playing the warped ideas completely straight. Atwell’s performance as Martha is gripping as you watch her go through the five stages, but not quite, and Gleeson nails the online avatar role. As software replicating a person, he is Ash, but not quite. It’s the Twitter caricature of him, a public persona that treats everything as a joke and lacks the real Ash’s private secrets that he would never post online. Along with Utopia and Misfits, Black Mirror is another addition to Channel 4’s stable of smart and inventive science fiction programming.
I was luckily enough to go to an advance screening of Black Mirror's first episode of series two last month. Also on view there were trailers for episodes two and three as well as a round table question & answer session with Charlie Brooker, Hayley Atewell and episode one director Owen Harris. Episode two, The Waldo Moment asks “Could a children’s television mascot win a political election?” Coming from Brooker’s bafflement at London mayor Boris Johnson’s continued rise to prominence in spite of, of perhaps, because of his prattish behaviour on camera, The Waldo Moment casts UK politics next star as Waldo, a blue cartoon bear who gains popularity from his Have I Got News For You style interviews of politicians. As you do…
Final episode The White Bear has Being Human star Lenora Crichlow as an amnesiac in an apocalyptic future. The broadcast of a symbol on all forms of technology has turned the populace into a menacing horde of dispassionate observers who record everything on their smartphones. Taking a photo of someone on a camera was once thought to take a part someone’s soul away and disturbing scenes of crowds recording all manner of violence on Crichlow and her gang of survivors means The White Bear could well me the most disturbing Black Mirror episode to date.