WARNING: DISCUSSION OF PLOT POINTS! SPOILERS!
Modern Television has been dominated by countless “quality” TV shows, with ongoing stories spanning multiple seasons, with plenty of inter-season cliffhangers, and numbers of characters names to memorise to keep up with continuity. With these epic tales like Game of Thrones, The Walking Dead and Breaking Bad being centre stage on our televisions, dramatic anthology shows are dearly missed. Anthology shows (anthology meaning a different plot and cast of characters between episodes and seasons), need no memorisations of which character is which and why that character is out for revenge and so forth. Shows like The Twilight Zone and Goosebumps scared us to death, and the more revolutionary and recent entry into this genre American Horror Story, spooked us and entertained us. But a new anthology series has arrived, albeit 5 years ago but its 3rd season has just premiered on Netflix, to change the way we view horror / sci-fi anthology series, and TV stories for that matter. This show doesn’t contain haunted houses, parallel universes or cursed masks fusing to someone’s face, nor are there supernatural beings, ghouls nor spirits, Black Mirror nosedives headfirst into the most terrifying thing in human existence: inevitability, and the future.
Charlie Brooker’s Black Mirror‘s first season contains three episodes chronicling obscene, and perverted advances in technology that convenience society but bring about dire consequences surrounding human interaction and human ethics. By exploring speculative tales of perverted cyber-terrorism, a bleak future where exercise is a commodity and currency and a future where memories can be revisited and displayed on tv-screens, Brooker shows a very possible future. Very real anxieties such as self-image, solidity of relationships, social acceptance and democracy are traversed by amplifying the severity of technology taking over. These stories are examined through incredibly dull, bleak and benign, yet nuanced visuals with plenty of delicious cinematography. An emphasis on grey visuals highlights the sad future we will someday endure. The series finds innovative and unique ways to make technology the enemy by making social media literally a currency, and displaying memories as a way to dispute arguments. The characters of these stories are fairly comfortable with their technology driven lives, which in itself is terrifying.
Black Mirror is the Orwellian novel, George Orwell never wrote. There is no scapegoat in sight for the tragic and devastating stories told other than ourselves. The issue isn’t government surveillance, nor dogmatic leadership. If we’re going with the novel theme here, it’s kind of like Lord of the Flies but in the 21st Century. Technology makes people turn on each other. This sort of metaphor is told in a twofold sense. It makes people ignorant, and it makes people bullies. The issue is always the problems that come about with technology, and that is what fuels the fear factor of this show. It’s the question of: “if you had the ability to review your girlfriends memories, would you check them for affairs?”, and the moral ambiguity that comes with trying to answer the question.
The show brings a riveting new form of horror to the table in a time of jump-scares and shaky cameras. This show is about fear itself, not about the fear of being scared. Even then, the predictions for the future are so intriguing and possible that it’s scary in its own right. The first episode of Season 2 ‘Be Right Back’, my personal favourite, is the most intriguing of these episodes. Following a grieving Martha (Hayley Atwell of Agent Carter fame), attempting to replace her dead husband with a phone application whose function is to be exactly like her husband. The ability to replace those we miss is a glorious possibility but the repercussions that come with this are dire. The husband’s, Domnhall Gleeson (Hux from the Force Awakens, in About Time and Charlie Weasley from Harry Potter), juxtaposition from before his death where he was addicted to his phone, and post mortem, where he literally becomes a computer program made to attend his widowing wife’s every need, was more human before he died. Its similarities to the real person are astounding but lacks humanity, an apt metaphor for online dating and personalities. It is storylines like these that feel straight out of a Twilight Zone episode (Gleeson would be a good “nerdy” Terminator), with none of the campiness, but all of the eeriness.
Despite its intense style and even pornographic and smutty storylines, Black Mirror is a quality show. Its nuanced style, attention to detail and innovative forms of storytelling make it a must-see. If Stranger Things is so popular because it’s an homage to the past, Black Mirror should be respected for its homage to the future; to possibility. The separate episodes could be movies in their own right and it’s an incredibly innovative TV show.
With you all caught up, including myself, I will excitedly be jumping into Season 3 as quickly as possible!
WARNING: Show does contain very explicit and frightening themes, viewer discretion is heavily, heavily advised but should not deter one from watching completely