Review: Black Mirror – Series 3
Streaming: Black Mirror – Series 3 (2016)
Charlie ‘giggles’ Brooker, the lovable misanthrope from the TV Wipe series which views the world as if it has just farted in its face. Politicians, religious figures and the Kim’s and Kanye’s that the Internet adores and hates are all greeted with a ‘meh’. Therefore, it’s no surprise that this future shock series concentrates on social media and taking a riff on themes such as cyber blackmail, online trolling, and virtual reality. It’s obvious from the start that there has been some money spent on this since the move to Netflix, the show seems glossier and its attracted bigger names in actors and directors. It also allows Brooker to write longer narratives, due to not being restricted by Channel 4’s time scheduling constraints. So we get 6 episodes each with a single storyline and independent running time.
The author Ursula Le Guin once argued that science fiction has little to do with the future but rather is fiction that takes current thinking and runs with it. Here tech savvy Brooker, who has a background in writing for computer gaming, is able to take it to a new and darker level. In Playtest, Director of 10 Cloverfield Lane’s Dan Trachtenberg is able it use virtual reality in a haunted house meets Inception storyline. In Nosedive we see Bryce Dallas Howard struggling in a world where facebook/twitter/Trip Advisor ‘likes’ determine our fates, ensuring a population bullied into gritted teeth and false smiles.
Shut Up and Dance is set in the present day using tech and social media, which at a pinch and a reliable 4G network could actually work. Alex Lawther and Jerome Flynn are blackmailed into a set of nightmare scenarios each worse than the previous before we get the inevitable twist and an ending darker than we could imagine. In Men Against Fire, the weaker story of the series, sees a grunt soldier Stripe (Malachi Kirby), seemingly killing mutants left over from biological war and being rewarded with virtual sexual fantasies. However, when his fantasies become distorted and the tech malfunctions it reduces his ability to differentiate between humans and mutants. The twist is revealed when he discovers that the tech used to deliver the reward is actually a device to make killing war survivors guilt free.
Refreshingly not all of Black Mirror’s future is dystopian. The storyline of San Junipero gives us a seemingly 1980’s love story, but as the story envelops, Director Owen Harris shows us some hope for the future, albeit via brain emulation.
The feature length finale Hated in the Nation starts with a locked room murder of a Katie Hopkins-like character and the wannabes who court controversy via the media. The deaths are linked to a website promoting the Game of Consequence, where Twitter users vote to kill a chosen victim via a unique murder weapon. “No loss there” we think, before Brooker again yanks the carpet from under us once again as we deal with the consequences. Mind you if I were Katie I would keep a newspaper handy, Charlie got it right with the Pig Fucking episode.
Black Mirror is the perfect antidote to the rain of shit that landed on us during 2016. As we sit waiting for whatever next to land on our heads, it’s satisfying to know that someone is telling us to get an umbrella.
Review by Steve Woolley.