Black Mirror – Season One

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For those who don’t know, we watch things together. Not only do we read books together, blog together, and bookstagram together, but we also watch stuff together. To date, we’ve watched The Tudors, Sense8, Hannibal, Rogue One, Inglourious Basterds, and others. Chantel made the request that we watch Black Mirror together because we thought that it would be fun. So, we’re going to review it per season and episode. Should be fun, right?

Caidyn will be in blue.
Chantel will be in purple.

The National Anthem

What a fucking opener, no pun intended. Okay, it was kind of intended. I would say it was pretty intended.

I think everyone who has ever heard of Black Mirror has heard of this episode. It’s the one where the Prime Minister of England fucks a pig.

Yeah, my granddaddy had me watch this one so we could talk about it during our monthly video chats. I watched it. He never asked questions about it.

What an awkward conversation that would’ve been. The episode has a lot more to say than just providing shock value. It says a lot about society and how we are willing to watch other people’s embarrassment with no shame. While the PM is having sex with the pig on live television, people are glued to the screens watching, FOR AN HOUR. It’s kind of a rude awakening of how far someone has to go to keep our interest.

See, and I didn’t find it a rude awakening. I was a psych major. I studied social psychology. It wasn’t surprising at all. I know we disagreed on this, Chantel, but how many of you readers would watch your country’s leader fuck a pig? I know if Trump had to go on live television, I would watch the hell out of it. I would. Because I find it a direct insult to a government that I don’t agree with. A pig fucking a pig.

But, for those who don’t know a lot on this topic, it really is a harsh awakening when you realize that you could be just like them. You’d watch someone have sex with a pig for an hour. But, why? Would you do it because you want to see it? Would you watch it so you can talk about it, blog about it, etc? It’s a tough call since there are so many reasons why we would be glued to this shocking broadcast.

All I can ever think of is that poor pig. Like damn. But while I think this was a good opener and set the tone for the series and the point it tries to make, I’m not a huge fan of this episode. It was certainly something I had never seen before, thankfully, but I think Caidyn is right. We would want to watch because we’d want to talk about it, and if you didn’t watch it then you’d likely be the only one and we desperately want to fit in. My suggestion, though, don’t watch this with your parents.

Bahaha. Yeah. Don’t watch it with your family. My mom almost throws up every time she hears about this episode.

For me, I also think of this episode as being interesting about the lengths one will go to for someone they feel a duty protect. As PM, his duty is to protect the country. Well, a princess was captured. She’s, in a way, the country. So. He went to the length he had to.

We all know Trump wouldn’t fuck a pig for anyone but himself. #sorrynotsorry

Are we forgetting Ivanka? He might for her.

Eh. Maybe Barron.

Not sure about that. BUT WE ARE GETTING OFF TOPIC. It’s an interesting story about human nature from many different angles. Where are your limits? What would or wouldn’t you do for someone you had a duty to protect? And, would you watch something horrific or would you refuse to participate?

I am so ready to move on. Okay then.

Fifteen Million Merits

This was by far my favorite episode of the first season and it wasn’t even close. This episode is really complicated and it’s hard to describe the world if you’ve never seen it. Basically, people ride stationary bikes to power the world, rack up “money”, and they use it as they please. The main character is Bing who has fifteen million merits from his brother’s death. He uses it as if it’s nothing and there are no limits to what he can do until Abi comes along and he buys her a ticket to audition for a talent show. Basically an X-Factor type of show. I don’t want to give too much away about the episode because I want you all to go watch it, but I think we can talk about the commentary on consumer culture.

Honestly, you can skip the first episode if the idea of watching a guy make the decision about whether or not he’s going to fuck a pig to save someone’s life doesn’t interest you. This is an anthology series. None of the episodes link together, although Chantel pointed out when we watched these that there are theories that they actually do.

I definitely loved this episode and I agree about consumer culture. It’s so apathetic. All me, me, me. Never about anyone else. And, it’s also about losing humanity. Humans are supposed to be empathic towards each other. I could go on about the arguments for this and link things in, but I’ll resist that urge. This world was where your life was lived completely online. Everything you bought, except food, was virtual. You had an avatar that lived for you online while you did your stationary bike. What you bought for that avatar wasn’t technically yours. And, in a way, that’s where we’re headed. Things are becoming more and more virtual (for buying or living our lives) and as that happens, we sort of forget that the people on the screen are humans. Which leads to people being absolutely horrid to one another, as you could see in this episode. And I’m sure everyone reading this can think of examples they’ve witnessed or been a part of.

Yes, you can totally skip the first episode. It doesn’t really fit with the other two episodes or the rest of the series because it’s very much in the present day where all of the other episodes, that I’ve seen, take place in the future. I have also heard the theory that the show takes place in the same universe along different timelines and some of the technology does cross over, but I don’t believe it’s been confirmed by the creator. It’s very similar to the Pixar Theory in that way.

When Bing hears Abi singing in the bathrooms, he starts to believe in her. That she can be better and do better than riding a stationary bike day in and day out. It’s something different. He is clearly awkward as people are very isolated in this world, and they hardly know how to interact with each other. Bing isn’t even excused from being apathetic either. There is this one girl who wants to get his attention because she likes him and he brushes her off and then a prettier girl comes along and he completely changes.

The fact that he can believe in Abi in a world where people are only looking for the next best thing is super sweet and even charming. I adored Bing’s character, but let’s just say things don’t stay sweet and charming. As things rarely do on Black Mirror.

(Also, shared sex bathrooms. I need this future now. Makes life so much easier.) Bing is a very apathetic person, but he finds Abi interesting and attractive, so he branches out from his apathy to help Abi out. Bing is an interesting character for sure. Is he apathetic for a reason or is it so culturally ingrained that he keeps with it despite really wanting people? I mean, when the only world that they have is a stationary bike and porn (because porn features heavily in this), how can you ever think of being close to someone?

I think it’s absolutely the culture they live in that’s made him apathetic. The way he so casually talked about his brother being dead was something that stood out. They likely didn’t see each other often as the world is divided into separate blocks. Not unlike a prison. It’s a world where you are very much focused on yourself and things you want and Bing stands out from that because he wants to help Abi and by extension everyone else in society. He’s the only one who tries to deviate that we see, at least.

Yes, it definitely has the prison vibe, and how VR has made them a prisoner to their life. He deviates and, in a way, gets punished for it.

But, I do want to talk about how cinematographic this episode is. Like, hot damn. The use of music was amazingly done. There isn’t a whole lot of talking in this episode, even if it’s an hour long. That means there has to be something to fill the void. That being music or advertisements for the things they do online. I just loved how it was done, then how it really made the words they use matter.

That didn’t occur to me as we were watching the episode but now it clearly stands out.

This episode is just gorgeous and so well written and well done. Yes, the talent show and the judges are the extreme parody where Rupert Everett is clearly playing a Simon Cowell character, but that’s not a knock against it. Talent shows and reality tv is so ridiculous and over the top and yet we keep watching it. The music is perfect, I would listen to that score, honestly. It was just a well-done episode of television in general and gave me all the fucking feels.

I love the score, too. It added so much to the viewing when there was so much said without any words used, which takes a great script, great actors, and a great accompaniment to back it all up. Also, the use of advertisements to fill the void. Loved that since the world had no one talking. Just people making feeble attempts in person, really going for it online, and then no one but themselves at home.

Entire History of You

In the final episode of season one, we’re in a future where we have an implant in our brain that allows us to see our memories, replay them and show them to others. It’s something that could very well be in our future and I’m not sure I want it to be, no matter how much I want to remember things. It’s always going to be from one person’s perspective. Just because the memory is recorded doesn’t mean it’s the truth. It’s whatever you perceive it to be.

The main focus of this episode is a couple and the man, Liam, starts becoming obsessive and jealous about the way his wife behaves with another man. It’s one of those things where she can say it’s in his head, but he can play his memories as “proof”. She lies to him, despite him being able to find out the truth, and it causes everything to fall apart. As this technology is the worst idea ever.

Not only does this technology lead to men being able to be more abusive than ever towards women by finding “proof” in memories they can just pull up, but, even while it’s lauded as being better than usual memories, you can edit and delete them! Just like our usual memories! I mean, seriously, who thought that was a good idea? I won’t bore you guys with my ramblings about memory like I did Chantel when we watched this, but I really thought the story was good.

It took what I would say was a usual Twilight Zone plot with a jealous husband and flipped it to something new with technology. All while making us sympathize, in some ways, with the husband and with the wife. I thought it was a clever episode and, again, the use of music (or the lack of) was fantastic.

This is true, he had all the power when it came to the memories and how they were used against her. There is one character who scoffs at the idea of not having the implant when the woman says she’s better off. I think she probably was better off. Not forced to remember everything, though the memories can be deleted, but she doesn’t have to deal with the expectation that others are entitled to her memories. Early in the episode, Liam doesn’t do well in an interview and the others at the party insist on seeing the interaction despite his protests. They feel they are entitled to see the moment because they can see the moment. I wouldn’t want that put on me at all.

Black Mirror is very much a modern Twilight Zone in tone and in the commentary it makes. The Twilight Zone was great at taking your expectations on things, like beauty for example, and turning it on its head. Just like Caidyn says, they made the idea of a jealous husband different by adding a technology which only made him feel more justified in his thinking. Does he end up feeling satisfied at the end? No, he doesn’t.

Exactly. This was like a social media thing. You can show them to anyone and there’s a timeline that you can see of their memories, from when they got it to that point in time. The couple in this show have a child and that child has one, so they can look and see what happened while they were gone from the baby’s perspective. I mean, how creepy is that? You can just peer into your child’s memories as if you own them? While maybe that’s good as a nanny cam, but the implications of it (and brought up by what happens with Liam’s obsession) is insane.

I think this episode was the epitome of The Twilight Zone. It had a simple, usual plot. Then you add in some odd technology. And then the bad side of technology that people don’t like thinking about happens. And, yes, he feels justified because he can prove he’s right, but that doesn’t make it better. It makes it ten times worse rather than believing and trusting his wife.

Can we talk about the contrast from the second episode with music? Can we? I think we should.

Sure. I didn’t even notice the lack of music in this episode until you brought it up. Usually, when there is a lack of music it’s so you can focus on what’s really happening in the dialogue and background noises. There is an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer that doesn’t feature a score at all and you hear everything, very visceral sounds that can be startling at times. While it’s not as extreme in this episode, you are really focused on the dialogue and what the characters are saying.

In “Fifteen Million Merits”, there is a lot of music. They establish the world through montages and Bing is a very quiet person compared to another character who is a loud prick. It almost reminded me of Wall-E in a way because there is a lack of words and the score matters so much in comparison.

My first experience with the use of music was when I was a kid and got freaked out watching The Lord of the Rings in theaters and I learned that bad things happened when there was no music. Since then, I always really focus on the score. So when there was not a ton of music — I mean, there was some, but compared to “Fifteen Million Merits”, as you pointed out, it lacked — I really paid attention. There was nothing but the intense dialogue and the relationship that was in jeopardy because a man couldn’t let his obsession go.

Wall-E is an apt comparison. And, yes, I have seen it. I think that the difference is with the story. An interconnected world in “Entire History of You” versus a separate world in “Fifteen Million Merits”. And those damn episode titles. So fucking good.

I actually didn’t like Wall-E, but that’s not what this is about. I really enjoy scores as well, but I don’t usually notice them. Not unless they are obvious or stand out. It really stood out in “Fifteen Million Merits” and it didn’t in “Entire History of You”. This show is incredible and I’d highly recommend it. It’s been torture watching this show with nobody to talk to about it, except for texts about me freaking out, so we are happy to share our thoughts with you and join in any conversation you want to have.

Rankings

Chantel’s Rankings

  1. Fifteen Million Merits
  2. Entire History of You
  3. The National Anthem

My rankings are the same as yours, yo. Does this mean that our ranking is absolutely definitive and generalizable to every person who watches this show?

Our rankings are law.

Knew it. But, I mean, we have to allow for some diversity. So if you guys disagree, I suppose you can comment. But you might get roasted if we like you and know you won’t get mad at us.

But everyone knows “Fifteen Million Merits” is the best. Obviously.

What if someone says “National Anthem” is the best? (And the title still gives me life when you combine it with the plot. Chantel doesn’t get it, guys.)

They are entitled to their opinion, even if it’s wrong.

We would be such kind dictators… I mean leaders.

I can live with that…but I’m not fucking a pig.

Mkay. Whatever you say.

7 thoughts on “Black Mirror – Season One

  1. I’m loving the commentary on these eps. I won’t spoil anything for y’all, but it is confirmed later on that there are episodes that take place in the same universe!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: Black Mirror – Season Three (Part 1) | BW Book Reviews

  3. Pingback: Black Mirror – Season Three (Part 2) | BW Book Reviews

  4. Pingback: Black Mirror – Season Four (Part 1) | BW Book Reviews

  5. Pingback: Black Mirror – Season Four (Part 2) | BW Book Reviews

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