Paul Farren looks into Charlie Brooker’s Black Mirror.
Charlie Brooker’s Black Mirror has left the good ship Channel 4 and is now sailing the digital sea aboard the more lucrative ship Netflix, thanks to a bidding war that resulted in a 40 million deal for Brooker’s company. Some might say it is a fitting move for a series that uses these fearsome days of internet and new technology as its dramatic source. I can safely say there is nothing to be seen in this season that is as horrifying as a prime minister raping a pig on national television as seen in the very first episode of season one (shudder). In fact, by that standard this season is quite tame.
Season Three provides a very mixed bag of tales that will delight people who don’t read sci-fi or watch any of Brooker’s inspirations, Alfred Hitchcock Presents and The Twilight Zone. Don’t get me wrong, there are things to enjoy here, I’m just saying that when the techno fear and internet paranoia are taken away they have the same substance as those wonderful anthology series.
The one shining gem amongst the six is San Junipero, a tale of two women meeting and falling in love in nineteen-eighties San Junipero; but, of course, there is more to this than meets the eye and not much else I can say without spoiling it. It is one of the few that escapes the constraints of trying to work out what the twist is going to be aspect that unfortunately haunts the entire series. Mostly because it has the most heart (in a creepy kind of way) and two endearing central performances,
Playtest follows a young American tourist testing a new game prototype to secure money for a flight home for an emotional reunion he is avoiding. Soon, he is playing the ultimate virtual reality haunted house game. What might happen next? And why does it remind me of a Twilight Zone episode and Tales from the Unexpected?
Hated of the Nation has an interesting premise – death caused by social media hatred. Then it turns left and starts to feel like a binned Torchwood episode with an ending that makes you wonder if it might be a half-hearted attempt to launch a back-series for its lead, Kelly McDonald.
The other episodes are the creepy, Shut Up and The Dance, and the irritating Nosedive, which feels like a distant cousin of Spike Jonze’s, Her.
With the freedom to make episodes the length it takes to tell the story, not constrained by having to fit them into television schedules; it is a shame that the episodes go on way too long after the conceit has been delivered. Even San Junipero stays around too long after the point has been made. I don’t mean to be too harsh. Do I? As I said plenty to enjoy if you haven’t experienced all the things that inspired these episodes. Did I mention that San Junipero is good?
The interesting thing to note about the new season, is, now that it is freed from the constraints of television, it is available on the web that Charlie loves to scare us with. Audiences can now devour them all at once and in whatever order you want. I suppose you could even watch them the Godardian way if that’s your fancy. You know? Beginning, middle and end but not exactly in that order. Maybe there is a future Black Mirror episode to be had based on the evils of series bingeing. A viewer binge watches the entire three seasons, looking for a subliminal episode hidden amongst all the episodes ©. Until finally… But I digress. Anyway I’ve finished reviewing Charlie’s show, now go away.