So, finally got to catch s2 of Black Mirror over the Chrihmuh break. And, damn. Just, damn. Sadly, I haven’t seen the holiday special (nor the Dr. Who special, smh). But I shall, promise.
I’m gonna talk a bit about this season as a whole, because that’s what the title suggests. But I’d also really like to delve into the episode ‘White Bear,” because there’s real levels to the shit going on in that one. Also, there will be spoilers, so stop reading now if you haven’t seen this season.
Black Mirror’s second season is a bit more of a mixed bag than the first. Whereas s1 had two hard hitting episodes (“National Anthem” and “The Entire History of You” are the strongest of the three in my opinion), s2 has an incredible standout and two lesser tries.
Now, before someone throws a stick at my head: this is purely my opinion, as I know some folks got the feels from “Be Right Back,” and I respect that.
That being said, because of this mixed bag, Black Mirror’s second season suffers somewhat. Given the fact that you’re only given three episodes, it’s hard not to judge the show harshly for what it does give you. One highlight is mellowed by it’s subsequent sibling, tarnishing the overall potential of a seriously ambitious and self-conscious sci-fi anthology.
I honestly feel the show would benefit from an American season of double digit episodes. If only to have more room to explore concepts and balance the curve of quality.
This is a major issue for me because Black Mirror has some incredibly deep and thoughtful writing. And then it has some moments that feel called in. Or, it starts off very strong and then the “twist” leaves much to be desired. Sadly, some of the effects of the latter have to do with the massive amount of predictability the show has to battle in a society built on easy access to referential knowledge. Any and every trope is literally a Google or wiki search away.
But, I don’t mean to beat up on Black Mirror. In spite of its shortfalls, it’s still one of the best sci-fi efforts in years. I stand by that completely.
Which brings me to “White Bear.” Fuck man, this episode had me twisted.
First off, I love me some Lenora Crichlow (Victoria) ever since I got into Being Human (UK). So it was rough seeing her be subjected to the fuckery in this narrative.
That aside, I appreciate how they wove this story together. The idea of people being spectators to a public killing and hunting, all due to a mysterious signal, is a goldmine of a concept in of itself. The first 3/4’s of the episode really reel you into this idea, raising the stakes as we see Victoria struggle to remember details from her life previous. Some of the most tense moments are when she finds herself continually victimized by her surroundings and just has no damn idea why. It’s incredibly wounding.
This wounding of course only gets worse when the tables are legit flipped on you, WWE style.
In a late act twist, Victoria is revealed to be a prisoner in a sick exhibitionist park that punishes her daily for her involvement in the abduction of a little girl. The entire experience of the day was tailored to mimic and reflect her own lack of intervention as her then-boyfriend tortured and killed the girl. The sickness of this act, or lack thereof, is only surpassed by the way in which the state and the public revel in Victoria’s suffering.
The meta of this moment can’t be lost, as we too are spectators to Victoria’s travails within this enclosed environment at the park. The indictment of the viewer, the spectator, as a guilty-by-non-intervening-participant is pretty heavy. From the original sin, to the public’s reaction, to our own, the episode forces you to question your role in any given person’s suffering.
What’s more, the episode’s post-credit sequence is incredibly horrific. That’s because it’s a twisted “behind the music” moment of the park. The cast and crew literally reset; donning fresh clothing, rehearsing lines, replacing glasses and props, and forcing Victoria to watch the little girl’s murder as her memory is wiped clean, again. Her screams are a haunting, searing soundtrack that close out the credit sequence.
“White Bear” is by far Black Mirror’s best episode to date. And I think that, while it is incredibly triggering, it exposes and examines so many facets of spectator culture that you would be remiss not to see it. For me, it’s the zenith of Black Mirror’s goals: self-aware, timely sci-fi that cuts to the heart of issues that have been exacerbated, if not created, by the digital age.
Go see Black Mirror if you haven’t already. Discuss it with your friends. Reflect on whatever it triggers in you. Revel in good sci-fi.
The original Homeboy With A Keyboard ™, dap wants to be an enigma, but he’s pretty transparent. A transplant from “Back East,” he found himself in Oakland writing about alla the fun things. He’s in love with the coco(a) (skinned women and butter,) among other things. Find his rants and retweetery @dapisdope