Review: Black Mirror, Series Two, Episode Two, “White Bear”

Posted by Matthew on February 28, 2013
Television

Black Mirror

Charlie Brooker is back again folks. Three more extreme but within-the-realm-of-possible stories to get us thinking about ourselves.

I’m going to warn you right now that this will contain spoilers. I am going to do my best to keep them to a minimum however I can’t talk about everything I want to talk about without including a few so I highly recommend that if you haven’t seen this episode yet you’d best bookmark this, go watch, and come back. There will also be some spoilers for series one of Black Mirror. Normally I’d consider a previous series fair game, but spoiling some of this stuff would be like spoiling who Kaiser Soze is, so seriously: go watch and then come back. You’ve been warned.

Ready? Good.

Episode two starts out with a woman waking up with no memory of who she is or where she is. As she explores her surroundings it becomes clear that some sort of cataclysm has happened. The world is a mess. People don’t speak, they simply film her with their cameras and cell phones but won’t interact (except to run away when she gets too close).

Soon she meets a couple on the run who explain that a signal went out over everything with a screen that turned most of the people into mindless, filming zombies while a small percentage of the population remain unaffected. And naturally, a small group of the unaffected are now homicidal maniacs because that’s what happens when society collapses.

Soon it turns out that, as with most episodes of this series, nothing is quite what it seems. As it turns out the main character was convicted of helping to kidnap, torture and kill a young girl with her boyfriend. He did most or all of the unspeakable things while she filmed the whole thing. The Boyfriend dies before he can be tried and sentenced and so the world has decided to take their grief, hate, and anger out on her.

The entire set up is just curel and unusual punishment. She reaches a certain point in the story they’ve set her up in and then the curtains draw, she’s shown who she is and what’s happening, and then they wipe her memory and do it all again (at least 20 odd times from the glimpse you get at the calendar).

This episode is nowhere near as seubtle and certainly not as quiet as the previous episode but it’ll certainly make you think. While I don’t quite think the circus they create to punish the main character is currently something we should expect, it’s also disturbingly plausible if you think about our current addiction to spectacle recorded via cellphone.

And that leads to another question, are we actually experiencing our lives or are we just recording? Are we removed from what we are doing because we’re too busy recording it? That seems to be the main question in the black mirror in this episode and the plot certainly drives it home, because anyone can see that whether she actively participated in the crime (it’s not stated, but implied that she just did the recording) that this is cruel and unusual torture.

It’s a brilliant bit of satire anchored by Lenora Crinchlow’s performance (which is superb). Also, Michael Smiley shows up as one of the more sinister characters which is good, but whenever I see him I wish in the back of my head that he’ll hear a sound and start raving.

All in all this is a great episode and you should definitely have watched it before you read this.

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