The second series of Black Mirror consists of three episodes, and while it is not as overtly dark as the first series, these episodes are still incredibly thought provoking and spooky. Episodes in this series lean a little more towards the “twist” ending than previous episodes, but they are fantastic trips anyways. So, while the first series remains the most chilling of the two, and introduced us to the concept of Black Mirror, the second series adds enough of interest to be worth a watch. As before, I will summarize these episodes spoiler-free, so as to retain the surprise for those who wish to watch the show for the first time.
Episode 1 – Be Right Back
The first episode features an interesting intersection of artificial intelligence, social media, and loving relationships. Martha and Ash are wildly in love and have just moved into a new house in the countryside. Ash is glued to his phone, always posting updates on his social media sites and checking his notifications. This annoys Martha, who doesn’t really care to put her whole life on the internet like that. Tragically, Ash dies in a car accident, which leaves Martha despondent. In an attempt to cheer her up, one of her friends signs her up for a new service. It will upload all of Ash’s digital experiences and re-create an artificial intelligence based on him from his profiles, texts, and emails. The majority of the episode deals with the budding relationship between Martha and this Ash, and takes some fantastic turns. Its ability to combine true human emotion and relationships with near-future technology like artificial intelligence is truly what Black Mirror is all about.
Episode 2 – White Bear
This is the twisty-turny episode. This one is difficult to describe without ruining the various reveals throughout, but the set-up alone is enough to sell this story. A woman wakes up in a house with no memory, but surrounded by pictures. As she wanders outside, she only sees people wandering around recording everything she does on their phones. They don’t talk, they don’t react to her, nothing. Then, a man with a strange symbol on his clothing attacks shoots at her with a shotgun, so she takes off running.
Eventually, she meets some other people and learns that a strange phone signal caused most people to turn into vapid zombies who only record things on their phones. A small percentage of people were left unaffected by the signal. Many of these have taken advantage of the breakdown of society, and roam the country in brigades. Our protagonist has to avoid these people, figure out who to trust, and learn if there is any way to reverse the damage of the signal.
This episode feel the most like an old-school Twilight Zone story. Throughout the episode, everything just feels a little weird and off, and you find yourself on edge because you’re not sure what is around each corner. It’s great, and is very likely the best episode of the second series.
Episode 3 – The Waldo Moment
The Waldo Moment was more enjoyable before the ascension of Donald Trump. In this episode, a semi-failed comedian provides the voice for a cartoon character called Waldo. Waldo interviews celebrities, often making fun of them to the delight of his raucous audience. He is something like Triumph the Insult Comic Dog, but entirely made from CGI and motion-capture. Despite the success of Waldo, the comedian who voices him is upset with his place in life, so he agrees to take Waldo and run in a by-election in his local town, against an incredibly popular and powerful incumbent. While this is initially supposed to simply be a joke, Waldo the character catches on thanks to a political rant against professional politicians and how they are all even faker than he is. This rant goes viral, and the prospect of Waldo, the character, actually winning the election forces us to think about how easily we may get caught up in our own, “Waldo moment”. It is quite scary to think about, but in my opinion the episode kind of botches the landing.
We are a week away from practically doubling the number of Black Mirror episodes that we have at our disposal! All episodes of the third series are written by Charlie Brooker (some have additional writers), who wrote the majority of these earlier episodes as well. This is obviously no guarantee of quality, but it does promise that we’ll get the same brand of techno-horror and high-concept science fiction that we’ve seen thus far.