Summary: Liam is a lawyer who lives in a world where everyone has a grain - an implant in their heads which allows them to re-watch any of their memories at any time. Liam attends a party with his wife Fi, involving an old friend of hers named Jonas. Liam suspects some adultery to be going on and by examining memories with his grain he finds them to be true and discovers that his child isn't even his. Fi seemingly moves out with the child, leaving Liam alone and he removes his grain to cut off his memories.
The Good: This was another tremendously powerful episode with depressing themes and a strong look at technology and how it can affect lives. This show continues to impress me with its storytelling and understanding of how to make the audience emotionally invested while also providing impactful scenes which hit hard.
First of all, the concept of this episode was brilliant. It wasn't as far-fetched as the previous episode and the idea of having some sort of chip installed in your head to film all of your memories seems to fit very nicely in the real world. After all, it does seem like an appealing idea on the surface, and I'm sure that most people have at least wondered about how convenient it would be if you could just record everything you experience. But this episode takes a look at how these chips will make us suffer and it was immediately used in a clever way to solve a relationship drama, which is pretty much the first thing each of us would expect the chip to be useful for. Yet of course, as we see in this episode, the grain won't provide us with the satisfaction we may expect and it could very well do more harm than good. I'll be going into more detail about that later (see: Best Moment).
The concept of the grain was implemented in really smart ways too. I really liked Liam re-watching his interview over and over again in an attempt to get some answers, and even more, I liked how the grain has become an important security measure in the world, with the airports viewing a person's private memories to ensure that there isn't anything suspicious.
I thought that Liam's paranoia was conveyed really well and that his scenes with Fi had real tensions to them. It seemed pretty clear that there was something going on, and the episode did a great job of making us suspect that something was up during the party at Jonas' without ever telling us the details. From Fi's reactions and her suspicious behaviour, it seemed clear that there was something going on between her and Jonas, but it never felt horribly obvious until Liam started scavenging his memories and finding more and more evidence that something isn't right. The tension built beautifully and led to a lot of fantastic scenes between Liam and Fi where they argued about what happened before Fi is ultimately exposed as an unfaithful wife who lied to Liam.
There were a lot of great small things too. The sex scene was creepy and disturbing in every way as it cut between both Liam and Fi recalling their past memories of sex before showing us the 2 of them, dead-eyed and straight-faced in bed, just slightly moving. It was a haunting visual for sure and one that really conveyed how different the grain would make real life. I also really loved how Liam accidentally estranged the babysitter when he showed her a joke he had made about her which he had completely forgotten about. That moment felt very real and really demonstrates how the grain would o just as much harm as it would good, as it has serious potential to destroy relationships.
The Bad: This episode was flawed though. The biggest issue for me was that the characters weren't really likable at all. I didn't sympathize as much with Liam as I think I should have. He came across as an asshole and wasn't much better than his cheating wife. Because of this I felt a disconnect with the characters, and I didn't root as much for Liam to find the truth as I think I should have. While the episode was powerful because of its ideas and handling of themes, I think it missed a trick by not making us care about the characters' story. The previous episode made me care about Bing's character but I really couldn't be bothered by Liam or Fi's characters in this episode.
I feel like Liam descended a bit too quickly into his paranoia and anger. It felt rushed and wasn't really aided by the fact that I hardly knew who Liam was before he started suspecting his wife of cheating. The transformation didn't feel earned in the same way Bing's or even Michael's was in the previous episode and that also affected the quality of the episode.
It's hard to buy that Liam didn't get arrested. Surely Jonas just got footage on his grain of him being threatened by Liam who was obviously impaired and driving. That's really illegal, so shouldn't the cops have been called for Jonas to show the evidence against Liam to get him arrested? It seems ridiculous that he seemed to have gotten away scot free after such a serious crime.
The Unknown: What happed at the end? Did Fi just move out with her child? Is she with Jonas now? Where did that leave Liam? We never got confirmation that the baby was Jonas', but I don't think we needed to get it. It just makes perfect sense for it to be, so I'm going with that assumption.
Why did Jonas feel the need to remove his grain? Was it because he blames it for what happened to him, or rather was it because the memories he had were just torturing him so he had to remove it? Either way, the final scene was sad and powerful.
Best Moment: The final 4 minutes were spectacular. It was horribly sad seeing Liam around his house all alone, just re-watching all of his past memories when he was happy with his wife. The use of colour was tremendous as the past memories were bright and vibrant whereas the present was dull and lonely. This final sequence did a tremendous job of showing us exactly what Liam had lost in the past day or so. This final scene also reinforced the message of the grain can do more harm than good. Sure, without the grain, Liam would have been living with a cheater, but is this depressing, miserable life really better for Liam? Besides now he has all of these happy memories which have become bittersweet and will likely haunt him more than they ill do good. And that's what makes the ending so powerful, as we see that Liam can't stand the pain he feels anymore which is brought on by these past memories which have now become even easier to access and dwell in. One can only assume that depression rates have increased now that these grains have become popularized, due to the easy ability to stress from past experiences. This scene was so good because of how thought-provoking it is and how it makes a very clear and powerful point about the new technology.
Character of the Episode: Liam.
Conclusion: This was another great episode, though it was certainly flawed. It didn't reach the heights of "Fifteen Million Merits" due to some character and writing issues, but overall it was still another powerful episode with a meaningful message.
After just 3 episodes, Black Mirror has completed its first season, and in those 3 episodes, it has already made its case to be one of the best TV shows I have ever seen. With a focus on standalone episodes, thematic exploration and raw emotional power, this show is basically primed to succeed. And I'm so glad to say that the writing is superb and allows this show to exceed all of its potential, making for some special viewing. I can't say anything about the rest of the series yet, but this first season of the show is excellent television and is must-watch.
Summary: Bing lives in a dystopian future where everybody lives in cells with advanced technology and have to run the bikes every day to power the world. There is a show called Hot Shot which is the goal for everybody to enter. Bing meets a new girl named Abi Khan who is a talented signer. Bing helps her get into Hot Shot but instead of taking her as a singer, they take her as a porn star. Bing plots revenge and gets into Hot Shot himself and makes a chilling speech but he is hired to produce real speeches like that himself.
The Good: I thought this was stellar storytelling. Last episode was interesting and had some flaws but left an overall positive outlook with some really good storytelling. This episode on the other hand completely killed it on almost every level with even better storytelling, tighter writing and more thought-provoking themes. I thought this was one of the best standalone episodes of drama I have ever seen, up there with "Two Boats and a Helicopter" and "International Assassin" from The Leftovers, though not quite that amazing.
I really loved the sudden introduction to this advanced modern world. The last episode was more grounded in our reality, but this episode shifted to a drastically different setting and I thought it was done really well. The first 15-20 minutes of this episode really didn't accomplish much for the plot, and was instead focused on introducing us to how this futuristic world works, while impressively completely avoiding exposition. We were shown things and pieced things together ourselves, which is so much better than watching and being told everything that is going on. It felt earned and I felt like I got to explore this world instead of just having it shown to me. Without those first 15 minutes, this episode wouldn't have been anywhere near as engrossing as it was and this excellent world-building paid off hugely later in the episode.
Speaking of the pay-off, my god, was it stellar. All the small things, the toothpaste (pays off when we see Bing using minimal toothpaste to save merits), the ability to skip ads (pays off when Bing runs out of money to skip ads and suffers through Abi's ad), the repetitive biking (puts over why Abi would choose to have a better life), the broken vending machine (allows a good reason for Bing and Abi to talk again), the annoying redhead who always decked out his avatar (the powerful final scene), and more all had moments where they aided the story and had genuine emotional impact. The show expertly had small moments of pay off like this throughout the episode, leading to so many small moments of satisfaction, increasing my interest in the episode even more.
The characters in the story were really good too, especially the main character. Bing was very simple in his motivations. He is bored in life because everything is so fake and all the people around him are just as fake as the actual world around him. And when he finally finds something real and has it taken from him he is suitably mad. We have sympathized with this character and to see him lose the one thing he actually found is heart-breaking and it's so easy to feel for him and understand that he wants to do something about it. Better yet, we never quite figure out what his goal is until he actually enacts his performance, which is where everything becomes crystal clear and once more truly satisfying.
How great was that big speech though? The episode had expertly demonstrated how fake and controlled the world is, so it was relatively easy to pick up the theme of the episode. And then in that big scene, we got a terrific performance from Daniel Kaluuya which not only drives in the theme but provided a powerful catharsis for the character of Bing who had finally snapped after being so fed up with the world he was in. The entire time, I was at the edge of my seat and I was incredibly satisfied with the conclusion of this character's journey which ended with him just blowing off tons of steam.
This episode, like the last one had a killer twist at the end as well which was dark and powerful. Apparently Judge Hope was far better at manipulating the audience and the performers than anyone expected as he managed to turn Bing's outburst of truth into yet another game, something fake for the world to just enjoy and pay money for. It was a powerful message, saying how in the world we all just take anything good and use it to make money for ourselves and how all of this awful world we are a part of is of our own doing. And the message is even more resonant as Bing actually gives in at the end and sells out to the world, now using his truth as another fake thing for people to enjoy. He caved just like Abi did before and we are left with a dark message at the end where Bing lives "happily ever after" in his fake and uninteresting world.
I thought the side character of Glee was pretty good at providing some laughs as she had waited for seemingly forever. And hilariously enough there was some pay-off for her character too as we see that she was a trash singer the whole time and had no real talent.
The Bad: It really doesn't make sense that the world would make it so that you have to watch some of these ads and u can't just stop watching. I understand that it's a metaphor for mobile games, which also have required ads which you have to watch before getting to do what you want, but it feels a little excessive for you to not be allowed to close your eyes. It's not a big problem though as the closing eyes thing really helped make the best moment of the episode even more powerful.
Another nitpick, but shouldn't somebody be pissed at Bing for destroying his cell? And wouldn't they notice that a large piece of glass was missing? That felt a bit too convenient.
The Unknown: I doubt we will get answers to any of these questions. But that is the fun of it all, as it leaves us to theorize the true meaning behind this and come to our own conclusions.
What is the time period here? How far in the future was this story? How did technology get so advanced?
Is there an outside world to this? Are the characters just in some kind of prison, or is this really all that is left in the world? Was the forest at the end real or just another screen?
Were Abi and Bing ultimately able to find some sort of peace with their lives? Or did they simply suffer in this false world the entire time? It's a sad thought but it could very well have been their fates.
Best Moment: While Bing's speech was incredible, I don't think it is quite the best moment in all of this. That would have to go to Bing's breakdown in his room after Abi is taken away. I was able to buy into their relationship due to the fantastic first 15 minutes which established how lonely Bing's life is, making me believe that he would truly care about her, who he feels is real. So to have her wrenched away and forced to live in such an inhumane life against her will was awful for Bing, and it was powerful to see that he has fallen so low with insufficient merits to the point where he has to just watch all of the pain he put Abi into. It was sad stuff, and it was really powerful seeing Bing just break down quickly and descend into panic and anger over time. Stunningly good storytelling.
Character of the Episode: Bing.
Conclusion: This was an outstanding episode of television. The storytelling, characters and themes were so well done and everything about this was extremely well-thought-out with attention to detail and understanding of the emotions which make television so powerful. This was a must-watch episode.
Summary: Michael is the prime minister and he receives a video from an anonymous who says he has captured Princess Susannah and will only release her if he broadcasts a video later that day of him having intercourse with a pig. The video was uploaded on YouTube and has gone viral. As the situation worsens, and the terrorist isn't found, Michael is forced to perform the act to save Susannah. Susannah is let free but she was released a half hour before the act. The terrorist kills himself.
The Good: This was such a unique pilot for a TV show. I've heard a lot about this show, and to say the least, this first episode really surprised and impressed me.
I really liked the overall story. Sure it was ridiculous (see: The Bad), but it was so ridiculous that it became genius, as it was such a creative new idea which added some very real stakes to the episode. The episode had the basic kidnapping story with the main character needing to do something to save the victim, but it was kept fresh by the extremely strange ransom which not only piqued my interest, but kept me hooked for the entire hour, allowing me to enjoy the story. Like seriously, the ransom requested for the prime minister to have intercourse with a pig on a live broadcast. Who expected that? I surely didn't and the episode did a great job to make me think about what the ransom could possibly be, before blowing my mind with what it actually was. I laughed immediately after hearing it and I thought it was stupid, but the stupidity of it all kept me invested somehow and allowed me to completely enjoy the episode. That was masterful writing which took advantage of the active mind of the audience and used it to create something really good.
The overall message was really good too. I love this look at how technology destroys people and turns a private and embarrassing story into everybody's problem. It's a message which hasn't been done to death and it was intelligently and subtly placed into this episode without it ever feeling like it was rubbed in our faces. I also like the detail of how the crowd were initially almost excited to watch the event before being overcome with horror as their PM did something truly horrific to save a life. It's a good portrayal of how people usually don't realize how terrible things are until they see or experience it firsthand.
I really liked Michael as the main character in this episode. He did a great job portraying the prime minister's initial hope that everything would work out, before slowly getting more aggressive and scared as he realized that he may actually have to do something terrible. There were a lot of really good scenes with him, such as the one where he walked down the hall to do the act as the camera zoomed in on his face. His assistant talked in the background, but the words reaching Michael's ears weren't matching the lips. The sequence was wonderful and did a fantastic job of portraying Michael's fear and unease.
The actual act was suitably horrific without showing anything. The reactions of the people watching were all that was necessary to convey the uncomfortable nature of the situation and how awful it was. It would have been too much to actually show the act, so I think the subtle approach was absolutely the right call. The ending was stellar too, providing a real irony as it was revealed that Susannah was released a half hour before the act, rendering the whole thing pointless.
The Bad: The whole thing feels a little too ridiculous. I could never buy something like this actually happening and it seems ridiculous for the PM to actually do something so embarrassing on live television. Even worse is the fact that majority of people seemed to want him to do it, including the people he worked with. I could buy a few people making that decision, but not 86%. That's just insane and unrealistic.
How did the terrorist know that they were planning a fake with Rod Senseless? Apparently there were social media posts, but how did he get access to all of this without anybody else knowing? Apparently it was only one man, so it's hard to buy that he can pull all of this off by himself.
Susannah getting released early felt too convenient. Did nobody really notice her on that bridge for half an hour? Surely there were tons of people who didn't want to watch the awful act on television (especially CHILDREN) so why weren't there more people outside who could have potentially found Susannah?
The one girl working for UKN was a really stupid story. It was a side-plot and seemed to accomplish nothing. It's hard to buy that a news reporter would go into such a dangerous location without informing anybody, especially when there was a government mission taking place.
The Unknown: What were the killer's motives? Apparently he was an artist, so was this some twisted form of art he was trying to create? I doubt we will get an answer, but it's really fascinating to come up with theories for why this guy did what he did.
Has Michael lost his wife after this whole ordeal? That's quite a tragic ending if it is the case.
Best Moment: The final twist that Susannah was released earlier was a genuine surprise and made all fo the suffering essentially meaningless. We were treated to Michael throwing up and crying immediately afterwards, making for some really tragic and painful viewing which this pretty hard.
Character of the Episode: Michael.
Conclusion: This was such a uniquely crafted episode. It was a simple story which we have seen hundreds of times, yet with a ridiculous twist which both added to the story and took away from it. While there were lots of cons, I think the good outweighs the bad here and I can comfortably say that this was a good pilot episode. I'm really intrigued to see what other stories this show will explore.
Just a university student who loves to watch TV. And criticize it like hell.