Summary: Matt and Joe are in a house of sorts where they have worked for 5 years. Joe has hardly talked and Matt wants him to talk. Matt reveals his past and how he provided a service to a boy named Harry to help coach him to be more romantic. Matt guides Harry but witnesses the girl harry going after murdering him and committing suicide. He tells another story about his day job where he creates copies of people called cookies which do work for them using technology. Joe opens up and reveals that he had a girlfriend who he loved. She got pregnant and they had a fight which resulted in Joe being "blocked". Beth eventually dies but her child survives. Joe goes to visit and discovers Beth had an affair. He kills Beth's dad and causes the death of the child. It's revealed that Matt was sent to get a confession from Joe's cookie, and that he was arrested for not reporting a murder. Both men are given cruel fates.
The Good: This was a busy episode, but like almost all Black Mirror episodes, it had phenomenal writing and extremely powerful moments which left me awestruck by the end of the episode.
This episode was essentially divided into three stories, so I'll start with the first (Matt and Harry). Matt's job of offering Harry romantic advice was very creative and led to a lot of funny moments which kept things light early on. I enjoyed the portrayal of Harry and the creepiness of the idea of Matt watching his every move. Of course things got weird really suddenly which led to the shock of Harry's death. The scenes leading up to that were written very well, getting the most out of the brutal twist that Jennifer was suicidal, hence her silence. I love the way that the scenes were written to have Harry's conversation accidentally convince Jennifer to commit suicide and also kill him with her. There was a really uncomfortable tension through these scenes and I think it paid off very well.
The second part of the episode was focused on introducing us to cookies. I thought this part didn't have much of a story to get us interested in, but essentially just served to bring us up to speed on a complex piece of technology which would become important later on. The scenes weren't great but they were definitely passable and necessary, considering the twist later on. I love the concept of cookies and I think it was a creative take on how far people would be willing to go with technology to make their lives easier.
While the first 2 parts were fine, it was the third part, the longest part, which had the main climax and impact of the episode. Joe's tragic story is really painful to watch, made worse because he seems like such a good person who was thrust into an awful situation and made mistakes. Pretty similar to some of the other main characters on this show. The story of Joe and Beth was tragic at first glance as Beth seemingly ditched Joe for no real reason and was completely indecent to him. I was ready to put Beth's huge overreaction into The Bad, but the twist later on made Beth's decision to cut out Joe more understandable, though it does make her character much more detestable. The sad part of this episode wasn't so much what happened, but it was how Joe reacted. He couldn't let go of Beth, he had nothing to move on to and was just stuck trying to get some of the happiness he lost and also see his daughter. It's easy to empathize with somebody who just holds on to their past life, and this episode uses this fact brilliantly, ensuring that we relate with Joe in every step of his story.
Then of course there is the episode's big twist that Joe's daughter isn't actually his. That twist was so powerful and I'm glad to say that I didn't predict it since I had expected the show to go a different route. The impactful realization that Joe essentially spent the past 6 years of his life longing for something which didn't exist hits hard, and it's easy to understand how Joe's entire world completely fell apart around him. Then in typical Black Mirror fashion, Joe flies off the rails and that results in the death of two innocent people, which is revealed in painful fashion and leads to Joe suffering even more as he feels absurd amounts of guilt over what he just did.
While Joe's story is easily the most cathartic bit in the episode, it isn't really the primary focus of the episode. Instead, the primary focus is once more about technology and how it destroys people. This time the piece of technology which is used in this case is "blocking". Of course we all know what blocking is in terms of social media and texting, but in this episode we get to see what blocking is like in real life and how it actually worsens problems instead of fixing them. Had Beth just told Joe what happened, it seems likely that this awful chain of events wouldn't have happened, and furthermore Joe's life wouldn't have been spent chasing after a shadow in total pain.
The fate of both the main characters is pretty brutal too, creating the message that when technology can be used to do anything, we will lose every ounce of mercy and understanding. Matt and Joe committed crimes, but they weren't exactly the worst crimes in the world. Compared to what Victoria did in "White Bear", these were pretty tame, and yet both men suffered a fate worse than what happened to Victoria. Joe is forced to spend an eternity doing absolutely nothing and Matt is forced to live out the rest of his days without interacting to anybody else ever. Cruel and painful stuff.
The Bad: The "legal block" seemed ridiculous to me. Surely there would be a trial about that and it would be treated like a restraining order. Instead it seems that a block can just be legalized immediately which is really poor and I can't imagine that happening to this world.
Cookie Joe not remembering his life in the snow globe was inconsistent. How did they make Joe forget that he was a cookie and how did they transfer the cookie without raising any questions? Furthermore, how did they seemingly control his memories? These things need to be explained.
The fates of Matt and Joe both feel way too cruel. I understand that it's the point of the episode, but I had great difficulty buying into the idea that they would just be allowed to have such a terrible fate.
This show does a really poor job portraying women. Once more the women character is utterly detestable and is cheating. I would like to see some more likeable women on this show, as this is the second example in just 7 episodes where a women has cheated.
I found this episode to be very similar to "The Entire History of You" with Joe's story. Joe not being able to let go mirrored Liam's paranoia, the child twist was very similar, and of course both characters' fates being away from their loved ones was also similar. I would have liked some more creativity to make this episode feel more original.
The Unknown: What was the sound Joe heard in the snow globe? There is likely an answer to this which was written in expertly, but I couldn't figure it out.
How did Greta's cookie not remember that Greta wanted to buy it? The memory thing is really inconsistent.
I noticed a lot of references to previous episodes of the show (The Hot Shots program, the song from "Fifteen Million Merits", the White Bear symbol, etc.) so could that mean this is meant to be a sort of connected universe? That could be exciting to explore.
Best Moment: Joe's confession was the most powerful bit of the episode. It's so hard to not feel bad for him.
Character of the Episode: Joe.
Conclusion: This was yet another expertly written and brutally affecting episode of Black Mirror. This show continues to impress, though there were some holes in this one which lowered its score. Still, season 2 ended with another masterpiece.
I think season 2 (minus "The Waldo Moment") was actually better than season 1. The writing was improved by a lot and the episodes affected me even more than the ones from season 1. The only flaw was "The Waldo Moment". If you remove that episode, this season's score would be so much higher. Either way, I'm excited to watch the next season because this episode made one thing clear: "The Waldo Moment" was just a fluke.
Summary: Jamie is a depressed comedian who plays a fictional animated character named Waldo. TO promote an upcoming TV show, Jamie is ordered to enter politics and make fun of candidate Liam Monroe. Waldo completely blows up and becomes an official candidate who gets votes, while Jamie isn't happy with it. Jamie eventually leaves the Waldo boat but it's continued by his boss and Waldo eventually takes over the world.
The Good: There were some funny moments here. Tobias Menzies was great as the stoic politician and his responses to the idiocy of Waldo were usually quite fun.
The panel scene was really well done. It was the only scene in the episode which felt like it had legit power and meaning to it, as the idea of politicians being fake and Waldo being more real was explored nicely. I also liked Jamie's attack on Gwendolyn, as it felt like the perfect way for him to end up garnering more support than her.
The Bad: This was terribly disappointing and not good at all. This episode hurts so much more because the last 4 episodes have been amazing, so expectations were pretty high. This not only failed to meet expectations, but also managed to be an overall poor episode.
The biggest flaw for me was Jamie's character. He was just so boring and had nothing interesting about him. He didn't go through anything, and he didn't learn anything. He started the episode hating his Waldo character, not being interested in politics and depressed. He ended up in the exact same place, so I must question what the whole point was. Besides, what were his motives here? Why does he keep playing Waldo when it's clearly getting out of control? This is a critical question which we need an answer to, but we get nothing. I don't understand why he makes his decision and that's really sloppy.
Jamie's depression was the worst handling of depression I've seen in a long time. Why is he depressed? I couldn't tell you. All we get is Jamie making sad faces sometimes and saying he isn't happy. We need to know why he isn't happy so that maybe we can at least sympathize with him a little bit and understand why he makes some of his decisions. Instead we get nothing, and the whole depression just seems like it was shoehorned into the episode.
Jamie allowing Waldo to shine at the conference was really stupid. If Jamie is supposed to be bad with politics, it's hard to buy that he would just come up with an amazing speech on the spot and completely destroy his opposition. That moment felt severely out of character and dumb. Not only that, but it also enforced the stupidity of the whole Waldo campaign. The reason he is loved is because he is real, but apparently anybody can be more real than a politician if Jamie can make a powerful speech like that. We could just have some random guy show up and make that exact speech, so how is Waldo special? Why do people rally behind him and not anyone else? No idea.
But seriously, how did Waldo gain such a huge following? Literally everybody acknowledges that Waldo isn't even funny, and I would agree! He has no charm and is immature, so how the hell do people actually like him and support him? I understand that it's supposed to be the point that people are supporting this creature, but it's just so incredibly hard to find even a single reason that people would support Waldo. At least when Trump was elected, we could understand why people may have voted for him. With Waldo it just makes no sense why anyone would support him.
Jamie and Gwendolyn's relationship was the other main part of this episode, and it's just as hard to buy into. They are nowhere near as good as other couples have been in this show (Bing and Abi, and Martha and Ash were far more compelling), and there relationship feels really dumb. If Gwendolyn was going to just call Jamie after the campaign, why not tell him? Instead she made it seem like she didn't care about him at all, which in turn caused him to completely destroy her. It's impossible to sympathize with Gwendolyn because she brought everything on herself in an illogical way.
There were small plot points which were bad as well. It's ridiculous to me that Jamie's identity was kept secret. With the internet working the way it does, I would give the world like 1 day to figure out who the voice behind Waldo is. Surely there will be some guy who records Jamie walking out of the van, and reveals his identity online. This also makes Monroe revealing Jamie's identity all the more stupid, since it didn't feel at all surprising. Furthermore, the plot point of Jamie coming back to Waldo and not quitting was dumb too. I have no idea why he didn't leave Waldo; he never liked the character and he doesn't like politics. So what reason could he possibly have had for continuing?
The biggest offense of the episode though was the ending. Apparently Waldo has taken over the world. No. That makes so little sense and is completely at odds with the rest of the episode. Every indicator suggested that Waldo was just a temporary fad, but now he's somehow gone from joke candidate to leader of the world? That is so stupid, and is a ridiculous idea to end the episode.
The Unknown: How did Waldo take over the world? What is the new world like with Waldo being treated as a sort of god?
Best Moment: The panel was entertaining and Waldo's rant was really good.
Character of the Episode: Monroe.
Conclusion: This was very bad. The episode made no sense in terms of story and characters and had fewer impactful moments than most other episodes of the show. A total dud of an episode.
Summary: Victoria wakes up in a room and remembers nothing, not even her own name. She goes outside and is chased by terrorizing people while others film her and watch. She meets a girl named Jem who tells her that the world has been taken over by technology and that everyone just watches now. Their goal is to reach a transmitter called White Bear to find safety. When they reach there, Victoria fights for her life, but discovers that it was all a play. She is in fact a criminal and is forced to go through this tortuous play every day as penance for her role in the murder of a 6 year old girl, where she filmed the entire thing.
The Good: Wow. This was something else entirely. I have never seen a TV episode like this one, making this one of the most unique television experiences I have ever had. I have never been this confused, stunned or disturbed by an episode of TV since that episode of Game of Thrones (if you have seen the show, you know the one). This episode has to be one of the most uniquely powerful pieces of art I have seen.
It's hard to think about where to start, so I'll just start at the beginning. We open the episode completely confused and disoriented along with Victoria, whose name we don't even know at this point. There is lots of intriguing mystery and we genuinely don't know what has happened as we try to piece together who this character is, where she is, and what is going on. It's a genuinely confusing experience, and one which sucks you in right away and allows you to sympathize with the characters since we can completely understand what she is going through; after all we are currently experiencing the exact same thing.
The early parts of the episode are crafted really well in how they give us answers without answering much at all. The answers feel credible, but not quite right, and it makes me crave more for an answer. To distract me from the answers though, the episode builds tension brilliantly within the mystery, and it ends up becoming a sort of horror thriller, and a damn good one at that. Fear of the unknown is the worst kind of fear, and this episode capitalizes on that to make for some uncomfortably tense viewing.
Then in comes the twist. I have to say I was expecting some kind of big twist, but what we got completely annihilated my expectations and genuinely stunned me. It turns out that everything that happened was just a well-orchestrated play designed to punish our main character who was responsible for the horrific murder of a 6 year old girl which she filmed on camera. The reveal is socking and very well done, as it gives us a satisfying answer about these mysterious flashes Victoria had been having, while also serving as a horrific twist to inform us that Victoria is far from a good person. It's deeply uncomfortable to see this, as Victoria screams and suffers as she realizes that she has done something awful and is now living a life of punishment for a crime which she didn't even know she committed. It's brutal and devastating and allows us to still sympathize with this murderer due to the sheer brutality of the situation she is in.
This concept is incredible though, and it takes a really creative mind to come up with something so brilliant. To face up for her terrible crime, she is essentially being shown how it felt to be the little girl she killed every single day, where something awful happens to her as people just stand around filming her. And then this all culminates in the final 30 or so minutes of her day, which is the only time where she actually ahs to face what she has done and watch as hundreds of people boo her and throw stuff at her. And of course the irony in all of this is that all of the people who are contributing to this are essentially just becoming what she was: a watcher relishing in the suffering of another human being. It's really powerful storytelling which is not only a thought-provoking examination of justice, but also a look at the hypocrisy of being a human being and the disgusting things we do to get our revenge on other people who have done bad things.
One of the most interesting parts of this episode was the fact that the White Bear Justice Park is profiting from Victoria's suffering. Instead of just punishing her in a jail cell, they cause her endless suffering every single day and make money off of it, all the while acting incredibly cheerful about what they do, going as far as to tell their audience to "have fun" at the park. This is a really sick and twisted justice system, which seems to not even care about the unjust elements it has.
Lastly, as I was watching the episode I was noticing a lot of flaws and I was ready to put this down as the weakest episode. For example, the same hunters tracking down Victoria felt ridiculous, the amount of close calls were just dumb, Damien dying in such dramatic fashion was ridiculous, and Baxter having no clear motives was dumb. I was thinking about how this sloppy writing just felt like an average film, but the twist at the end surprisingly revealed that it was all supposed to be an average film. There were so many clichés because it was all a play, and with that one reveal, the episode went from one of the worst written, to the very best written episode of the entire show, and that removes almost every problem I had with the show.
The Bad: So apparently the people here have the technology to just erase memories. Why don't they just wipe people memories? Surely they shouldn't feel the need for such excessive punishment when they can just wipe memories and have people essentially start anew.
The episode had one somewhat major flaw in its main character. She was annoying at times which affected my ability to sympathize with her, and also made her endless screaming feel almost tiresome and too depressing.
This episode's character writing isn't as good as other episodes, and it certainly doesn't pack as real of an emotional punch as something like "Be Right Back". As much as I want to give this a really high score for its outstanding writing and twist, I don't feel that it has deep enough emotion to justify that. The shock isn't exactly subtle and it is hammered in repeatedly, and while that doesn't bother me too much, it hurts this episode's chances of being truly ascendant as a TV episode.
The Unknown: Is this system of punishment just? I was going to raise a point about wasting money on this park, but apparently it's self-sustaining and likely makes more money than it uses, so there is no money concern here. But is it really okay to put somebody through so much endless suffering?
Are there other facilities like this in the world for other criminals? Or is it just for Victoria?
Best Moment: The reveal of the twist was spectacular, and everything that followed was just stunning and devastating television. Fantastic stuff.
Character of the Episode: Victoria.
Conclusion: This was one hell of an experience. I can comfortably say that this was one of the most devastating episodes of television I have ever seen, but it's hard to rank it amongst the best episodes ever, so scoring is really tough. I suppose the best way to describe the episode, is that it's one of the best experiences out there and is something you absolutely should watch, but as an episode of TV, it doesn't hold up as one of the best ever. Still, this episode is a tremendous accomplishment and will go down as another huge success for the show.
Summary: Martha and her lover Ash are in a happy relationship until Ash is tragically killed in an accident. Martha struggles to get past this and goes for a new technology which creates a new robot which mimics Ash's voice. She also discovers that she is pregnant. She orders a physical robot of Ash to have with her, but is eventually creeped out by it since it isn't really Ash and is basically just a memory. Martha banishes Ash to the attic as a memory as she lives her life.
The Good: Another powerful episode kicks off season 2. This episode once more delved into the horrors that technological advancement could hit the world with, while also giving us a moving and devastating character arc throughout the entire hour.
The concept, as usual, is nothing short of brilliant. This episode focuses on the idea that technology can bring back the spirit of a deceased loved one in the form of a robot, and how it will affect the way we move on from tragedies. It's a clever idea, and feels like something we may not be too far away from having in our world, making the horrors explored in the episode feel so real and impactful.
The episode started off very simply, and with the charm of the actors, it provided us a relationship we could care about in the first 5 minutes. This makes it so when Ash dies, we have a good idea of what Martha has just lost and it's incredibly easy to put ourselves in her shoes, especially if you understand how it feels to lose a loved one. Hayley Atwell does a tremendous job of portraying Martha's pain after she loses Ash, and her eventual desperation to get Ash back, through this mysterious program somebody had suggested to her.
Her obsession with the phone Ash was done really well. We get to see her clinging onto his memory more and more, as she loses all other social activity in an attempt to reconnect with this memory of Ash, which she can't help but want to spend all her time with. It's a powerful message which reflects the natural human inability to let go and move on, and through the excellent storytelling, we get to see the negative effects that Martha clinging on to Ash has on her life, and how it ultimately ends up bringing her more suffering than good.
This brings me to the robot Ash which Martha does everything to get her hands on. The phone Ash was easier to connect with, as she doesn't get to experience all of Ash's habits, but when this robot comes in, she realizes that what she has gotten is just a shell with pieces of Ash's personality added into it, and the robot just follows her around like some sort of lot child or animal. It's brutal to watch and very creepy, and it's sad to see this memory of Ash rapidly drive Martha insane as she realizes that it can't give her what she wants it to.
The climax of the episode is a fantastic scene which perfectly portrays Martha's struggle as she brings "Ash" to the lover's leap spot and asks him to jump off, but at the same time lets out her anger that he isn't refusing in the way Ash would. But in the end, all this does is torture her more, as she now has to look at an image of Ash crying and begging her not to kill him. Her scream at the end perfectly encapsulated her misery and felt like a perfect cathartic conclusion to her story, so perfect in fact, that I think the episode could have ended there if it wanted to.
But one thing this show des brilliantly, is offer one extra twist at the end, creating even more emotion while still driving home the episode. The ending to this episode is gut-wrenching as we learn that Martha has sent Ash up to the attic, just like Ash's mother did with the photographs, essentially adapting him as just a memory. It's really powerful, not only from the idea that her daughter seemingly visits him extremely rarely, but also from the thought that Ash is just standing there waiting, probably for months at a time, just for somebody to visit him once for a little while. That's even more powerful stuff to end the episode on.
The writing on the show is superb as ever. There were so many little things which impressed me a lot. There were these fantastic little touches which made robot Ash feel even more inhuman when compared to the real Ash, including his hollow reactions to Ash's childhood picture and the Bee Gees song which Martha played in the car. The way the show handled Ash's death was great as well, making it impactful while also leaving some interesting ambiguity to it (see: The Unknown). Lastly, I thought the nature of the pregnancy test was fantastic as instead of a happy moment, it served as a painful reminder of what Martha has lost and how tough it would be to move on.
The Bad: Sarah signing Martha up for the program felt stupid. How did she get Martha's information? Clearly they weren't that close since she doesn't appear again in the episode. And also, how would the company let Martha get signed up without her own consent?
I felt like there was a bit too much repetition towards the end of the episode. I think the show lingered on Ash's creepiness and how it was bothering Martha a bit too much. I feel like it diminished the power of the episode quite a bit since the overall message seemed to drone on.
Though that last point could definitely just be a problem for me. Having lost some people close to me recently, this was a very tough episode for me to watch, and a lot of the time it was too much for me. I can't deny that the storytelling was outstanding, but it was incredibly rough to watch, and I think that for me it was a bit too rough. I can't deny the episode's quality, but considering my uncomfortable reaction to it, I can't rank it amongst the best of the show.
The Unknown: How did Ash end up dying? You would have to suspect that it was from his cell phone addition (another nod to the show's messages about technology). I like that the show leaves these small things ambiguous to let us fill in our own answers.
Best Moment: The scene between Martha and Ash on the cliff was definitely the most affecting. It was easy to understand Martha's dilemma and her scream was fantastic.
Character of the Episode: Martha.
Conclusion: Black Mirror continues its strong streak with another excellent episode, which examines loss and the affects it has on people. While this episode is really uncomfortable for me to watch, I can't deny that the writing was outstanding.
Just a university student who loves to watch TV. And criticize it like hell.