Black Mirror Season 2: A Review

22/10/2017


It's time for another Black Mirror review! I've been postponing this post because I wasn't sure if anyone is actually waiting and excited for this. But, I decided to post this before my memories fade and I start forgetting how I feel towards each one. As always, I will try to keep spoilers to a minimum because I encourage everybody to try this show. Still, I cannot promise that each review will be completely spoiler-free. In case you missed it, my review for the first season can be read here.



Be Right Back — 5/5


Following the end of season one where we had to deal with future technology and how it could benefit us, the first episode of season two follows the same concept of alike conflict. This episode revolves around grief and how one person, in this case a woman named Martha (played by Hayley Atwell, also known as our beloved Peggy Carter from Captain America), deals with the lost of her boyfriend, Ash (played by Domhnall Gleeson whom I remember as Bill Weasley from the Harry Potter films.)

In this story, we are introduced to Ash, Martha's social media obsessed boyfriend who is a living reflection of our society. This symbolism is not an on-screen exaggeration. When asked if he'd be okay with having soup in his shoe, Ash said "yes" and didn't bother to look at Martha eye to eye. This was the first philosophical analogy I noticed from this episode: the scenario of us tweeting or messaging other people instead of talking to our friends.

A few minutes later, we heard that Ash is dead. Left alone and drowning in grief, Martha was then introduced to seeking help from technology. What started as a chat bot becomes something more, so much more than Martha end up giving the 'thing' a soul, treating it like it's human. This is further given when Martha accidentally dropped her phone, panicked and frantically apologized to 'Ash' for "dropping him." At this point, the difference between deceased Ash and 'Ash' is starting to fade.

Inevitably, Martha demands more. There is lightning in her bathroom as she waits, anxiously might I add, with her knees supporting her chin. She turns around and there it is, a human android of her deceased boyfriend. The whole Frankenstein scenario raises a series of questions surrounding artificial intelligence, one of them proposed by author Philip K. Dick in his book "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?" which also serves as the base for Ridley Scott's 1982 Blade Runner movie. Be Right Back shows us that the a bot, no matter how advanced or seemingly humane, is only capable of so much. All of his responses and answers are all but curated, programmed. He smiles yet he can't feel joy. He cries yet he feels no sadness. He pleads when told to jump yet he only does that because he was told to. Martha has to teach Ash how to be, well... Ash.

"You're just a few ripples of you. There's no history of you." This quote by Martha has stuck with me for a few days. What she said made me think about the image we put out on social media. It further supports the assumption that we are defined by what we post online, that nobody will ever really know who we are in private. Martha's frustration evaporates into thin air as screams, loud and adamant as she, for one last time, tells 'Ash' how he should have responded. This is a very specific and special scene that I want people to pay attention to. This is the part where Martha was torn between wanting to dispose 'Ash' but couldn't find the will to actually do it. I couldn't decode if she felt everything was a mistake but perhaps, not completely. Her final decision was, in my opinion, not something I would do yet at the same time, I can sort of understand why she decided to have things stay that way. While this is a tragic episode, it is without a doubt one of the best and definitely an excellent one to start the season.


White Bear — 4.7/5


This is probably the most disturbing episode of season two. Knowing Black Mirror, it's definitely not surprising to have your mind boggled by the underlying issues they have tackled. But, White Bear is definitely something else. The Twilight Zone apocalyptic setting seems familiar at first as it introduce its rules and game only to have the plot twist dragged out a few minutes left before we bid farewell to the episode. To say this is one of the coolest Black Mirror stories ever is probably an understatement.

A woman wakes up in a house only to realize she has amnesia. Victoria, so she is called, finds herself plagued by images of a child, a girl who she assumes must be her child. Trying to find a way out of wherever she is, she leaves the house and finds people ignoring her pleas. Instead, she finds them recording her every single move. A few minutes later, Victoria finds herself running away from a witch hunt, one that she has no idea why. Escaping from shots fired and flying bullets, Victoria forms an alliance with one woman, a stranger, who tells her of an infectious radio signal which turn most of the population into voyeurs, people who are obsessed to recording everything they see. Following her ally's guide, Victoria's goal is set in stone: to destroy the transmitter nicknamed 'White Bear.'

The 'world' we see Victoria tries to escape from is anything but a recreational park. It's brutal, grim and cruel. Masked men, dubbed 'hunters', chase you down with shotguns and chant in unison, demanding Victoria to be punished much like a witch back in the olden days. For a moment there, you might sympathized with Victoria and the emotional torture she has to endure because of course, she is am amnesiac woman who cannot remember anything....right?

That is until the show throws some really smartly covered and well-revealed plot twists of what White Bear really is, who Victoria really is, the child she keeps seeing in her mind and of course, why she woke up amnesiac in the first place all at once. With only a few minutes left, White Bear makes you question about your alignment when it comes to justice, especially in regards to and for people like Victoria. As nasty and gruesome as it is, the underlying lesson of morality and depiction of a real life witch hunt strike up a few thoughts about human empathy, social justice and law.


The Waldo Moment  3/5


After the revelation and how White Bear carried itself, I have to be honest and say that The Waldo Moment fell short. Not by a lot if you think about the underlying philosophical analysis but definitely does, a little if you must. But that does not mean The Waldo Moment is boring by any means. If there's something to be learned from Black Mirror, it's that this show will never run out of metaphorical lessons.

The plot is an amplified version of a classic, linear plot involving what-ifs. One of them is the thought of what if a realistically straightforward, apolotical comedian began to insert his own name into the politician board and actually gain civilian support from it? This is the story of Waldo, a blue cartoon character known for his wild profanities whose political involvement has won the hearts of many civilians and is actually a staged marketing scheme by showrunners.

In reality, Waldo is a virtual persona of Jamie, a comedian whose lack of professional advancement causes him to have a completely opposite personality when he is out in his own skin and not Waldo's. As Waldo, most of his jokes are dumb because they are supposed to appeal to civilians. Dick jokes, profanities and wild mockery are parts of Waldo's dictionary of fun. Although it does get annoying at some point, this is what it appeals to civilians because people find it easier to connect to relatable jokes and not intelligently crafted script filled with political hypocrisy. One person pointed out that Waldo is pulling strings of populist politic seeking to defend and maximize the interests of ordinary people. This also makes me think about how people want a political figure they can relate with and by relate, I'm referring to someone who may or may not be trained for politics. Waldo's "fuck you" apathy, for example, is something that is relatable for many especially in a world where authority figures can no longer be trusted to speak the truth. The point is, as long as said figure speaks the kind of language we understand, we'd vote for them. While politics will forever be a two sided discussion, this is some realization The Waldo Moment had given me.

Another person compared this episode to the current political situation in America, going as far as to compare Waldo and Trump. This comparison makes sense, at least for me. Since this episode is fairly simple and short, I have to let you watch and interpret the episode on your own. When it comes to political views, there is no one size fits all. Overall for the episode itself, it is pretty much average and nothing mind boggling but I have to give credit for its underlying subjects.



Phew, well that was quite a review for each episode. Unlike the reviews I had for season one, I kind of went more for this one and unfortunately, that required me to unveil more bits and pieces of the plot. But, I really, really hope I wasn't overspoiling anything because I really, really recommend Black Mirror for those who love critical thinking, grounded futuristic themes and philosophical thoughts.

Have you watched Black Mirror? Which one is your favorite?

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