Chuck (chuckro) wrote,

Black Mirror (Netflix, Season 2)

Continuing the theme of near-future, tech-based Twilight Zone shenanigans.

"Be Right Back" - After her husband dies, Martha starts using a web service that will analyze a dead person's social media presence and re-create their personality. She eventually even goes for the full-on version where they send a realistic android imprinted with the AI to you, but then discovers that (big shock) the “perfect” version we present online is far too shallow to live with like a real person. 90% of the reason this episode works is because Hayley Atwell is very good at what she does.

"White Bear" – A woman wakes up with no memory in a strange world where most people are “bystanders” and a random few are “hunters”. Then Tuppence Middleton shows up and they go on a wild terrorist ride to destroy the transmitter causing all this...except not. It turns out that it's all a theme park show and the woman is a convicted child murderer who is being “punished” by having her memory erased and being run through this scenario by actors (and paying spectators) every day. The thing is, this goes so far beyond the useful concept of criminal justice that it just makes me angry. I generally feel that the purpose of the criminal justice system should be rehabilitative (we want to make people productive members of society rather than criminals); though I accept that some people feel that it should be deterrent (consequences must be severe to make people afraid to commit crimes). This isn't justifiable as either; it's just excessively punitive, allowing people to glorify in revenge and in torturing someone who can't even remember why they're being tortured. I'm reminded mostly of the two-minute hate from 1984. The fact that the woman in question is black just reinforces the idea that this isn't about justice, it's about justifying using a person as a torture-porn prop.

"The Waldo Moment" – A comedian voicing a cgi cartoon bear has a hit ragging on a local politician and ends up running for office—as the bear. Unfortunately, the comedian is a depressive, self-absorbed fuckup who can't seem to translate his attacks of conscience into any useful action besides quitting. He attempts to ruin the career of another politician who didn't return his calls after she slept with him, but he also ends up sleeping in the gutter while his creation is plastered over every billboard in town, so...that's a reasonable comeuppance, I guess? This starts out decent as a cute idea with minimal sci-fi, but veers off with its lack of likable characters and weak resolution.

“White Christmas" – A series of intertwined vignettes in the usual style of near-future tech-based cautionary tales, told in a framing tale of two men talking over Christmas dinner in some sort of isolated cabin. The first is about a group of pick-up artists who use tech to see through each others' eyes and give advice on dates. The second is about making a digital copy of a person, which is then psychologically tortured into compliance—so they can run a rich person's household to their exact preferences. (This is a really dumb idea; why just dump preference details into a programmed-subservient AI, rather than a copy of the whole person you need to then abuse?) The third (which then ties back to the first and the framing tale) revolves around the idea of “blocking” people in real life like you do online—which is such an absurdly British idea. I feel like the US version of that would be “woman blocks man, man beats woman to death, end scene.” Part of the twist ending involves a character put on the equivalent of the sex offender registry, which blocks them from everyone...which is a great metaphor for the idiotic way we handle the sex offender registry and criminal justice system now, doing nothing for reformation and everything to assure people become repeat offenders because that's their only choice for survival. That, combined with the digital copy left in Christmas hell solitary confinement for millennia shows exactly how much this show loves utterly purposeless revenge-fueled punishments.

Overall: ...It makes me think, and I suppose that's good?
Tags: reviews, tv reviews
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