Black Mirror: Series 3
Those of us belonging to the Baby Boomer generation have arguably seen more substantial changes in the fabric of society and the fundamental cultural paradigm. An important aspect of those changes manifested in the format used by television programming. One popular type of programing that dominated the early days of television was the anthology series. Each episode told a different story, frequently with a different cast. There has been a resurgence of the format most notably with ‘American Horror Story’ on F/X. Among the most well know examples of anthologies is undoubtedly in the science fiction / horror genre, the ‘Twilight Zone’ and ‘The Outer Limits’. Both generated such popularity and persistent critical acclaim that they are beyond cult status defining a substantial portion of our popular culture. Over in Britain they have made incredible contributions to the genre. One of the best example of this d=format and genre, ‘Black Mirror’. All of the stories are concerned with how technology has altered the way people interact with each other on both an individual level and part of a common society. Building on the iconic foundation of the shows ‘Black Mirror’ is an example of the best qualities intrinsically part of the genre.one of the first factors that drew me to science fiction and, more importantly, kept my interest throughout my life is the multilayer content that most stories contain. On the surface each episode is entertaining. An interesting tale of character beset by situations that test the psychological stability of the protagonist and their emotional limits to endure. What is unique about ‘Black Mirror’ is how it examines the effects that technology has on the basic condition of humanity. Several episodes rely on the literary technic known as, reductio ad absurdum. This refers to reducing a problem, issue or stressor to a ridiculous level to make a point. While this can frequently be perceived as satire on a deeper level it explores a problem inherent in society that might prove too controversial address outright. In all my years as a Sci-Fi aficionado rarely have I’ve seen craftsmanship on this level of success.
This first episode of season three is set in a world where your social media standing determines your position in the social hierarchy, Lacie Pound (Bryce Dallas Howard), lives her life doing her best to be nice and accommodating to others, superficially this may appear to be a solid way to conducting yourself, but her motives were not altruistic. The only motivation Lacie has is placating others for a ‘Like’. The rating is based a five-star ranking with the tally maintained in a form of universal cloud. Not all ‘Likes’ are created equally. While a Like from your barista can help maintain your current level, to make a significant move upward it is optimal to gain the approval of those higher on the social ladder. Lacie has a reasonable 4,2 score. It is sufficient to keep her in a monotonous job, but she still must live with her lower scored brother. Lacie wants to move out and there is a vacancy in a luxury building but the minimum of 4.5 is required just to be considered. It seems hopeless until Lacie receives an invitation to her best friend from school, Naomi (Alice Eve). Naomi wants Lacie to be her maid of honor. Naomi has a 4.8 and is part of a well ranked social circle. Of course Lacie sets out to fly to the posh island location but a string of unfortunate occurrences continually drain her points until she is jailed for no rating. The technology for ranking is removed and Lacie remains in prison as a non-person.
Cooper (Wyatt Russell), is still living with his mother, a classic case of failure to launch. He leaves planning on seeing the world only to find himself lacking the funds to complete his final leg back home. he meets a young woman, Sonja (Hannah John-Kamen). He tells her about an app he has been using, Oddjobs, which matches people in need of work with paying jobs. Cooper finds one that pays enough to get hi back home. the job is with a video game company, SaitoGamer. The job entails Cooper testing a new game that is built on a revolutionary new technology. The game brings the user to a new, deeper level of experience, a fully immersive artificial reality. At one-point Sonja shows up warning him that he is mortal danger. Cooper believes she is just a hologram. The object of the test, as explained to Coper. Is to explore the cumulative effects of fear. The artificial intelligence programing combined with the direct connection to his brain should permit the game to actively probe his mind to determine the most effective scenario to illicit abject fear. the dangers inherent with handing over access to our minds becomes evident as questions regarding the looming singularity are raised.
Shut Up and Dance
In this episode teenager Kenny (Alex Lawther), is in the process of removing malware from his laptop. As part of the process he goes to a website, ‘Shrive’ which does remove the virus. The site proved access for a black hat hacker to take over Kenny’s computer. Using the laptop’s camera, the hacker captures a video of Kenny in the act of self-gratification. When the hacker contacts Kenny telling him to keep his phone on and charge while waiting to be ‘activated’. The hacker is blackmailing several people for a variety of transgressions. The unseen voice makes his victims perform many tasks leading up to robbing a bank. The strings controlling the victims are inexorably pulled together to a conclusion that presented a graphically dark twist.
This is one of the most emotionally intense and poignant in the entire series. Set in In 1987 where a shy young woman, Yorkie (Mackenzie Davis), visits San Junipero for the first time. The town has a reputation for partying, always filled with young people in search for a good time. There she meets Kelly (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), a freewheeling ‘party girl’, who was avoiding a young man, Wes (Gavin Stenhouse), who has become too obsessive. The two young women get along extremely well and the potential for a deeper relationship. Yorkie suddenly becomes embarrassed at the realization they were flirting. In the late eighties a relationship of that kind was not consistent with the societal norms. The episode follows the relationship through the years with a very specific condition, the meetings always end at midnight. This episode explores the changes to the acceptance of same gender relationship through the decades. In keeping win the fundamentals premise of the series the technology scrutinized here is artificial reality and the post singularity corollary of cyber reality. This allows the story to scrutinize one of humanity’s oldest goal, immortality.
Men Against Fire
This penultimate episode for the forth season is stylistically and thematically closely resembles the nineties reboot of the ‘Outer Limits’ bringing the audience to a post-apocalyptic earth where a biological weapon destroyed civilization although the details are never discussed within the context of the story. A team of resistance fighters including Koinange, known as "Stripe" (Malachi Kirby), Raiman, known as "Ray" and "Hunter" (Madeline Brewer). They all received an implant referred to as MASS, that helps them by enhancing their abilities to strategize. Their current objective is to help a village whose food source was made inedible by Roaches, mutated creatures from the final war. After investigating they encounter a large, dilapidated house and interrogate the owner ((Francis Magee). Medina). they conclude that he is harboring the creatures. The technological twist challenges the essence of reality and highlights how perception can be more important, and deadly, than reality.
Hated in the Nation
Superficially, this episode assumes the format of a traditional British police detective mystery. DCI Karin Parke (Kelly Macdonald) has been called to police headquarters to be questioned about a case from last year. Journalist, journalist Jo Powers (Elizabeth Berrington) had been found at home with her throat slashed. Prior to that she had received online threats because of an article she wrote raising doubts over the actions of a disabled activist who committed suicide. Karin has been teamed up with Blue Coulson (Faye Marsay), recently transferred from the cyber forensics department. Her theory of crime had the deceased murdered by her husband but that could not be proven. The investigation uncovers an Autonomous Drone Insect, a device created to replace the extinct population of bees. It turns out that the technology intended to save humanity was now targeting people. A common theme explored through the series is how technology designed to help humanity eventually will expedite our ultimate downfall.
This is one of the best shows of its kind, exemplifying the power of science fiction as a means to examine the myriad facets of the human mind.