TV Review: “Black Mirror” – The Abyss Gazes Back

Written by Jesse Gelinas March 09, 2013

A shot from the episode 2 of the second season of "Black Mirror", entitled "White Bear"

The future is broken

Channel 4 in England is not exactly known as the epitome of television broadcasting. If I told you that five of its ten most watched programs of all time have been episodes of “Big Brother”, you might not give it a second thought. “Black Mirror” is something different. In the same spirit as “The Twilight Zone” or “Night Gallery”, this anthology series serves up hour-long doses of surreal insanity that’ll make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. The fright in this case comes from the twisted reflection of society presented to us in each story. “Black Mirror” forces us to take a long, hard look into the Abyss.

“Black Mirror” comes from the mind of Charlie Brooker (creator of the fantastic “Dead Set” series). Each standalone tale shows a world where our worst qualities have come to rule society. From political intrigue, and social networking prisons, to conversations with the virtual dead, each story gives a sick, satirical take on modern culture.

“They’re all about the way we live now, and the way we might be living in 10 minutes time if we’re clumsy.” – Charlie Brooker

Each episode has an entirely different cast, and an entirely different reality that is played out terrifically. The casts all mesh together well and fit their respective oddities. Each director creates a visually polarizing world that helps set the stage for the biting commentary (the pilot episode is particularly twisted).Some go to extremes showing fantastical world that bring Aldous Huxley to mind. Others are more grounded in a more modern reality, but nothing is ever “normal” in the sense that we think we know.

A shot from the first season finale of "Black Mirror", entitled "The Entire History of You"

The writing is natural and witty. The characters are all relatable and easy to root for, until dark secrets start spewing forth, and then all bets are off. “15 Million Merits” will break your heart with its denouement and terrify you with the plausibility of its electronic prison. The tragedies of the second season will make you question everything you know about how we handle everything from the convicted to the deceased. If you’ve ever filmed an incident on the street, you may feel a twinge of embarrassment coming over you.

“Farewell forever… ‘til the same time next week.”

“Black Mirror” just wrapped up its second season. A third is still uncertain at the moment, but would be welcome if the quality of satire remains intact. Robert Downey Jr has apparently bought the rights to an episode already in hopes of adapting it into his next feature, so a renewal could also come with that kind of press. In this age of overbearing technology and obscene dependence on social networks and Twitterized news stories, we could use a show that makes us take that hard look at ourselves. We may not always like what we see, but reality sucks sometimes. 1984 never came to fruition, but these universes could very well come to pass sooner or later. That’s where true terror comes from.

 My Rating: 8.5/10

Channel 4 poster for "Black Mirror"

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About Jesse Gelinas

After years attempting to escape the Matrix, Jesse has accepted his fate as a writer and Senior Editor. Now that's he finished with his film degree, it gives him something to do while waiting for the machines to get careless.

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