Last week saw the return of Charlie Brooker’s dystopian drama series Black Mirror: one of the television highlights of 2011 when the show debuted. We rejoiced in the blackly comic and diverse topics that Brooker treated: the dangers of social media and TV talent shows, with a poignant and dramatic finale – less of a satire, more of a futuristic tragedy, but still very much recognisable.
The first episode ‘Be Right Back’ stuck more to the format of the latter. Martha’s husband Ash has recently died and, through modern technology, she is able to talk to a computer-generated persona of him, formed through his online conversations and actions. Although some poetic licence has clearly been taken, it is startling to remember how easily one’s real voice comes across whilst online – none of the drama seems excessively unrealistic or far off, even when the ‘upgrade’ is initiated and a physical representation of Ash can be rebuilt from generic synthetic flesh.
The television advertisements for Black Mirror have been impressive and pervasive, to the extent that almost everything about the plot of this first episode could be gleaned from the trailer (a typical feature among Hollywood blockbusters). Yet so strong were the performances that this often did not matter. Your reviewer here may have seen the impressive Hayley Attwell, playing Martha, breaking down at Ash’s funeral several times on adverts on 4OD, but when the moment came in the show it was still unexpected and chilling to watch.
Having built up such an entrancing story, the final scene was a huge disappointment. Spoiler alert! – it seems that Brooker like Martha had no real idea what to do about his new Ash creation, and so left the couple remaining in an endless hellish estranged lifestyle. Sometimes the obvious ending – killing him off – is the right one, at the expense of a final twist, for some coherence. Regardless, Black Mirror is certain to keep me hooked!