Right from the outset it’s obvious that this is a Black Mirror Christmas special filled with roast turkey, tinsel and snow aplenty. Also obvious from the very first scene is that the opening frames are building to a very different kind of Christmas special. Taking a delve into the not too distant, but very real technology influenced, dark and decrepit modern society.
Smile, it’s Christmas! The time for drinks, family time and peace on Earth to all men. Well maybe not all men, as the two main protagonists (played by Jon Hamm and and Rafe Spall) are clearly escaping or sentenced to escape away from the life they once had. From here, Charlie Brooker takes his usual stab at everything from Google Glass, to social media and even modern slavery and torture.
I told you this was dark, but all wrapped up in the way Brooker seems to cloud everything – just enough so the story seems to work on more than one level. The feature length special wraps three stories around each other, beginning at funny, and carrying right through to downright freaky. The story telling, writing and cinematography makes no changes from the two other short series we have seen before. If you haven’t already, then go a watch now as from here on in there be spoilers!
With wit, humor, and just a few white lies, Matt (Jon Hamm) begins to tell the story of of how he ended up in the place he is now. It’s narrated with all the silky smooth demeanor that his stereotypical American appearance conveys. Using his skills to coach what he describes as ‘dorks’, in this case Harry (Rasmus Hardiker), all while observing through “EyeLink” all in the name of sex.
Providing jokes, motivation and a little stage fright in order to end the night in bed, they believe they have ‘hit the jackpot’ but the winning lady in this case, mistakes Harry talking to Matt as mental illness. When Harry aims to motivate her to do what the voices tell her by changing jobs she mistakes this for a suicide pact. So instead of spending the night between the sheets, they spend it dying on top of it, all whilst being observed by his ‘coach’ and anyone that has brought the footage. None are unwilling to get involved when the worst happens, raising questions to our current wearable technology, mental health issues and willingness to walk away rather than help someone in need.
When Matt’s wife is understandably unhappy when she discovers his involvement, we first see the best piece of social media critique ever as she blocks him.
Booker has taken the simple block option on social media and pushes this to what could be a logical extension. The person blocked simply becomes a greyed out vistal entity. The block solves nothing, conversation cannot conclude and nothing is resolved, yet the world moves on. Moving on is inevitable, as Matt’s day job raises all sorts of questions on what constitutes a human.
Matt’s day job is automating the homes of those rich enough to pay for the service, in this case Greta (Oona Chaplin), by implanting a small chip (cookie) into a persons brain to absorb ‘themselves’. They then record everything that makes up their personality and everything they like into lines of code, making smart and snide remarks to almost tease the ‘copy’ of a person. Once removed, this ‘person’ is put to work in automating everything in the house.
Forced Emotion and Rushed Story
Empathy for those imprisoned in the cookie is built fast with very real human reactions eradicated in a short period of time. The general tone and reactions from the story felt very forced and rushed. A human is not just their physical self, that goes without saying, but questions to Matt about the barbarity of his actions are forced aside quickly as if rushed. When Matt describes his technique of breaking ‘them’ in without snapping completely it felt as though this story could have should have been covered in an hour long episode alone. Just by using the word ’empathetic,’ Matt both insults and compliments.
That’s all before we even move onto poor Joe (Rafe Spall) and his tale of woe. Casting bright colours against a plain white dusting of snow, Joes story starts with actions and sounds of love and joy. With an appearance from the same song when everything goes wrong in the second episode of Black Mirror – an offbeat rendition of Irma Thomas’ “Anyone Who Knows What Love Is (Will Understand).”
Old Faces And Ideas
This throw back also marks the point where everything will seem very familiar if you have watched previous episodes. After Joe is blocked by his pregnant girlfriend, it descends into a mixtures of old episodes and characters. You see images of dancers on Hot Shots and even the comedy show that spawned Waldo.
After spending years being blocked and not being able to see his daughter, it is eventually rescinded when she dies in a rail crash, so Joe is finally able to set eyes on his daughter for the first time. From here on out its twists and turns that are not to be missed so I won’t spoil them here. The one-off episode is available on 4OD and also should be available on DirectTV in the US from the 21st onward. Merry Christmas!