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Thru 4 seasons, this is one that epitomizes "Black Mirror."
I have decided to only write reviews on these episodes after I watch them for a second time. I am mid-way through the 3rd season on my 2nd run.
As many of my outlooks on various episodes have changed, this one stayed very much the same, which is not a good or bad thing... it's a great thing!
It seems a lot of people watch this show for all different reasons. My reason is evolving and changing the more I watch it. As before, I watched it to see a dark foretelling of how technology affects our lives... I am not starting to see that technology is merely the vehicle in this series, and the vehicle drives our human nature. Human nature is becoming the theme to me more and more, and technology is a perfect catalyst to drive our inner most desires, which they can be beautiful, as well as dark and depraved.
This episode is driven by the "Grain" implant that allows us to see the entirety of all the moments we have lived throughout our lives. There are characters shown in this episode on both spectrums; those who live it and find it to now be the only way to live; and those who see how destructive it can be, and prefer to live without it. I think I would be in the latter category myself.
The way our protagonist over analyzes every little element of body language, the way things are said, so on and so forth, the more you see how quickly you can become obsessive with such a privilege. Though many drone-like people (the ones of today who are staring at their Iphone while walking amongst actual beauty in our natural world) might see nothing harmful about this, but instead see convenience, leisure, and after awhile, necessity. However, it is increasingly clear to me that it is a destroyer. A destroyer of our privacy, our humility, our ability to grow and evolve, and ultimately, a destroyer of our sanity. This is done very well by telling an impactful story of what could very easily happen within the lives of many ordinary people.
Again we come back to human nature. If such a thing were to exist, I can think of so many people I personally know who would take advantage of this exactly as our protagonist does, eventually leading to him becoming completely insane, and ultimately alone and depressed. Though human evolution is essential, and I don't wish to go back to the days of being neanderthals... this episode has as strong a message as ever, as well as being entertaining. That message is that although progress is good, perhaps we SHOULD backtrack a bit. I am already seeing that in today's world, 2018, our dependence on technology is so great, that we are approaching a time where we (collectively as a species) don't even know how to live anymore. I truly feel sorry for anyone who has been born in the new millenium. Will we forget how to build a fire, read a map, etc?
Yes, I tend to go on stream-of-consciousness tangents in my reviews... but this is what the show does to me. It makes me think like this, more so than anything I have ever watched, and this episode is one of a few that is the epitome of what Black Mirror is all about, and why I love it so dearly.
Cut me to my core.
As the first season of Black Mirror progresses (only being 3 episodes long), I personally find it to explore deeper subject matter. "Fifteen Million Merits" simply affects me as a person a lot more than the previous episode "The National Anthem," which contained more shock value than anything as far as I saw it.
"Fifteen Million Merits" takes place in a futuristic "digital utopia" (saw that description elsewhere, and I liked it... though I would personally view it as a "waking nightmare.") This world that doesn't resemble ours upon sight, but seems to represent it in every metaphorical way possible. The protagonist contains pure values that no one else around him seems to have, until he meets a woman singing a beautiful song. There is love there, and a yearning for something greater than than the slave-like existences they are currently living, riding on hamster wheels, for what seems to be no purpose.
In typical Black Mirror style, the dark, apathetic, and indifferent aspects of human nature are there to see in all their glory. There is a speech given by the protagonist toward the end that cuts to my core as much as anything could, highlighting pretty much all of the things that I myself have come to despise about our society. I have known people who have watched this and thought it was boring, so I am forced to believe this isn't for everyone. But, for those of you who question authority, spend any time thinking outside of your little bubble, and strive to be more than a "rat in a cage," well then my friend, this episode is for you.
Aside from all of the wonderful messages, it also layers on top all of the visual details that make this digital world so unique, much of which is reminiscent, but still very different from our world today. The innovation of the details is so terrific, that I was truly blown away. The only reason this one falls 1 star short of perfection is there is a slight lull throughout. Once it kicks off, it's all systems go... but perhaps 5 mins or so could have been shaved off? A lot of time that many would find unnecessary is spent setting up the world to get you used to it, and become immersed in it.
All-in-all, this is a wonderful episodes that absolutely hits the nail on the head of channeling the reality TV watching, short attention span nature of today's modern culture... and gives us a rather dark glimpse at what could be if we continue down this moral-craved path.
Black Mirror: The National Anthem (2011)
Good episode, just not the propper jumping off point.
I plan to review all Black Mirror episodes once I have seen them all twice. I like to space it out as to not tire myself of this utterly fantastic show. I plan to make my reviews spoiler-free!
So as for the opening episode of the entire series, "The National Anthem." As most of you know, most Black Mirror episodes take place in the future. The opening is episode is based within our real world, and the technology that is available to us. One of the aspects I love about Black Mirror so much is that it reveals the deeper, darker traits of human nature. The types of traits we like to pretend we all don't have, but we do. This episode is surely no exception of that.
The content of this episode is so dark, so disturbing, and for lack of a better word, just plain gross. Having the diabolical mind that I have, I am able to stomach it, and enjoy the twisted-ness of it all, to some degree anyway. If I myself were to write my own TV show, novel, etc... I would probably never delve into the territories that this episode does. Certainly not for the faint of heart. I suppose my favorite aspect of this episode is that the ultimatum presented could happen in today's world... and perhaps have the same outcome. When such a choice is presented to a person in order to save someone in danger, as well as to save face when they themselves are in a position of power, I'm not sure I see it playing out in any other fashion.
The downside, and why I decided to give this 8 stars, is due to the content being so gross. The acting is great, the story is interesting and powerful, and again, the darkest potential of our human nature is revealed in this episode. Upon recommending this show (perhaps my favorite show of all time, next to Breaking Bad and Boardwalk Empire), I always throw out the disclaimer that this is not the first episode that should be watched. I sincerely think Charlie Booker and crew made a mistake having this be the first episode, as people were probably turned off right from the get go. But, every episode of the series stands alone, with their own concepts.
All-in-all, this episode is an interesting look into what could happen if power is given to the wrong hands. The boundaries that are crossed are shocking... but that is one of the many things I love about the show in general. This just isn't the best episode, but it still encapsulates what the show is about. Delivering a dark and ominous message about what can come at the expense of the ever-rising importance and power of technology in our life.