ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT EDITOR
Netflix recently released Black Mirror’s seventh episode, a Christmas special with three intertwining stories in one episode. Released in England in December 2014, the episode stars Jon Hamm (“Mad Men”) as Matt, and Rafe Spall (“Prometheus”) as Potter. The two are stuck together in an abandoned cabin, and only Matt knows why he and Potter are there.
Matt tells Potter secrets of his past careers, though Potter and the audience are not sure why he’s telling a stranger these accounts. Matt first begins telling Potter about his service for shy, young men learning how to talk to women. A special camera is placed in the subject’s eye for Matt to see through the subject’s eyes, and is able to direct the sub-ject through an earpiece.
At the subject’s holiday party, Matt successfully aids the subject in going home with the object of his affection, but in a strange mix of suicide and homicide, Matt is forced to shut down the service before the authorities can find out his involvement in the matter.
Following the downfall of his career and a divorce, Matt turns to working for a service that surgically removes a part of the brain and copies it, creating a perfect slave that lives its existence independently in a small, egg-shaped device.
“White Christmas” shows Matt introducing a specific copy to her surroundings following the original woman’s surgery. The copy, unable to believe she is a microscopic duplicate designed to be a slave, initially refuses to play into Matt’s instructions.
As punishment for in-compliance, Matt changes the time so that it feels like she spends years doing absolutely nothing, with nowhere to go and no one to talk to. In real time, Matt just spends a few minutes watching the years go by on the clone’s clock.
The original human feels nothing her copy feels; her life is made more convenient, with classical music playing in the morning and getting the right crispiness of toast that she likes because her exact brain copy is making it for her. The slave, however, is manifested with the same feelings and memories as if she actually were the original copy. The copy is forced to spend the rest of her existence watching the original live in the real world and serving her needs.
Potter interjects, telling Matt he is terrible for contributing to a legal form of slavery. Matt explains there is evil in all of us, that he is ashamed of his career, and encourages Potter to tell a story.
Telling Potter the honest accounts of his sketchy past convince Potter to open up about his past life. He admits he was “blocked” by his girlfriend, Bethany, after an argument about her pregnancy. In the “Black Mirror” version of the future, humans can block each other from their lives, creating a gray, voiceless blob in place of the actual person.
Potter stalks the gray outline of his former lover, eventually learning that she kept the child and continually refuses to unblock him. The block extends to offspring, so Potter is also unable to see or be seen by his daughter. The block is finally removed when Bethany dies in an accident, so Potter goes to stalk his daughter. The rest of story follows Potter into a dark headspace of murder and revenge, and his ultimate confession leads to his arrest, orchestrated by Matt himself.
It’s almost too similar to Season 2’s “White Bear”, the episode where the main character wakes up in an unfamiliar house, unsure of how she got there, with men chasing her and others refusing their help and instead following her around taking videos with their cell phones. We find out at the end that the woman is being held hostage to pay for her crimes as an accomplice to a murder.
“Black Mirror” is a sort of modern “Twilight Zone” with humanity’s relationship with technology as the cause for most of the problems. Each hour-long episode in the anthology series tells a separate fictional story in either the close or distant future.
The series is shocking. Within the first five minutes of the first episode of the first season, we’re launched into a show that gambles with having sex with a pig on live television to save a princess. Using the idea of that sort of content as a standard, the rest of the series’ main conflicts – like TV-watching slavery issued by marketing hounds and bringing a deceased person back to life via artificial intelligence – are equally as morally inept and begs the question of the downfall of humanity via technology.
In September, Netflix commissioned a 12-episode third season of “Black Mirror” with an unknown release date. Charlie Brooker, the show’s creator, called it “exciting” for the show to be on the “most fitting platform imaginable,” according to Crave.
But the potential problem with letting Netflix take over the series is there is the possibility of the British show not being able to bend its boundaries or be as dark once being handed over to an American company.
Think of UK’s “Skins” versus MTV’s “Skins.” Although Netflix did not produce America’s version, it was a sordid reminder that in the United States, we can’t have teens squawking cuss words or having sex while overdosing on prescription pills every episode. The MTV version of “Skins” received backlash from parents and critics about its content, cancelling the recreation after only one season.
On the other hand, Netflix’s release of “Degrassi: Next Class” seemed to create a near-perfect sequel to Epitome Pictures’ “Degrassi: The Next Generation,” the long-running Canadian teen drama. Netflix kept the same actors, characters, and stories, incorporating a new show seamlessly into the “Degrassi” lineup.
Using the “Degrassi” situation as a bar, this brings high hopes that Netflix can acknowledge the success of “Black Mirror” and recreate its darkness accordingly.
In a teaser video, it appears the Netflix /”Black Mirror” partnership will keep the same title sequence and the same creators as the original show.