Hurray! Charlie Brooker's 10 minutes in the future sci-fi anthology-ma-jig is back! With twice as many episodes! On Netflix!
I am going to review them in order. I'm also now going to give a score out of 10 rather than 5, for “nuance” May contain spoilers.
Lovely Bryce Dallas Howard is obsessed with keeping up her score out of 5 in a world where everyone is rated. People beg for good reviews because the lower your score the worse a person everyone thinks you are.
I imagine it was based on almighty shit-for-brains “Yelp for people” app Peeple, but for me the giant elephant in the room is the “Meow Meow Beanz” episode of Community which mines the same concept but with more laughs, While “Nosedive” is probably a more realistic interpretation about how this bullshit would work, Community was more inventive and had a ton more fun with it.
“Nosedive” also deals in cringey, squirmy social embarrassment, something I genuinely struggle to watch these days (in comedy or drama). It ends on a hope spot but getting there was gruelling in a non-entertaining way – 6/10
Massive bellend tourist who refuses to talk to his mum loses all his money and takes a job playtesting a new VR gaming thingy. Things predictably go massively shit shaped in horror movie style.
If you've watched as many horror movies as me it was as scary as it was surprising, which is to say not remotely. The lead was too annoying for me to really care about what was happening and I found the implied link between dementia and the unreality of the game mildly distasteful. At least a triple fake out there though which was impressive – 4/10
Shut Up and Dance
People who have done bad things are bullied into other bad things by the world's most patient internet arseholes (seriously, how many people must they have been watching and for how long to catch the handful of people we see in the episode?) I guess that there was some point to be made online vigilantism but it's hidden behind the suffocating nastiness and cheap shocks
Vaguely nightmarish in the way it escalated and the feeling of powerlessness (and the fact that it could basically be done now), but felt a bit Brooker by numbers. I've seen people reacting like it's the most horrifying then they've ever seen but I was mostly bored. - 4/10
The best time travelling VR romance story of the year! Genuinely heartfelt and heartwarming and showing that Black Mirror can do upbeat and nice, San Junipero is one of its best episodes to date. The way the concept is never hidden as such but still revealed gradually is masterfully done, the evolving relationship between Yorkie and Kelly is beautifully written and acted and the 80's soundtrack is on point.
Technology is never exactly the enemy in BR, it just allows us to bring out our worst instincts (JUST LIKE IN REAL LIFE YEAH), but here everyone is nice to each other and everything works out! Even though people die they get to spend eternity in digital heaven reliving the youth they may never have had. Plus the relationship is a same-sex one and this is not much of a plot point, a depressing rare occurrence. 9/10
Men Against Fire
Soldiers in some unnamed future warzone (in Eastern Europe perhaps) are fighting horrible genetic mutants. They use massive guns as well as weird augmented reality implants which give then tactical info as well as reward them with explicit sex dreams when they kill the enemy.
Expect (dramatic sting) the mutants aren't the arse-ugly monsters the implants are showing them, which our protagonist realises when one of them zaps him with a...thing. Yep, turns out that the military and the government are using tech to dehumanise the enemy. Guess the point is that the shitbags in charge always try dehumanise the enemy (just look at the language that the media use about refugees right now).
Anyhow, well shot and acted, but again hugely obvious in where it was going 6/10.
Hated By The Nation
Your common-or-garden police procedural spiced up by Twitter hate mobs and robot bees. And Kelly McDonald, who is always brilliant (I want a series just based around her character tbh).
Another heavy handed moral but delivered some panache, despite thinking that a rapper would ever call themselves “Tusk”. The reveal that the celebrity hate figures weren't the real target was neat-o, but the criminal mastermind behind it all had pretty vague and undefined motivations. Given that they took half an hour longer (and was needed) to roll this one out that seems weird – 6/10
I now have no friends because they all love this series. Ah well.