17 December 2014

Black Mirror: White Christmas Review

For anyone who's been following this blog for a while, you'll know my love of Charlie Brooker's Black Mirror and I've reviewed all of Series 2 and the first episode of Series 1. It has always been a bit of an annoyance that there are still episodes of Black Mirror I haven't talked about but now is the time to fix it with the recent airing of Black Mirror: White Christmas. Over the next three days you'll see reviews of this, along with the episodes I have yet to talk about (15 Million Merits and The Entire History of You). Needless to say, White Christmas continues the trend of Black Mirror being one of the best TV shows to come out in recent years.
Unlike every other episode of Black Mirror, this episode, instead of having one plot, has three intertwined together with the framing device of two people, Matt and Joe (played by Jon Hamm and Rafe Spall) having Christmas dinner together in an isolated cabin, telling the stories of how they got there. Each story takes a look at different forms of technology, not too dissimilar to the technology we have now, and takes a really dark look at how they can be abused. Due to how the stories all link together, to tell the plot of one would serve to give away the plot of another, so I won't do that. In terms of quality though, the first and last stories are easily the best in terms of writing, whilst the second story is brilliant in terms of the technology used. If there is a complaint I have with this though it's that the second story should have been a little bit longer, about 5 minutes longer. The different technologies meanwhile are terrifying in their usage, and not far out the realm of possibility. The first story deals with an extension of Google Glass, implanted in your eyes, that allows other people to see through your eyes, the second story has a feel of Amazon Echo to it and the final story looks at if you can be blocked in real life like you can be on Twitter or Facebook. All of these lead to horrific scenarios, with the ending of the episode being one of the most horrific things put on TV this year, and this was a year with second series for Hannibal and Utopia. Throughout the episode there are also little nods connecting this to other episodes of Black Mirror, with references to Liam Munroe and Waldo from The Waldo Moment, Victoria Skillane from White Bear and the song Anyone Who Knows What Love Is (Will Understand) and the show Hot Shots used in 15 Million Merits. It's these little details, along with trying to see how the twist ending was set up throughout, which help to encourage multiple viewings of this episode in the future.

The acting meanwhile lives up to the strengths seen in the other episodes of Black Mirror. Jon Hamm goes slightly against type as Matt, although there is still a hint of Don Draper in there. There is a great deal of charisma that Hamm brings to the role, hiding some really sinister things regarding his job. There's also a lot of arrogance in the character but we also see a willingness to help people, especially in the first story, but we see that he will put himself above others when push comes to shove. Rafe Spall is also excellent as Joe. In the framing story we see a great deal of tension between Spall and Hamm, played brilliantly by both of them, with it being clear that Spall is hiding something. When it comes to telling his story, Joe becomes an incredibly sympathetic character and Spall plays every note in that story perfectly. There's also great work done in smaller roles by Oona Chaplin, Natalia Tena, Rasmus Haridcker and Janet Montgomery, but to say anything more about their roles would mean spoiling the episode so I won't.

Overall, Black Mirror: White Christmas is not only one of the best episodes of Black Mirror, it is one of the best Christmas specials of any TV show ever made. The acting is excellent, Brooker's writing is as strong as it's ever been, Carl Tibbetts' direction lends this disturbing air to the whole thing and the ways in which technology is used are horrifying, all adding up to an incredible and disturbing piece of television. And you'll never hear I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday in the same way again.

My Rating: 5/5

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