Sunday, 6 November 2016

Review:- Black mirror Series 3 (2016)

*blows dust off site*

Wow, been nearly a year since I last put anything on here, not that anyone will have noticed of course, being as how very few people read it.

*ahem*, Anyways...


So, Charlie Brookers surprise hit series, which has been described as being "The Twilight Zone of the 21st century"  said adios to Channel 4 and instead is now being made in co-operation with Netflix, and this becomes dead obvious when the number of American accents suddenly skyrockets and you can play a drinking game based on appearances from people who are in/were in "Game of Thrones".

Originally the series was to be 12 episodes, however in order to make more money, instead the series has been split into 2 half seasons of 6 episodes each to be released a year apart..funny how that seems to be happening a lot these days.

So, 2016s episodes follow the usual formula of having a suspense/mystery/horror type story, with the twist in the tale being based around some sort of  quirk in a human-technological relationship, however while series 1 and 2 provided different types of technological relationships, ranging from virtual reality to robots, series overwhelmingly seems to be concentrating on the concepts of mobile phone apps and augmented reality.

Right, lets have a look at the episodes.... *Contains Spoilers*

E1 - "Nosedive"
Lacie Pound lives in a superficial world where a mobile phone app allows you to rate other people out of 5, based on, well, nothing really other than personal preference. People who have higher ratings enjoy a larger amount of social popularity, however the problem lies in the fact that peoples social media ratings are also taken as determining that persons "worth" within the superficial and shallow culture. Your job and where you live are all determined by how high your rating is, and people can find themselves suddenly being out of work or homeless due to their rating dropping below the "acceptable" level. Everyone can see everyone elses rating, either by looking them up on the social network, or by looking directly at them with smart lenses that everyone wears.
Lacie, whose rating hovers around the 4.2 level, lives with her brother, who doesn't pay too much attention to his rating, mainly because him and his friends don't play much of a part in the superficial social scene that Lacie does.
Lacie attempts to move into her own place in a fairly affluent area of town, but is told that the price of renting the property depends on how high your rating is, the higher your rating, the cheaper the property. Lacie is denied a discount because the desired resident should have a rating of 4.5 or more, meaning Lacie will need to boost her own rating in order for her to begin living the lifestyle she thinks she is entitled to.
In order to try and drum up some 5* ratings, she begins rating anything anyone does at 5*, hoping that they will respond in kind, in addition, she begins making banal and nostalgic social media posts.
Her dreams come true when someone from school, who has a 4.8 rating invites her to be the maid of honour at her wedding, which Lacie figures that being as her frends friends are also "high score" people, winning their approval will boost her own rating well past the desired 4.5 mark....the future she believes she deserves gets closer.
Unfortunately, on the day she packs up her belongings ready to move into her new place, which is also the day she is to travel to the wedding, things go awry, and Lacie finds out just how superficial and shallow the approval culture she aspires to live in really is.

E2 - "Playtest"

Cooper, a young American man, leaves home to backpack around the world after his father dies.
After spending time in various countries, he finds himself ending up in London, where he hooks up for casual sex with a woman named Sonja. Finding himself a little short of cash, he uses a phone app to look for casual work. Aside from the usual low paid stuff, a job as a playtester for a video game company jumps out, not only because it isn't manual labour, but also because they are offering large amounts of money, so, he applies and is accepted.
Arriving at the companies headquarters, Cooper is informed that the technology they want him to help test is revolutionary, but also top secret and highly experimental, thus requiring him to sign a waiver and hand over his phone, he does so but when left alone he retrieves his phone and begins taking pictures of the equipment, sending them to Sonja in the hopes that selling them to other game companies will pay large amounts to see what could be their rivals "next big thing".
Cooper is disturbed from taking pictures by the return of the test supervisor, who informs him that his participation will require him to submit to a small medical procedure, which involves having a small interface, called a "mushroom" implanted in the back of his neck, Cooper agrees and the first test of the technology begins.
The mushroom creates an augmented reality envinroment, where computer game sprites are overlaid onto Coopers visual and auditory senses, this is demonstrated when the supervisor has him play a game of Whack-a-mole on the table, with the moles appearing as cute cartoon characters emerging from CGI holes in the tabletop. Cooper enjoys the experience, but the supervisor asks him if he would like to continue to the next level of playtesting, which will of course mean more money, he agrees without hesitation.
He is intoduced to the director of the game company, who explains that the technology can also be used to invoke a totally immersive environment, and they have been working on a survival horror game which has no script or fixed storyline, instead the device reads the players memories and tailors the game to fit in with their own personal fear triggers. Cooper agrees and is strapped into the interface chair and begins to play the game.
At first, the game is rather boring, as Cooper wanders around the company HQ but the AR system makes him see it as a 19th century mansion. A few jump scares get his adrenaline flowing but don't faze him much, however soon enough, the game becomes more and more "real", and despite assurances to the contrary, he does come to harm.

E3 - "Shut up and Dance"

Kenny is a young man who works in a burger bar. One day he returns home from work to find his teenage sister has been using his laptop without consent, and as a result the entire thing has been flooded with malware. Downloading the first anti-malware program he finds on google, he runs it and it appears to fix his problems, then, like most awkward young men,  he sits down to have a good wank over some unseen porn.
Problem is is that the anti-malware program he has used has allowed an anonymous hacker to see and record everything he has looked at and done, and, in an email to him Kenny finds out that the hacker says they will release the contents of his hard disc and the video of him wanking onto the internet, unless he agrees to do a few simple tasks. Terrified of the social consequences, Kenny agrees, and finds himself doing a series of increasingly dangerous tasks along with other people who are also being blackmailed by the hacker.

E4 - "San Junipero"

In 1987, two girls, Kelly and Yorkie, meet in the party resort of San Junipero and begin a relationship, however, Kelly mysteriously disappears, leaving Yorkie feeling somewhat distraught.
Yorkie searches for Kelly, but finds that she seems to appear and disappear from the resort frequently, and never seems to associate with the same people each time she appears.
Yorkie finds one of the men who also relentlessly pursues Kelly, and asks him if he knows where she is, he responds that he doesn't know, but he has seen her in the 1990s and early 2000s.
Yorkie appears to time travel around these periods, eventually running into Kelly in an early 2000s video game arcade.....

E5 - "Men against Fire"

In the near future, a war of some sort has led to mass displacement of people, and a disease has mutated some humans into creatures referred to as "Roaches". "Stripe" is a new recruit in an army which helps the survivors and hunts down and kills roaches to stop the disease they carry from spreading. To assist them in their work, all soldiers in this army are equipped with a cybernetic augmented reality program called "MASS", which provides real time tactical information, video and audio feeds, but also suppresses fear as the device can manipulate the brain on a subconscious level.
On his first mission his squad raids an isolated manor house, where the owner is sheltering a group of roaches, Stripe distinguishes himself by shooting one roach and stabbing another to death with his combat knife, although during the raid, he notices that some of the Roaches wave small wand like devices at them, which emit a green light when activated. The devices seemingly have no purpose so are ignored as the Roaches are slaughtered.
Despite being rewarded with an erotic dream, delivered via the MASS system directly into his brain, Stripe begins to notice that his AR begins to glitch in some bizarre ways, such as clouding his vision, lagging on his tactical display, letting him regain his sense of smell, and, most oddly, making him see humans where everyone else sees Roaches...

E6 - "Hated in the Nation"

DCI Karin Parke gives evidence at an enquiry into an incident that occurred during the course of a strange murder investigation the previous year.
One year earlier, an opinion columnist who printed an unflattering article about a disability campaigner who self immolated in response to government cuts to disability benefits dies in mysterious circumstances, followed the next day by the death of a famous rapper who made some disparaging comments about a child on television. At first, nothing seems to connect the two deaths, until Parkes new partner, a former cyber crime specialist named "Blue" finds that both victims were connected with a twitter hashtag campaign called "The Death game" in which users are asked to name a person they dont like with the hashtag #deathto, and the person with the most votes each day will die between 5pm and 12am. The number of people using the hashtag is increasing on a day to day basis.
How the deaths are carried out is a mystery until devices called "Autonomous Drone Insects", small robots created to replace the dwindling population of bees, are found to have entered the victims bodies and killed them in some manner.
With thousands of these self replicating machines existing in the UK, it soon becomes clear that someone somewhere has found a way to reprogram these small robots to act as murder weapons, and it seems the targets are being chosen by people using a twitter hashtag to eliminate people who have earned the publics ire for some reason....

Final thoughts.

This series isn't bad, but compared to previous series it does seem to now be suffering from sloppy writing, as the "twists in the tale" are quite easy to figure out early on in the episode, and the suspenseful atmosphere of previous entries is lacking a bit.
That said, most of the stories in this season are pretty poignant and take stuff that is going on now to their extreme endings, particularly the stories featuring social media being used as a tool to ostricize people for shallow reasons.

Not bad, but not great either, a solid 7/10 though.

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