Black Mirror: 15 Million Merits (2011)

Well it’s the second episode and remember how, in my first review, I said how I was eagerly anticipating the next episode? Well wanna know if it was as good as the first one? Well I don’t but frankly I haven’t done anything in a while so here, take it…

A satire on entertainment shows and our insatiable thirst for distraction set in a sarcastic version of a future reality. In this world, everyone must cycle on Bike machines cells in order to power their surroundings and generate currency for themselves called Merits. Everyone is dressed in a grey track suit and has a “doppel”, a virtual avatar inspired by Miis that people can customise with clothes, for a fee of merits. Everyday activities are constantly interrupted by advertisements that cannot be skipped or ignored without financial penalty. Obese people are considered to be second-class citizens, and work either as cleaners around the Bike machines (where they receive frequent verbal abuse) or are humiliated on game shows. The only escape from such a slavishly monotonous life is through game shows such as Hot Shots! where two characters, Bingham (Daniel Kaluuya) and Abi ( Jessica Brown-Findlay) come in. Abi is a great singer and when she is rejected by the judges and put on a porn show called Wraith Babes, Bingham vows to bring down the system and get Abi back.

I don’t actually think the plot is that strong or even very present in this episode. It takes a good while to get off the ground and when it does it isn’t as gripping as the first episode. This is, however, my only flaw with this episode and despite the fact that it is a large problem, I cannot drag it out. Now for the good things. Firstly the acting is just brilliant. The two main characters are great and it delivers what may well be one of the finest pieces of acting I have ever seen, Bing’s final speech at the end. Secondly, the premise is great, this is a really interesting world and it helps to get the symbolism across perfectly. The whole prejudice against the obese sort of links into prejudice against them today because of their effect on the NHS, the obsession with reality Tv, the idea that everybody is obsessed with exercised, the mob-mentallity that arises from everybody watching the contestants on ‘Hot Shots!’ but far and away the best bit of symbolism that comes from this is the fact that the only way to escape the monotony of life is through tv shows. Humiliation leads to freedom. This really reflects what most of the people who want to go on these shows thinks, that life is boring and that fame is the answer but the fates of Bingham and Abi show us otherwise. Abi is forced into the porn industry, sort of reflecting the way that some people are so desperate for fame that they do the most abhorrent things. There is also some symbolism with the fate of Bingham which leads me to my third point, I love the ending. Bingham is offered the chance to do podcasts of his rants and he accepts. At the end there is a shot of him in his new home, looking out of the window. Two things rise from this. Firstly, the guy is a sell out. He sacrificed Abi to escape monotony. Secondly, it’s never really specified whether the shot of the forest that Bingham is looking at is real or not and this shows that some people have fame but are provided with only an illusion of happiness and freedom and that we should be happy with what we have. Furthermore I like the idea that we don’t find out our main character’s names until half way through which adds to the feelings of isolation. Do I like this episode? Meh. I think it tries to balance story and symbolism but it fails. The symbolism is brilliant, there’s just so much there and despite the fact that they are obviously cramming in so much, it feels like it’s nicely filled and not drowned. The story does suffer but in all fairness it’s very difficult to follow on from the story of the first episode. Nevertheless the storyline lacks the twists and turns that the first episode does and even when they do come along they lack much of a punch. The actual main plot only seems to come along towards the end and before that it seems to there and follow these nameless characters around in their day-to-day lives.

Do I like it? Meh. The story suffers but the symbolism is brilliant.



One thought on “Black Mirror: 15 Million Merits (2011)

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