Sunday, 1 January 2017

12 Days of Christmas - Black Mirror 3:1

"If we drill down into the numbers, you've got a solid popularity arc here"

On the seventh day of Christmas, Black Mirror gave to me...a Hollywood makeover courtesy of Netflix
In what could be seen as a rather ironic move, Black Mirror found itself the subject of a bidding war, the result of which was its third series of 12 episodes, later split into 2 series of 6, was commissioned by Netflix and shown exclusively there, Channel 4 losing out and protesting about such behaviour until they did the exact same thing to the BBC with the Great British Bake-Off that is... 

There's no defined order to the six episodes, that's the nature of an anthology series, but there's no mistaking the order Netflix want you to watch them in, leading with Nosedive, the episode featuring a Hollywood star in Bryce Dallas Howard. Directed by Joe Wright, it also deviates a little from standard practice by having a teleplay written by Michael Schur and Rashida Jones from an idea by Charlie Brooker, rather than Brooker himself like the majority of the other episodes.

Nosedive takes place in a world where people are constantly being rated on their popularity out of five stars, (Uber for people if you're being kind, a direct lift of MeowMeowBeanz from Community if you're not) and shows how society easily adapts to such stratification and how desperate people will get in order to escape it. Howard's Lacey is one such person, currently in possession of a 4.2 rating, she needs to get to 4.5 in order to move into the exclusive apartment complex she craves.

The composition of perfect insta-shots, rehearsing the ideal giggle to get people to like you, paying money to an advisor to enhance your rating, as ever Black Mirror is closer to life than we'd like and the beauty of the technological innovation here is that is doesn't need much explanation. Which allows the drama to flow as Howard tracks the painfully real journey of Lacey's desperation once things start moving in the wrong direction for her, a titanic performance that you can't tear your eyes away from.

A wonderfully buff James Norton pops up as her brother, Daisy Haggard and Susannah Fielding both cameo effectively as high-rated influencers, and Cherry Jones is a powerful late presence as someone who offers a potential route out for Lacey. The result is a slightly less dark view on the world in Black Mirror for once, but that's no bad thing at all.

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