I was super into the first two seasons of Black Mirror, but then again, they were good. Even the ones that weren’t great were still riveting and thought-provoking. So then Netflix funded new episodes, and more well-known stars came on board, and my general impression [i.e. I’m too lazy to confirm this] is that the originator of the series, Charlie Brooker, took a less active role in its creation. The general consensus is that it’s good when compared with the wide spectrum of TV, but a bit lacking when compared against the previous highs of the series. And that’s exactly how I found this first episode.
This one posits a social rating system for people, where you rate people after each interaction, and walk around having their scores displayed next to their faces. Bryce Dallas Howard is obsessed with her score, and we soon see that a high score translates into things like discounted rates on apartments and exclusive services… and that too low a score gets you cut off from basic services as well, not to mention that no one wants to be associated with someone under a 3 out of 5.
As usual, it’s refreshing simply to see something like this being dramatized—the scene in which Howard stands, staring at her phone, amongst a group of others, all staring at their phones finally shows something we see all the time in real life—and the episode has some good insights, like how a rating system like this would lead everyone’s social interactions to be all smiles, giggles and light. But by the end, it has tried to take on too much, and just become unfocused and meandering. I will say it doesn’t go the way you might expect, but then again, the way I might expect might have been more interesting and rewarding. Here, you get the feeling that the episode is out of control, and that it’s trying to fit in every idea that came to them, and it just continues careening off the rails. It could have been much better to excise some stuff and focus more on really firming up the core idea.
And this is the first episode I’ve seen that started to feel preachy, as we have two characters delivering the critical point of view, the second of which is particularly egregious. It’s as if one of the requirements of Americanizing the show were that it must tell you clearly that what we’re seeing is BAD. Not an auspicious start, but we’ll see how some of the other episodes do.