Charlie Brooker’s Black Mirror – “Be Right Back” Series 2 Episode 1

I have to say, I really enjoyed the first offering of series 2. I didn’t think that I was going to really because I loved the first series so much.

For those of you who have not been keeping up, Black Mirror is a british, satirical drama series written and directed by Charlie Brooker; a writer, journalist, critic and satirist. In his own words: “each episode has a different cast, a different setting, even a different reality. But they’re all about the way we live now – and the way we might be living in 10 minutes’ time if we’re clumsy”. See the full article here: Charlie Brooker: the dark side of our gadget addiction

Last night’s episode was no different. It’s about two lovers Ash (Domhnall Gleeson) and his girlfriend Martha (Hayley Atwell). Like many young people, Ash is almost surgically attached to his smart phone; sending tweets, updating his status and sharing photos. When Ash dies in a tragic car accident, Martha is left wondering how on earth she is going to cope. At the funeral, Martha learns of a service that is available that might be able to help her overcome her grief. The software can take all the information that Ash has ever posted online in order to replicate his personality.

Although Martha is hesitant at first, when she discovers that she is pregnant with her dead boyfriend’s child, she begins to spiral out of control. She begins using the service by sending e-mails back and forth to a virtual imitation of “Ash”. Once she discovers she is able to talk to him, and hear his voice, she becomes completely obsessed to the point where she purchases a humanoid robot that basically turns into a walking, talking version of Ash.

The difference between robot “Ash” and the human Ash is apparent straight away even though, they look and sound the same. The robot seems completely empty compared to the Ash, The Human. It is apparent that the software/robot cannot come close to emulating the intricacies of Ash’s personality and relationship with Martha. Even the robot’s love making is just that – robotic,  The latter half of the episode cruelly mirrors little moments of Ash’s and Martha’s relationship that was shown at the beginning.

What makes this episode brilliant is that the relationship between Ash and Martha is completely typical. From the friendly teasing, to the awkward sex, to singing the Bee Jees on long car journeys – the entire relationship IS human. When comparing it to the robot version of Ash, it seems like a cheap imitation of life. Something that seems alive on the surface but in reality it is merely a series of correct responses to different scenarios. It is sad to see that Ash’s love for the Bee Jee’s died along with the man and Martha begins to miss his unpredictability, his flaws – everything that made him who he was.

I think this episode can be open to interpretation to an extent because after speaking to several people about their opinions, I have found that their views vary massively. Some didn’t think that there was a “strong enough message” and lacked the shock value that Series 1 Episode 1 had. I agree that it wasn’t as shocking but I completely disagree that there wasn’t a strong message.

This episode of Dark Mirror shows us that you cannot glean somebody’s personality from an online profile. Being human isn’t about how many times you post an update to your Facebook. You can capture little moments in a person’s life but you can’t replicate a personality just from “information” alone. Essentially, I think this episode is about many things. It warns us of the danger of living in the past and refusing to let go while asking the question: “What makes us human?”. The show touches on some important issues such as how we present ourselves online can sometimes be false while warning us of the dangers of getting addicted to such technology.

Would love to hear your thoughts on the episode! It’s only been out for a day so it should be available on catch up.


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