**** you for happening. **** you for me, for us, for everyone. **** you.
Well, it appears that I didn’t have to wait long for Black Mirror to get as good as everyone always says it is. This second episode is set in a world where people exist entirely in small box like rooms with walls made up entirely of screens; they earn merits, with which they buy everything they need to live, by pedalling stationary bicycles for hours a day. The only way out of this grinding, soul-crushing lifestyle is being selected as exceptional by the judges on a popular reality talent show. And this is just spectacular; the writing on this episode is incredibly sharp. The X Factor/*Insert Country*’s Got Talent style show is an easy target for lampooning, but the episode does it really well. The way it gets us as viewers into this world is really impressive; it does so with no real exposition to speak of, with no actual dialogue to speak of at all in the first few minutes – it just lets the world unfold in front of us and we slowly grasp the rules of that world. The performances are truly incredible. Daniel Kaluuya is downright brilliant as the main character, a depressed worker that finds a reason to believe again when he forms a sweet relationship with a new employee. Jessica Brown Findlay is understated and very good as that employee, a kind soul not yet broken by the awful life she finds herself in. This episode just really took me to a deep emotional place. There’s a great scene of Brown Findlay singing a really beautiful song called Anyone Who Knows What Love Is and the show just sits back and lets us watch her sing it for at least a couple of minutes and it’s a beautiful, beautiful scene. Later, near the climax of the episode Kaluuya has a truly terrifying meltdown and it’s genuinely horrifying. This episode really worked for me on a dark emotional level and I also really loved the technical aspects. I told someone that after I watched The National Anthem, I thought it was really dark; after I watched Fifteen Million Merits, I thought it was really cute how I’d thought The National Anthem was dark. Be warned; this is grim stuff – but, boy, oh, boy, it lands. 4 stars.
tl;dr – grim vision of the soul-crushing future features an astounding lead performance and a sharp script that says a lot with a little; emotionally draining and wonderful. 4 stars.