Continuing to go from strength to strength after last weeks powerful opening, the second episode of Black Mirror’s second season moves away from the dramatic theme and roots itself firmly as a thriller; a fragmented thriller that confuses, excites and terrifies.
Starring Lenora Crichlow (of Sugar Rush fame), White Bear follows Victoria, who wakes up with no memory of where she is and how she got there. Outside she appears to be being hunted by a masked gunman and the rest of society seem to be content with simply filming her plight on their mobile phones. However, Victoria eventually meets up with Jem and together they hope to put a stop to the gunman by destroying the “White Bear” transmitter, which is putting out a signal that has turned the public in to emotionless voyeurs. To give away anything else would be sacrilegious, suffice it to say that the twist is something so far right and out of the blue that it almost derails the entire episode; but thanks to Brooker’s first-class writing and universally superb performances, it works, turning White Bear in to one of, if not the most chilling installments of Black Mirror to date.
In the same way Be Right Back played on our apparent need to document all aspects of our live, White Bear plays on our overly voyeuristic tendencies in the modern age; the way people watch unconcerned as Victoria screams for help, only interested in capturing the events on their smart phones, cleverly exaggerates the disgusting fads of happy slapping etc. that have plagued primary and secondary schools in recent years. Meanwhile the shows final third, which subtly highlights our overzealous interest in reality entertainment, leaves a chill down the spin that lives long in the memory.
Performance wise, Crichlow gives one of the most powerful performances yet seen in any of the Black Mirror dramas; it’s much more than just endless screaming as writers in The Guardian’s comment section suggest, and Brooker’s clever writing mixed with Crichlow’s powerful performance allows us to even feel a degree of sympathy for Victoria after the startling second act reveal. Similarly Michael Smiley as the crazed gunman stands out, made all the more chilling when his true identity is revealed.
When reading a lot of the feedback from this episode, many have termed it the ‘darkest yet’, and there have been calls by others of it being the best yet and I can certainly see why; it’s a truly unique tale that sucks you in and doesn’t let go. Did I prefer it to last weeks Be Right Back? No, but that may be more to do with my taste, I am a much bigger fan of when Brooker tells his tales with drama than with thrills. But one thing is for sure, Black Mirror is fast becoming one of the finest shows on British TV, true technological tales for our times, that are likely to be discussed and debated for a long time to come.