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Recap / Black Mirror: Be Right Back

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Recap: Black Mirror Series Two
Be Right Back | White Bear | The Waldo Moment
"There's no history to you."

"You look like him on a good day."

The first episode of season 2 is also set 20 Minutes into the Future and follows Martha after her lover, Ash, dies suddenly. Pushed into a special grieving service by a friend, Martha soon finds her deceased partner's social media activity deconstructed to duplicate an artificial partial version of him. Shockingly, this isn't entirely a good thing. Trailer here.

Stars Hayley Atwell as Martha and Domhnall Gleeson as Ash.

Tropes related to Be Right Back:

  • Artificial Human: Ash later appears in robot replica form.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: Martha wants Ash back, and gets his body and some of his personalty back. He just isn't quite the same.
  • Big "NO!": Martha near the very end of the episode atop a cliff realising she cannot bring herself to get rid of the Ash copy.
  • Big "SHUT UP!": Counts as a Rule of Three; Martha when her friend Sarah tells her of the service which can bring Ash "back to life" as software based on his online persona.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Martha doesn't kill herself, and couldn't bring herself to make Ash's replica do it. She lives with their young daughter, keeps Ash locked in the loft, and it's heavily implied Martha is no closer to coping with Ash's death. All that keeps it from being a complete Downer Ending is that Martha has her daughter and has a healthy relationship with her.
  • Brick Joke: A Black Comedy version: In the beginning of the episode, Ash and Martha argue over the music in the tape. Ash mentions that he find The Bee Gees acceptable, but Martha doesn't think he genuinely likes them. When Martha decides to get rid of the Ash copy, the same Bee Gees single "How Deep Is Your Love" plays, and it mentions that the song is "cheesy".note 
  • Came Back Wrong: Averted physically, but played straight psychologically. The false Ash is more or less identical to his deceased counterpart, but reverts to a Soulless Shell whenever a gap in data exists, and sometimes fails to share the real Ash's opinions, as it is based on his public persona. Naturally, it soon starts to upset Martha when her returned partner occasionally questions how to be himself.
  • Casting Gag: In Ex Machina, Domhnall Gleeson plays a human with an android love interest. This is a complete contrast to his character in "Be Right Back", where he is the android love of a human.
  • Chekhov's News: While Ash is waiting for Martha in the van at the very start of the episode, a news programme is running a story about the development of artifical muscles intended to restore the limbs of amputees. The very same technology is used to create Ash's Artificial Human replica.
  • Cloning Blues: Played with. It's ambiguous whether it affects the false Ash, and there are hints he's incapable of genuine feelings. For Martha, his constant presence doesn't let her mourn. In a way, it's potentially emotional maladjustment marketed to those who are most vulnerable.
  • Death by Origin Story: Ash has to die so Martha can get to bring him back to life, but only in a replica with a fraction of his memory and personality.
  • Death Notification: Martha shuts the door on the police men coming to notify her about Ash's death.
  • Deceptively Human Robots: It takes a while but Martha realizes it by the end. Despite looking ridiculously human, the bots cannot truly encapsulate a person.
  • Double Standard: Abuse, Female on Male: Averted. Martha tells the fake Ash that while the real Ash never beat her, she thinks that if she'd started hitting him, he might have hit her back.
  • Eating Optional: Ash can "chew and swallow" but has no need to eat.
  • Empty Shell: What the replacement Ash is behind the all the information that had been shared online.
  • Exiled to the Couch: Martha wants "Ash" out of the bedroom because his breathing sounds fake.
  • Expendable Clone: It'd be easy enough for Martha to dispose of her Ash replacement, if she could bring herself to do it. The person who introduced her to the idea in the first place told her that it was just something to get her through the grieving process, implying that once it's served this purpose, it's up to the user whether to discontinue the service or not.
  • Freak Out: Martha effectively has this at the end when after asking the Ash replicant to leap off a cliff, her emotional tirade at it not showing a fear of dying as the real Ash would, makes it mimic that, begging her not to kill him.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • The episode has Martha and Ash singing "If I Can't Have You" together, and after a lighthearted argument in the van about The Bee Gees, Martha jokingly threatens to crash on purpose. Ash will soon die in a car crash, leaving Martha struggling to live without him.
    • In the beginning of the episode, real Ash recounts how his mother would immediately stash pictures of his siblings into the attic following their deaths. Martha would finally do the same with replacement Ash, leaving him to idle indefinitely in the attic.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Martha, unable to live with the fake Ash, commands it to kill itself, and it provides little argument for its life; when Martha affirms it has to die (as the real Ash would beg for his life) she tells the machine it's nothing more than a cheap imitation of him. As the machine constantly calibrates its actions to match its human counterpart, it hears this as a command, resulting in the fake Ash begging to live and leaving Martha unable to kill it.
  • I Need a Freaking Drink: Martha after "Ash" appears in a replica body of the original.
  • Instant A.I.: Just Add Water!: Or in this case, a few electrolytes and other chemicals along with the water.
  • Literal-Minded: The Ash replacement. Justified, considering he isn't a real person.
  • Lousy Lovers Are Losers: Played With. Ash is a poor lover who often leaves Martha sexually unsatisfied, and one of the biggest advantages of his artificial replica is that he's a Sex God who never tires and can instantly download sexual techniques. But the trope gets Subverted after her initial lust wears off, since while bot-Ash can physically satisfy her, he cannot emotionally connect with her, due to him lacking the personality flaws and character tics that made the real Ash the man she loved, and the bot's unnatural inhuman traits (such as him not breathing while sleeping) start to creep her out, ultimately causing her to give up having a romantic and sexual relationship with the bot-Ash.
  • Morning Sickness: Twice do we see Martha vomiting in the toilet. The first time it was framed to look like a hangover, but the second time it came out of nowhere with a clear implication of her being pregnant.
  • The Mourning After: Well, sort of. Martha hasn't gotten over Ash and doesn't date another man, except... it's complicated.
  • No Antagonist: Martha struggles with the fake Ash, but it's clear what she's really struggling with is her own loss.
  • Not Listening to Me, Are You?: Twice does Martha add a Non Sequitur to her talking (snorting in coffee, eating out of a shoe) in order to test if Ash is paying attention to her. He isn't.
  • One Drink Will Kill the Baby: Martha keeps drinking while carrying the child. The Ash replicant calls her out on it.
  • Production Foreshadowing: The Arc Symbol of the next episode was used during the ad breaks in place of the Channel 4 logo.
  • Sex Bot: Fake Ash demonstrates he can become hard or soft on command, and can download sexual techniques from the internet. The subsequent Sex Montage shows Martha gets a lot of use out of this.
  • Shaped Like Itself: Used as part of Fake Ash's helpful explanation for why he can't go too far from the house without Martha accompanying him.
    Fake Ash: I can't go more than 25 meters from my activation point.
    Martha: What's your activation point?
    Fake Ash: At the risk of blowing your mind, it's where I was activated.
  • Shout-Out: "Ash" is the name of the duplicitous android who tries to kill the main character in Alien.
  • Social Media Is Bad: This episode explores the hollowness of how we portray ourselves on social media when Martha commissions a robotic recreation of her dead boyfriend whose personality is based entirely on his social media presence, she finds him lacking.
  • Someone to Remember Him By: Played for drama. Martha discovers that she is pregnant shortly after Ash dies, and it's this unstable mental state that drives her to try out the Ash-bot. At the end of the episode, Martha is shown to have a good relationship with her daughter, who is only allowed to visit Ash on special occasions.
  • Three Laws-Compliant: Implied, as Ash criticises Martha's drinking while she's pregnant and his robot form insists on picking up broken glass for her and refuses to hit her when she asks him to, both of which protect her and the baby (in keeping with the first law). The second and third arise when she commands Ash's replica to kill itself despite it stating it has no reason to do so.
  • Transferable Memory: The artificial Ash is rebuilt from bits and pieces of text, speech and video collected from his social media accounts. Unfortunately, this quickly results in technological snags whenever certain traits and memories are discussed.
  • Turing Test: At its heart the new technology is just an advancement of programs like Cleverbot and coupled with the ability to learn, it passes the test flawlessly until it runs into gaps in the data.
  • Twin Maker: In an attempt to move on from Ash's death, Martha becomes attached to a program that replicates his personality and eventually loads this bot into an Artificial Human that is nearly identical to him.
  • Uncanny Valley: invokedA plot point, and it's used to absolutely brilliant effect. The fact that Martha reanimated Ash makes her happy at first, but as time passes by, she realizes that he's not all of Ash; he talks very awkwardly, he doesn't need to sleep or even breathe, he doesn't bleed after cutting himself on a piece of glass and he stands outside all night long at one point as a result of misunderstanding Martha's request to "go away" combined with the fact that he can't move more further than 20 meters from where he was first activated without his owner being present. He (or, in this case, it) is not human, even though it looks human, disturbing Martha, and, by extension, us.