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Recap / Black Mirror: The Entire History of You

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Recap: Black Mirror Series One
The National Anthem | Fifteen Million Merits | The Entire History of You
"Not everything that isn't true is a lie."

"You know when you suspect something, it's always better when it turns out to be true. It's like I've had a bad tooth for years and I'm just finally getting my tongue in there and I'm digging out all the rotten shit."

20 Minutes into the Future, the advancement of technology has created the Grain, an implant that allows the user to rewind and re-enact all past memories. One such user is Liam Foxwell, a paranoid fellow who uses the Grain to obsess over tiny details in his life. Liam is struggling to repair his crumbling marriage with his wife Ffion, especially after the birth of their child and him briefly leaving her. However, everything starts to fall apart more when Liam becomes suspicious of Ffion's relationship with her former friend Jonas (Tom Cullen).

That suspicion is not helped at all by having a tool that allows him to rewind and obsess over every tiny detail.

It stars Toby Kebbell as Liam, Jodie Whittaker as Ffion, and Tom Cullen as Jonas.

Trailer here.

Tropes related to The Entire History of You:

  • 20 Minutes into the Future: Set at an unspecified time in the future, where everyone owns designer houses and has mechanical implants.
  • Ambiguous Situation: The episode ends with some unanswered questions:
    • For example, viewers never see Jonas put on a condom, nor does Liam clarify whether he saw him do so, leaving it unclear whether Jody is truly Liam's child or a product of Ffion's affair.
    • The episode ends with both Ffion and their child, Jody, gone, though it's unclear whether Ffion left on her own accord after what Liam did to her, as a result of her guilt after realizing how bad things had gotten because of her affair/lies, or if Liam told her to leave himself.
    • It's also unclear whether Liam lost his sight as a result of removing his grain.
  • Absence Makes the Heart Go Yonder: How Ffion justifies her affair with Jonas; After her marriage with Liam (temporarily) fell apart due to an unidentified man named Dan, Liam left her for five days, and she turned to Jonas for "comfort."
  • Amoral Attorney: At the very beginning of the episode, the main character has an appraisal for his job at a law firm. The appraisal panel mention a new initiative to allow adults to retroactively sue their parents for not paying enough attention to them as children/infants using the 'Grain' technology (lifetime memory recorder) to elicit evidence. The main character briefly questions the ethics of this, but is then pressured into agreeing with his employers.
  • Awful Wedded Life: While there is still some love between them, it's clear that Ffion isn't entirely happy in her relationship with Liam, as she not only had an affair with Jonas, which she lied about to Liam, but she also entertained Jonas' speech about relationships being a scam while giving Liam suspicious looks at the dinner table. The two are also unable to have sex without replaying more exciting sexual encounters they had.
  • Bad Liar: Ffion, especially after Liam catches her in a lie about how long she was with Jonas, which she can't get out of. When he confronts her about her lying, she attempts to justify it by saying, "Not everything that isn't true is a lie," eliciting a humorously confused reaction from Liam.
  • Blatant Lies: Played with; under normal circumstances, Ffion's lies about her relationship with Jonas might be harmless, easily dismissed or rationalised away. But when you're implanted with memory-saving technology that allows you to search back through previous memories in order to pick up on inconsistencies, fudges and little half-truths, they become a lot more obvious and dangerous.
  • Crazy Jealous Guy: Liam, who becomes obsessively jealous and accusatory with Ffion after noticing her body language around Jonas at their friends' dinner party. Ffion also implies that he's been in this way before with an unidentified man named Dan who was interested in her. He turns out to be right about Ffion and Jonas in the end, though.
  • Destroy the Evidence: After Liam instructs Ffion to show him evidence that she deleted the memory with Jonas, she attempts to delete it discreetly in order to maintain the lie she told, only to be caught by him during the act.
  • Downer Ending: Completing the set, this ending sees Liam unemployed and without his family, cutting out his grain which risks leaving him blind, if not killing him altogether. Although it can be argued than given what having a grain's done to his life, it might be a Bittersweet Ending.
  • Drowning My Sorrows: After learning that Ffion's week-long fling with a random guy was in fact a six-month committed relationship with Jonas, Liam goes to his house in a drunken stupor to confront him.
  • Enhance Button:
    • Regardless of the distance or clarity of an event, the "grain" can zoom close enough to read lips and examine facial expressions, even if the event was across the room. Taken to the extreme when Liam loads a memory where he briefly looked indirectly at a TV, before zooming so far into the said TV that he can clearly see what the people in the background of the footage are doing. In this context it can be considered a Justified Trope because the resolution of the human eye is many times beyond our current HD and Ultra HD standards, with superior detail retention so would stand being zoomed in quite a lot before it became noticeably pixelated.
    • While the human eye does have very good resolution (320-380 pixels per inch at 1ft), only the middle 2 degrees of the visual field have this resolving power, requiring humans to constantly shift their gaze around. The grain could be an independent camera system that simply coincides with what the user's eye is looking at to solve this problem.
  • Establishing Character Moment: Liam's obsessive repeating of his appraisal to scrutinise exactly what and how was said by the people evaluating him underscores his paranoia, dwelling on the past and fixation on particular details in a way that only makes him miserable. Of course, none of this will come up in his relationship with Ffion.
  • Fantastic Racism: This appears to be a bit of a thing towards people who don't have implants, judging from how one of the party guests reacts to another who reveals that she had her implant forcibly removed and after going a few days without one, deciding not to get another one. Later, this same woman also has trouble getting help from the police because, since she doesn't have an implant, there's no evidence they can use to support her claims.
  • Foreshadowing: Two moments allude to the point where Liam gouges his implant out:
    • A female party-goer says that hers was forcibly removed in an incident.
    • Liam threatens Jonas with the possibility of gouging his implant out.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: In-universe. Memories can be paused, rewound and manipulated to zoom in and analyse faces or even read lips. Given how it's used throughout the episode, it probably doesn't feel like a "bonus" to the characters, though.
  • Gray-and-Gray Morality: On the one hand, Liam becomes quite frightening and vicious, bordering almost on being a Domestic Abuser, but it doesn't absolve Ffion of her own sin in this.
  • Greeting Gesture Confusion: Liam and Jonas share an awkward moment of this when saying goodbye after their night out.
  • Grievous Bottley Harm: Subverted. When Liam hits Jonas with a liquor bottle, it simply thuds and injures him rather than shattering. Even kept realistic when Liam forcibly smashes it off the ground, as only the neck doesn't shatter.
  • Happier Home Movie: In-universe, the Grain lets you go over happy (and sometimes unhappy) memories like rewatching a video file, either in your eyes or on a nearby TV.
    • In the final scene, before ripping out his grain, Liam rewatches memories of his wife and daughter while walking through his empty house.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: Lampshaded with the page quote: Liam's jealousy drives him to increasingly despicable behaviour, but it turns out that his suspicions were pretty much on the mark. Possibly even worse, given the implication that his daughter could actually be Jonas'.
  • Jerk Justifications: After finding out that his wife may be cheating on him, Liam absolutely loses it, including self-medicating with alcohol, screaming at his wife, and assaulting the man he suspects her of cheating with. His behavior becomes so irrational and angry that it is not hard to see how a viewer could fear for the lives of the other characters in the story.
  • Longing Look: Perceived by Liam, and with the beauty of replay, you can search for every instance, and watch it, over and over again.
  • Love Makes You Crazy: Well, maybe not as much as the luxury of reviewing your past and that of your partner's.
  • Lying to Protect Your Feelings: A fib about the length of a relationship with an old boyfriend kicks off the drama.
  • Mama's Baby, Papa's Maybe: It's pretty heavily implied that Jonas is the father of Ffion's baby, given that Ffion and Liam were trying for a baby at the time.
  • Mental Affair: It's a subtle one, but in the scene where Ffion and Liam are having sex whilst replaying their memories, the memory Ffion is playing back isn't Liam.
  • Mood Lighting: Very much present in the final moments when the reality of Liam (blue and cold) is intercut with tender memories of his wife (golden and warm).
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Liam after he wakes up in the car and reviews the footage of him mistreating Jonas. It lasts all of until he rewinds the footage and realizes just how long his wife had been cheating on him, and that he may not be the father of Jody, their child.
  • No Ending: The ending, while giving a satisfying close, still leaves a great deal hanging and ends rather abruptly. Ffion has left and taken their daughter (or perhaps Liam kicked them out), and the episode ends right as Liam removes his grain implant; what happens to the characters is then left entirely to speculation.
  • The Operators Must Be Crazy: When the girl at Jonas' place tries to call the police for help, her call is being rejected by the operator because she doesn't have a grain implant to provide evidence.
  • Other Stock Phrases: Liam wife's assertive "That's not what it looks like." when they watch the video of her and Jonas together in their bedroom.
  • Paranoia Fuel: Invoked with an almost literal example in the grain. Liam's paranoia would be bad enough without it, but when he's got the ability to scroll back through all his memories, isolate specific parts and hyper-analyse them in obsessive detail with the benefit of super-high-def visual imagery, it practically drives him insane.
  • Properly Paranoid: As much of a jerk Liam is, his wife was cheating on him, with the most recent instance of it happening 18 months ago in their own bedroom.
  • Prophet Eyes: Inverted. The grain gives the same effect when a person replays memories in their head, but provides sight into the past instead.
  • Pull the Thread: Liam becomes suspicious when he realizes Ffion lied about the length of her relationship with Jonas, and their marriage only collapses further from there.
  • Transferable Memory: The "grain" that almost everybody has implanted in their skulls. Used to play back memories on any TV complete with zoom, crop and reconstruction technology. Is also used in security checks when boarding planes. And it's implied there is a black market for memories, as one character had hers forcibly removed.
  • Worst Aid: Liam removes his grain by cutting the skin with a razor blade and pulling it out with cuticle trimmers. It even takes him a few attempts to get a grip on his implant.