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Recap / Black Mirror: The Waldo Moment

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Recap: Black Mirror Series Two
Be Right Back | White Bear | The Waldo Moment
A cartoon bear that changed the world.

"Look we — we don't need politicians, we've all got iPhones and computers, right? So any decision that has to be made, any policy, we just put it online. Let the people vote — thumbs up, thumbs down, the majority wins. That's a democracy. That's a — that's an actual democracy."

Following great public popularity, comedian Jamie Salter is requested to contest a by-election in the riding of Stentonford and Hersham as Waldo, the fictional animated character he plays. As if several parties being outraged (who consider it unfunny and facetious) wasn't enough, the animator soon finds himself being used to ridiculous lengths and things start to get out of hand. Trailer here.

Stars Daniel Rigby as Jamie and Chloe Pirrie as Gwendolyn.

Tropes related to The Waldo Moment:

  • Actually Pretty Funny: Gwendolyn Harris finds Waldo taking the piss out of Monroe to be rather amusing. It's not so funny when the piss-taking is directed at her.
  • All Elections Are Serious Business: Despite being only a by-election for MP which won't alter the balance of power in Parliament, the response to Waldo is so massive it spreads to the Internet and then internationally.
  • Anarchy Is Chaos: A Subverted Trope. The idea behind the neutral Waldo party is that he is merely a figurehead, and that in a parliament without political authority public vote alone determines law. As a result, the deepest darkest aspects of human nature quickly rise to the top and society quickly degrades into a barking mad, badly-run totalitarian society. All for a foul-mouthed cartoon bear.
  • Aspect Ratio: The ending sequence of Waldo's government is shown in 2.35:1.
  • At Least I Admit It: Waldo may be a fictional character who doesn't stand for anything, but encourages people to vote for him because at least he's honest about being a fictional character who doesn't stand for anything. The episode deconstructs this argument, however, by showing that his acknowledgment of not standing for anything doesn't change the fact that he still doesn't stand for anything — which opens him to the potential for all sorts of nasty things to happen through him under the guise of populist cynicism and apathy.
  • The Atoner: Jamie tries to be this, but unfortunately his crusade is stopped short when his former fans beat him up.
  • The Bad Guy Wins: Everyone loses in some way, especially Jamie. Waldo and his creators, however, continue despite losing the election and manage to go international.
  • Beary Funny: Waldo alternates between this and Bears Are Bad News.
  • Berserk Button: When Liam exposes Jamie's failed comedy career, he lashes out.
  • Beware the Silly Ones: It's technically a cartoon bear who manages to Take Over the World, if the implications of the post-credits scene are any indicator.
  • Broken Aesop: Jamie tries to make amends for smearing the reputation of the main parties by speaking out as Waldo and trying to convince everyone otherwise. This being Black Mirror, he is rewarded with getting a beating and being replaced as Waldo, leaving him homeless and probably The Alcoholic.
  • Bullying a Dragon: Liam Monroe attacks Jamie personally, intending to silence Waldo. Instead, Jamie has Waldo unleash hell.
  • Butt-Monkey:
    • Liam Monroe gets a boot to the face, is humiliated live on TV twice, and a van follows him around solely to demean him in front of possible voters.
    • Liberal Democrat candidate Simon Finch has it even worse: he doesn't get a word in when Waldo grills the entire panel, silenced by a single insult. He's not treated as genuine competition, and indeed comes in a distant fourth,note  even though Waldo tore even bigger strips off Gwendolyn than he did off Monroe.
  • Bystander Syndrome: Experienced by almost everyone over the episode, judging by how everyone but Monroe goes along with Waldo's candidacy and degradation of democracy.
  • Character Catchphrase: Jack-as-Waldo has one, apparently: "Five hundred quid for anyone who [Insert random demand here]!"
  • Central Theme: The exploration of populist politics centered on spectacle and personality rather than sound policy and respect for established democratic institutions.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: Jack Napier. He strings Jamie along for more publicity stunts the more sensational the Waldo campaign becomes, despite his increasing unwillingness to continue with it. He shows obvious contempt (as opposed to indifference) of politics and even his own major demographic of viewers, and takes Jamie's character from him when he tries to call the whole thing off.
  • Cult of Personality: By the end of the episode one has formed around Waldo. The horror of this is that unlike the current face of the trope page, Waldo is not a mortal man who takes his cult with him when he dies; as long as the people in charge of Waldo can keep replacing his voice actors then the cult will go on forever!
  • Deadpan Snarker: Jamie. Gwendolyn has traits of this.
  • Democracy Is Flawed: Specifically, politicians are typically manipulative frauds and people are stupid enough to waste votes. Jamie's manager even proposes using public Wi-fi to give Waldo downloads at polling stations in a desperate attempt to get people to vote.
  • Distant Epilogue: Implied to be months later, Waldo has taken over the world while Jamie is miserable and homeless.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: Waldo was based expressly on Boris Johnson, significantly predating his becoming Prime Minister in 2019.
  • Downer Ending: Jamie loses everything, Labour and the Liberal Democrats lose, even the winning Conservatives receive backlash (their representative even getting a boot to the face), and the Waldo movement spreads worldwide.
  • Every Man Has His Price: Five hundred quid, apparently.
  • Foregone Conclusion: Everyone participating in the by-election, including the Waldo team, knew Monroe was going to win. They even had plans made as to what to do afterwards. The only ones who didn't know, apparently, were Waldo's supporters, whom Waldo gleefully exploits and incites to riot over it.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • When asked about going to South America next, Waldo's team is asked if they speak fluent Spanish, to which Jamie's manager cuts in by doing so. Guess who replaces him when they do go international.
    • When Jamie first threatens to call it quits, his manager makes it clear that they will go on without him with the Waldo character if necessary, and even uses his "Waldo voice" in response to Jamie claiming the character is him. This is exactly what happens up towards the end of the by-election.
      • Even before that, Jack Napier appears in a meeting about a Waldo series with an iPad over his face with Waldo on-screen mimicking his expressions as he speaks.
    • Roy warns Gwendolyn that Waldo is attacking Monroe now but will go after her later, and warns her to stay away from Jamie if she wants the campaign to do well. After a brief meeting when she explains to Jamie that she can't continue seeing him, Waldo/Jamie vengefully publicly exposes her on live television, destroying her political career.
    • Jack tries to convince Jamie to continue with Waldo's campaign, citing the character becoming a number-one trend on YouTube, is 'proof' that a real democracy can work. Jamie corrects him by pointing out that a video of a dog farting the theme from Happy Days is ahead of them. This foreshadows the campaign wherein Waldo finishes second to Monroe, but it's enough for Waldo's creators to spread the character worldwide. It also foreshadows how Jack's dream of a digital democracy will descend into a ridiculous, irrational (but still really harmful) tyranny of the bottom line.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: The ticker at the bottom of the screen showing the election result includes a line about a controversial art exhibition being withdrawn from the Tate — as in "The National Anthem," suggesting at least some of the Black Mirrors take place in the same universe.
  • From Nobody to Nightmare: Waldo goes from being a cult favorite character to a world dictator.
  • Hufflepuff House: Controversially, the Lib Dems are this.
    "Vote for Monroe! Or Harris! Or ... I dunno, UKIP, or even that Lib Dem guy!"
  • I Am Not Spock: In-Universe — Jamie struggles with distancing himself from the character he plays.
  • In Vino Veritas: While drunk, Gwendolyn lets it slip to Jamie that she doesn't plan on winning the by-election, and is using it to build her profile. It comes back to bite her.
  • Jerkass: Waldo, Monroe, and Jack Napier are the strongest cases thereof.
  • Jerkass Has a Point
    • Monroe both in his comment towards the end how the system may indeed be "absurd" but "it built these roads". And even his "The Reason You Suck" Speech towards Jamie in the debate is especially cutting because of the cold fact there is truth in it.
    • Waldo's campaign is built on this.
  • Jumping Off the Slippery Slope: Progressively, but most notably when Waldo bribes someone into hitting Monroe after he wins the election.
  • Landslide Election: Waldo entering politics is taken seriously mainly because of the sheer popularity of the idea. He even comes second in the election and goes international.
  • Let's Get Dangerous!: Waldo starts off an innocuous if vulgar comedy character. Then Monroe insults Jamie personally on live TV and he starts ruining people's careers.
  • Love Makes You Evil: Downplayed. Being shunned by Gwendolyn leads Jamie to call her out in public and try to wreck her career. He feels bad about it later.
  • Manipulative Bastard: Jamie's manager is this played straighter than a line.
  • Mayor Pain: Invoked. Jamie initially acknowledges he shouldn't run because he's neither stupid enough nor intelligent enough to debate and make laws.
  • Memetic Mutation: In-Universe. A fictional character becomes so popular he runs in a by-election.
  • The Men in Black: The American representative who says he's "from the 'agency'" is implied to work for the CIA.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Jamie comes to this realization towards the end.
  • Never Trust a Trailer: One trailer has an anonymous company representative noting that Waldo is "the perfect assassin." He is only talking about 'killing' the reputation of politicians.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Waldo was originally intended as mere comic relief for the election. Once Jamie's frustrations started leaking into the character, it took on a life of its own.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: Philip Crane, the presenter of the current affairs program Consensus, is one for Jeremy Paxman, then presenter of BBC Newsnight.
  • No Sense of Humor: Although it's understandable Liam Monroe might not take jokes at his expense well, he handles the initial Waldo interview with very poor grace, which only leaves him that much more vulnerable to further mockery.
  • "Not So Different" Remark: Waldo compares himself to the politicians, claiming they're also made-up characters with nothing to say and teams feeding them information; he's just upfront about it.
  • Only Sane Man:
    • Monroe and Gwendolyn's respective campaign managers. The former doesn't want him to respond to Waldo's taunts, the latter doesn't want her to date the man behind Waldo.
    • Monroe and Gwendolyn themselves, the former by pointing Waldo only stands for cynicism and nihilism, pointing that he has no proposal and that consequently he's eroding democracy, and the latter by saying that, at least, she was standing for something.
  • Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: The CIA guy does a pretty good American accent, but it slips when he says "figurehead" and "construct".
  • The Other Darrin: In-universe. Jamie's manager immediately replaces him as Waldo when he calls it quits.
  • Perpetual Frowner: Roy does not smile. Even once. Even Liam Monroe smiled a few times, that is to say genuine ones.
  • Police State: It's implied that at some point in the future, the United Kingdom has become one, thanks to Waldo, going by The Stinger. Even worse, he's gone and spread internationally.
  • Poor Communication Kills: Jamie ruins Gwendolyn's political career as he thinks she's ignoring him after their one-night stand. When he eventually apologizes to her for his mistake, Gwendolyn clarifies that she would have called him after the election. If she only bothered to send even just one text... She also neglected to explain properly why she couldn't see him when they next met. Granted, she had a bad day but still...
  • Pyrrhic Victory: Monroe's victory is the last shown in a standard British election. In a comical exaggeration of The Runner-Up Takes It All, Waldo comes to dominate the country and possibly even the world.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech:
    • Monroe delivers one to Jamie directly as he participates as Waldo in a debate.
    • Waldo and Jamie respond with their own passionate one against Monroe, Gwendolyn, and the whole British Political System.
    • Gwendolyn gives one back to Jamie, after he tries to apologize for his earlier actions above, for potentially destroying her career, ensuring that Monroe will, in fact, win the by-election despite his rant and that he has made a mockery of the democratic process by not actually standing for anything or advocating any policies.
  • Rebellious Rebel: Jamie morphs into this eventually... though no one listens to him once he isn't a turquoise bear.
  • Refuge in Audacity: Gwendolyn before the Labour Party committee applies to a candidacy to represent Labour for the by-election, by basically admitting she's not intending to win and jokingly admitting to be a Serial Killer when asked if there's any questionable history the committee should know before being selected. She's chosen for the candidacy regardless. Also the Waldo campaign runs on this.
  • Reluctant Ruler: Jamie frequently expresses that he is completely indifferent to politics and has no interest in following through with it.
  • Sad Clown: Jamie's awfully bitter.
  • Self-Deprecation: An American representative mocks Jamie and Jack for their British Stuffiness. "You're so British!"
  • Shout-Out:
    • In the first interview with former/future Tory MP Liam Monroe, Jamie/Waldo mockingly compares him to Batman. Jamie's boss is called Jack Napier.
    • Waldo shares more than a few similarities with the live floating Super Mario head (played by Charles Martinet using motion capture and joysticks) that Nintendo brought around with them to games conventions in the 1990s, when Charlie Brooker was working as a video game journalist.
  • Social Media Before Reason: Perhaps one of the clearest examples in the Black Mirror universe. Everyone goes along with living meme Waldo, except the old-fashioned conservative candidate.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: Excerpts from the "Merry Widow Waltz" play over the ending credits as Jamie, now homeless, angrily throws a beer bottle at one of the global political adverts featuring Waldo, and earns himself a helping of Police Brutality for his trouble.
  • Space Whale Aesop: This is widely considered the weakest Black Mirror episode because its message, "use your vote responsibly", is undermined by the far-fetched premise of a cartoon bear coming second in a UK by-election and eventually becoming the figurehead for a Fascist, but Inefficient global government that soon takes over the world. Of course, assuming there was a campaign to get Kek/Pepe elected President of the US as a write-in candidate, some might think this is exactly what would happen (unkind comparisons to unnamed real politicians could be made too).
  • Stealth Pun: Waldo is controlled using a set of joysticks, otherwise known as waldos.
  • Straw Character/Straw Loser: Every party is this; the Conservatives are out of touch and middle class, Labour is completely clueless, and the Liberal Democrats are totally useless and come last out of the main parties.
  • Straw Hypocrite: Waldo encourages people not to care about elections ... whilst urging them to vote for him in this one.
  • Sturgeon's Law: Mentioned on a political scale; specifically, almost all politicians exist only as a fake public reputation who sympathize to get what they want.
  • Subverted Kids' Show: Waldo's original role was as a version of this In-Universe: as a segment on a late-night topical comedy show, guests would be invited to record what they thought was a kids' show interview, only to end up squirming when faced with Waldo's trademark brand of comedy.
  • Take That!:
    • Every political party. More specifically, "a character from a late-night satire show who wins votes by being the funny one" could apply to Waldo or Boris Johnson.
    • And to Charlie Brooker, oddly enough: the show Waldo comes from is reminiscent of 10 O'Clock Live. A theme of the episode is that it's a lot easier to complain about the system than suggest any ways to fix it.
  • Time Skip: The only obvious example in Black Mirror. Although it takes place over a longer span than most of the episodes (covering roughly six months), a distant epilogue shows Jamie homeless and Waldo having gradually taken over the world.
  • Took a Level in Jerkass: Waldo initially starts out mocking politicians and chewing them out for being self-serving phonies. When he gets a new voice, he starts getting the public to act violently against those he doesn't like.
  • Viewers Are Morons: So much so that thousands of people would consider voting their favorite fictional character from a late-night TV show as a political leader.
  • Vulgar Humor/Toilet Humour: Waldo's main shtick, overlapping with Subverted Innocence.
  • What Do You Mean, It's Not for Kids?: In-universe, Waldo's program is presented as such.
  • You Are What You Hate: Waldo is meant to be a protest character against corrupt politicians, but eventually becomes even more amoral and worse than the politicians it was denouncing.