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Recap / Black Mirror: White Bear

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Series Two
Be Right BackWhite BearThe Waldo Moment

https://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/grant_channel4_blackmirror205_640.jpg
There is no signal, and nobody is brainwashed. They're all just enjoying the show.

"I guess they were always like that underneath. Just needed the rules to change, for no-one to intervene."
Jem
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Awaking without memory of who she is, a woman soon finds an armed, masked man is pursuing her with the intent of killing her. Of course, things wouldn't be as bad if everyone would stop filming it on their phones and help. Trailer here.

It stars Lenora Crichlow (Victoria), Michael Smiley (Baxter) and Tuppence Middleton (Jem).


Tropes related to White Bear:

  • Action Girl: Jem is introduced as a competent survivalist, although it's subverted when it turns out this is just a role the actress is playing.
  • Adult Fear: While Victoria's crimes are being revealed to her, old news broadcasts are shown of the grieving parents of the little girl she helped her boyfriend to kill, begging for the return of their daughter.
  • After the End: All media now displays a symbol that turns 90% of people into zombies, resulting in them filming anything interesting. Those who aren't affected either run to survive or hunt those who run. It turns out that's a lie — there was never any brainwashing going on.
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  • Ambiguous Ending: Does Victoria ever get out of the amnesia-induced torture loop? Is she stuck there till she dies? Or is she eventually executed and put out of her misery? Or do human rights activists have her freed and instead put in a maximum security prison? The possibilities are endless.
  • Amnesia Loop: Stuck in a particularly painful one, as the protagonist has to repeat the experience multiple times for the audience's entertainment.
  • Amnesiac Dissonance: She's quite clearly upset when she sees that she enthusiastically assisted in the murder of a little girl.
  • Amnesiac Hero: Victoria doesn't remember anything about her life prior to waking up.
  • Arc Symbol: A lambda (λ) type symbol frequently appears on pieces of technology and the pursuer's mask. Turns out it's the tattoo on her boyfriend's neck.
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  • Asshole Victim: Victoria herself; it turns out the whole episode is a show and she's being punished for her part in the heinous murder of a six-year-old. There was also her boyfriend, whom she helped kill said six-year-old, although he's already dead by the time the episode takes place.
  • The Atoner: Upon finding out what she's done, Victoria is overcome with remorse. Though Basil dismisses her "crocodile tears".
  • Author Tract: The episode's uncomfortable ending, wherein we learn that the general public now takes part in the punishment of some criminals via a kind of interactive, voyeuristic theme park, echoes Charlie Brooker's criticisms of the 24-hour news cycle and its constant exploitation of tragedy (for an example, see his commentary on the Oscar Pistorius murder case).
  • Bewildering Punishment: Victoria has no idea who the masked figure is or why he is pursuing her. Nor will she ever, thanks to her repeated memory erasure.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Basil. He seems like a nice and heroic guy at first before revealing that he's just as homicidal. Then it's subverted when it's revealed he's just an actor pretending to be a serial killer and is actually a pretty jovial guy. Played somewhat more straight with Jem who is also an employee just pretending to be Victoria's ally though, like Basil, she's also fairly polite and likable.
  • Both Sides Have a Point: There's lots of evidence that can be used to support whether Victoria should be kept in this ironic hell or not.
  • Black and Grey Morality: Part of the way in, it becomes clear that there are no decent characters in the whole episode.
  • Book-Ends: The protagonist is punished, has everything explained to her, and then has her memory wiped to do it again tomorrow. It's also at least the eighteenth time it's happened... in October. The ending credits have her go through the park yet another time and possibly begin another one.
  • Brainwashed: Nine out of ten people have been, according to Jem. Turns out they're not brainwashed.
  • Brainwashing for the Greater Good: The White Bear Justice Park owners certainly think it is, having guests feigning it when they are intentionally recording a criminal.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Jem comes back to help Victoria after escaping Baxter in the forest.It turns out to just be a part of the game.
  • Bystander Syndrome: Passing people not only ignore the protagonist's cries for help, they simply start recording the events on their phones. Turns out the reason is far more insidious than initially thought.
  • Capitalism Is Bad: "White Bear" presents a society where justice porn is monetised; notorious criminals are continually run through a torture theme park for the entertainment of the mob. And in doing so the mob and the park personnel are made criminals too.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Several, especially those that resurface in the protagonist's memory.
    • White Bear holds a negative significance for the protagonist: it was the type of teddy bear the little girl had, and was a symbol of the search for her.
    • The symbol that brainwashes the public: it was her boyfriend's tattoo.
    • The little girl: was actually her victim.
    • The sleeping pills: Her actual suicide implements in prison.
    • Her wrist bindings: used to protect her from the metal wrist-locks when strapped into the chair.
    • The calendar with crosses: is keeping track of how many times she's relived the day.
  • Cold-Blooded Torture: Supposedly performed by the Hunters. Later turns out that the whole experience is a particularly inventive kind.
  • Come to Gawk: That's all the "normal" people (called "Observers" by the other survivors) do throughout the episode. And played more straight at the end when they jeer and throw stuff at Victoria as she's paraded through the streets.
  • Come with Me If You Want to Live: Baxter helping the two women escape in his van. Subverted when he turns on them, and double subverted when it turns out the whole thing was an act.
  • Conditioned to Accept Horror: The Observers. Originally portrayed as brainwashing, later shown to be just as accepting without any apparent coercion.
  • Conveniently Timed Distraction: Baxter gets a phone call right in the middle of crucifying Victoria. Jem uses the opportunity to turn the tables around. This interruption was staged though.
  • Cool and Unusual Punishment: Victoria's punishment for being an accomplice in the murder of a six-year-old girl (having videotaped the incident and doing nothing to help while her boyfriend did the deed) is to have her memories erased on a regular basis and forced into a staged enactment wherein it seems people are out to kill her, and no one will help. At the culmination of the act, Victoria is strapped down, forced to confront what she did in front of a crowd of vicious onlookers and be paraded in front of them while she's screamed and cursed at. Repeat.
  • Cosy Catastrophe: Deconstructed. The breakdown of law and order is fun for the Hunters and the recorders, not so much for the other survivors. Part of the reason why is it is all a theme park attraction, and the catastrophe is Victoria being an accomplice to a child's murder.
  • Darker and Edgier: The entire series is pretty bleak and harrowing, but this episode really cranked it up a few notches, to the point where it stops being a "satirical dystopian" show and feels more like a simple horror movie.
  • Downer Ending: Victoria is condemned to keep repeating the events of the day, possibly for the rest of her life, all the while the public continues to gawk and relish in her misery. This is after we find out that Victoria, far from being an innocent victim, is actually a child murderer.
  • Driven to Suicide:
    • We open up on a failed attempt, hence the amnesia. It turns out the suicide wasn't actually attempted, though Victoria begs to be killed every single night after she remembers.
    • Victoria's boyfriend (who actually killed the girl) did hang himself in prison. It's actually possible that she did attempt suicide in prison but it didn't stick.
  • The Ending Changes Everything: A while into the plot it's revealed that the entirety of the episode was a setup; Victoria's fiancé abducted and burned alive a six-year-old girl, while she stood and filmed it. After they were caught, the boyfriend hanged himself in his cell, leading to her sentence to be centered around not letting Victoria escape justice.
  • Fate Worse than Death: At the end of each day, Victoria begs to be killed, but White Bear Justice Park doesn't seem to be in any hurry to do that. And who knows how long this punishment will last. It's the whole point of her sentence. People think her fiancé got off easy when he killed himself in prison.
  • Forced to Watch: The Observers. None of them complain, though, because they feel they're doing the right thing.
  • Foreshadowing: Vast amounts through her slowly returning memory. Most notable is when the protagonist picks up the dropped phone and the other survivor points a taser at her claiming she'll go mad if she looks at it; it's later revealed that the protagonist would have seen it was all a setup, and the tasers are used for days when things don't go according to plan.
  • Girls Love Stuffed Animals: The murdered girl had a distinctive white teddy bear, which became a symbol of the nationwide search for her and the namesake of the park where one of her murderers would be punished.
  • Hate Sink: Victoria is revealed to be one.
  • Harmful to Minors: During the end credits, a young girl is seen participating in the park charade and being encouraged to enjoy Victoria's torment.
  • Happier Home Movie: Throughout the episode, Victoria keeps having flashbacks of a homemade video that shows the little girl in her photo having a picnic with her stuffed toys. Very much subverted when it turns out that the video concludes with Victoria's boyfriend burning her alive.
  • Here We Go Again!: It is revealed that post-apocalypse was a complete ruse so that Victoria can be horribly frightened and emotionally tortured, before she is told the truth and forced to do it again after having her memory wiped.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Victoria filmed her fiancé torturing and murdering the young girl, which provided the evidence needed to convict them of the crime.
  • Humans Are Bastards: Jem suggested that the onlookers of them being chased are that way because the White Bear signal really brought out what was beneath the surface. Played straight as the truth about the protagonist is revealed, with the whole thing being a ruse designed to make sure she "doesn't escape justice" like her boyfriend, as she is chased, brought to the place with a braying crowd watching her, watches the clip she filmed of the little girl's last moments, while she's mind-wiped, every day. In their minds, of course they are giving justice to the deceased girl, while ensuring Victoria doesn't live a single second of peace.
  • Humiliation Conga: Invoked by the park management, as the entire experience is meant to torment and degrade Victoria... endlessly.
  • Hypocrite: The people running the park and subjecting Victoria to her "punishment" as well as the people enjoying the show are completely oblivious to the fact that they are guilty of being capable of dehumanisation and moral degeneracy that they are disgusted at Victoria for. Or they know and don't care or think it's justified.
  • Implacable Man: Jem and Victoria can't shake the Hunters while on the run. Justified, as the simulation requires no one to be hurt in real.
  • Ironic Hell: As punishment for watching and recording while her boyfriend terrified, tortured and murdered a little girl, Victoria now lives her life being constantly terrified and helpless while people just record and watch.
  • Karma Houdini: The public considers Victoria's fiancé one, because he hanged himself in his cell before he could go to trial. Then they turned their attention to making sure Victoria herself didn't get off so easy...
  • The Killer in Me: Baxter reveals to Victoria that the entire "onlooker apocalypse" is an elaborate simulation tailor-made to punish her for her participation in the torture and murder of a young girl.
  • Laser-Guided Amnesia: The Identity Amnesia variety.
  • Large Ham: "WHY ISN'T ANYONE HELPINNNNNG USSSSSSSSSS?!?" and "HOW DO YOU LIKE IT!!!" If happiness could be measured in Ham, then all of Victoria's problems in this episode would be solved.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: A woman is being chased around by a hunter and a gang of Malevolent Masked Men rescued by an Action Girl and led to a final confrontation at the factory for the viewers' entertainment.
  • Malevolent Masked Men: Invoked. Jem specifically tells Victoria they do it to scare survivors. Turns out it was specifically for just the protagonist.
  • Mind Screw: The second half of the episode details not just how the first half was entirely fake and staged, but how the protagonist the audience has been following is revealed to be a horrible murderer, and is reduced to a sobbing mess while she's punished for her crimes. The supposed "villains" meanwhile casually and somewhat smugly go along with their jobs of entertaining nameless onlookers, all while Victoria is breaking down.
  • Mind Rape: The memory eraser appears to be this, if the day's events weren't horrible enough.
  • The Mole: Baxter was one of the Hunters all along, and both he and Jem turn out to be park employees manipulating Victoria.
  • Mundanger: There is no actual brainwashing signal. The truth is much worse.
  • No Name Given: No introductions are given, so character names are reserved for the credits or brief mentions. For clarification: Victoria is the protagonist with memory loss, Jem and Damien are the survivors she meets at the start, and Baxter is the survivor with the van.
  • Not Brainwashed: All the people observing, in a fairly chilling example.
  • Once More, with Clarity!: The 'credit sequence'. We see another scene of the episode, but get a backstage look at it.
  • Punch-Clock Villain: The people subjecting Victoria to her life of torture appear to be simply doing their jobs as employees of the park. Although they seem to take great satisfaction in it, given what Victoria did.
  • Red Shirt: Damien is offed pretty quickly by the masked man. He's a park employee; he turns out just fine.
  • Shout-Out: The murder is meant to be a nod to the infamous Moors murders which, even now, still haunt the British public consciousness. Victoria shares a few traits with Myra Hindley. Unlike Hindley, however, her remorse appears to be genuine. Appears to be.
  • Symbolic Blood: As Victoria is being driven in a van through a crowd of jeering and shouting onlookers, sponges covered in red paint are hurled against the glass walls of the vehicle.
  • This Loser Is You: You (especially bystanders) are just as bad as the voyeurs. Word of God even stated it that the inspiration of this episode was taken from Bystander Syndrome and mob mentality, especially Internet mob mentality, just the spectators don't have anonymity as a cover.
  • Took a Level in Badass: Victoria spends the whole episode as The Load to Jem's Action Girl, but finally picks up the shotgun while surrounded by Hunters inside White Bear... and shoots confetti.
  • Tomato in the Mirror: The protagonist conspired in a murder and is perpetually being punished for her crime.
  • Trauma-Induced Amnesia: It looks like the leading woman is suffering from it after a Bungled Suicide.
  • "Truman Show" Plot: It's all a theme park experience, where the protagonist's memory is eventually wiped and done again for more people.
  • Villain Protagonist: Victoria, in a way, though the episode makes it very clear who the true monsters are. Depends on you, though, whom do you want to root for, as the supposed monsters have a good reason to inflict the torture on Victoria.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: The White Bear Justice Park is ostensibly serving extreme justice for a horrible criminal.
  • Wham Line: At the end of the day, after running from her life from "zombies" and "hunters", having her crimes revealed to her and being driven through a crowd of onlookers baying for her blood, Victoria pleads as she's being strapped into the chair: "Please kill me." Baxter's response:
  • Would Hurt a Child: It is revealed that Victoria filmed her boyfriend torturing and murdering a six-year-old girl, and the "apocalypse" is a simulation she is forced to relive daily, made to punish her for her crime.

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