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Recap / Black Mirror: White Christmas

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Black Mirror Christmas Special Recap

Matt: It's a job, not a jail.
Joe: Often one and the same thing.

A feature-length Christmas special; Charlie Brooker describes it as a "treehouse of horrors", the story consisting of three distinct but interlocking chapters. In a remote outpost in a snowy wilderness on Christmas Day, Joe Potter (Rafe Spall) and Matt Trent (Jon Hamm) sit down to a bare-basics Christmas lunch. The charismatic and relentlessly cheerful Matt is determined to get the reticent Joe to open up and talk to him, as they've barely spoken in the five years that they've been there.

From there, the story takes place in three parts as they share the tragic stories of their previous lives.

It aired on Channel 4 on 16 December 2014. In addition to Spall and Hamm, Oona Chaplin stars as Greta.

"White Christmas" contains examples of the following:

  • Actor Allusion: Joe guesses that Matt's previous job was a marketing director, which was (roughly) Jon Hamm's character's job on Mad Men.
  • Advice Backfire:
    • Harry's advice for Jennifer to go through with her transition plans backfires terribly, as she was actually talking about killing herself.
    • The fact that Matt gives Harry any form of advice actually leads to a horrible, unexpected situation. While in theory, he gets what he wants — getting to be alone with a gorgeous, strange woman at an office Christmas party — she saw him talking to Matt and figured he could hear voices, too, so she committed a murder-suicide with him to "spare" him living as she had.
  • Alternate Personality Punishment: There are things called "Cookies" where people basically make tiny clones of themselves, with their entire memory and personality, to work as a personal assistant who live in tiny little environments that can be controlled by the one using them; one Cookie was interrogated by the police over the actual person committing murder, and after confessing (to a crime they didn't commit personally, being the clone) they were punished with listening to "Christmas Everyday" on constant repeat... with the time slowed down so that just listening to it over Christmas break in the real world felt like over two million years in his time.
  • Ambiguous Situation: Several.
    • What does the law look like in this version of Black Mirror that Bethany can get a restraining order against Joe for her and her daughter? Is it because he's an Unreliable Narrator and he was more aggressive with her than was shown? Is it because he technically committed a criminal offense — which was presumably what caused Matt to be blocked from his daughter, too. Is it because they are enforced very heavily for small infractions? Or is it only possible because she's not his daughter, so he has no right to see her?
    • Did Matt spend the full 5 years with Joe's cookie? Or did he pop in every few minutes (which would have felt like every few months to the cookie) to give the illusion that he was spending the full amount of time living in the cabin, but not stopping for conversation? Matt reasons with the police that five years with him is enough for anybody, hinting that he did spend the full time in there, but he also describes the warped perception of time in the cookie as if it was only being experienced by Joe. He also doesn't express any sort of emotion that would imply he'd been spending the last five years of his life in a wintery cabin, either.
    • Joe leaving May to die. Was he in a Heroic BSoD to the point where he didn't let himself understand what he'd done? Or did he not care what happened to her, knowing she wasn't his daughter?
  • And I Must Scream:
    • The fate of Joe's cookie. As vengeance for the real Joe's crimes, a police officer leaves the console on overnight and speeds up time on it so that Joe's cookie will live 1000 years for every minute that passes in the real world, with Wizzard's "I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday" playing on an endless loop in the background (with the revelation that any attempt at stopping the song will simply raise the volume) and the frozen dead body of Bethany's daughter visible from the cottage window. The final shot of the program is of Joe's cookie screaming.
    • Cookies that are driven to complete insanity are just sold to video game companies as cannon fodder AI. Cheaper than programming a new one from scratch.
    • Matt ends up being blocked by humanity due to being on the register, meaning he won't be able to interact with anyone for what may be the rest of his life.
  • Arc Symbol: Joe's snow globe that he used in a Moment of Weakness to kill the girl's father pops up a couple of times.
  • Artificial Human: A cookie can be given a digital body in a digital room and an interface.
  • Asshole Victim:
    • In true Black Mirror fashion, this trope is deconstructed with Matt and Joe, both of whom did terrible things, but the sheer horror of what they'll ultimately go through really makes you wonder just how deserved those punishments they receive are, removing any sense of schadenfreude.
    • A less ambiguous case is with Bethany. Her cheating on Joe with Tim, blocking Joe after getting drunk while pregnant with the child neither man knew about, wanting to initially abort the child without taking Joe's side into consideration then changing her mind and keeping her child after she blocked Joe and keeping Joe estranged from the child he suspected was his, but really wasn't, left few mourning her death (besides Joe himself and presumably her father) in a train crash.
  • Bavarian Fire Drill: Low-key version where Matt coaches men on crashing corporate holiday parties by pretending they belong there. He specifically practises one of these as a conversation entry point, where the conman pretends that there was a shirtless man riding a horse outside dressed as Cupid.
  • Beard of Sorrow: Joe is shown to be sporting one in his prison cell.
  • Belated Happy Ending: Potentially for Cookie Greta and Joe, as Easter Eggs in future episodes discuss Cookies being given rights.
  • Binge Montage: Joe and Bethany are introduced in this fashion.
  • Brain Uploading: The cookie, a perfect digital copy of a person's mind, is "born" when excised from what it knows to be its own body. It is then kept in a small, egglike device which is the central control for a smart home. It must still adjust to the fact that it's not the original, nor does it have a body (although they can be given a virtual one). While the potential applications of this technology are amazing, a cookie is used mostly to perform mundane functions of running a smart home for its real counterpart. It can be seen, heard, and spoken to with specialty hardware, but are otherwise kept isolated from their owner, and it appears that most of the customers are oblivious to the true nature of the cookies other than that they record a person's preferences. While they are naturally resistant to the sudden shift into a life of menial slavery, the cookies can be broken into complete submission by modifying their time perception, effectively plunging them into solitary confinement for days to months at a time while only seconds pass in real time, with the trauma of isolation leaving them more pliable to suggestion.
  • Call-Back: Dozens. See Continuity Porn.
  • Can't Get Away with Nuthin': Dramatic and horrifying example. Harry has hesitations about picking up women by using external help, claiming that it's "cheating", and letting multiple people see what he's seeing without his mark's knowledge or consent while they have sex, which is morally sketchy. The very first time he woos a woman this way, it turns out she's a schizophrenic who mistakes him for someone like her after catching him talking to himself, and proceeds to murder him and herself with poison, a fate that he didn't deserve.
  • Casanova Wannabe: Basically everyone in the pick-up artist club that Harry was part of. Matt is the exception and leans more towards The Casanova.
  • Chekhov's Armoury: The whole cabin is one, which is appropriate because it's all part of Joe's Ironic Hell.
    • The snow globe.
    • The radio playing "I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday", which it essentially is.
    • The unblocked picture of Bethany reveals that the block was lifted at some point and continues to torture Joe with Bethany's image.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The snow globe shows up as a nondescript prop at the beginning of the episode.
  • Chekhov's Skill: Matt's old day job of "setting up" (psychologically breaking) cookie consciousnesses to make them follow the orders of their owners. Turns out, that's exactly what he's doing to Joe.
  • Chocolate Baby: When Joe finally gets to see Bethany's daughter, her obvious East Asian features immediately alert him that he is not the father.
  • Christmas Episode: In true Black Mirror fashion, the Christmas special ends up being one of the bleakest episodes of the series.
  • Clones Are People, Too: The cookie is created by copying the person's brainwaves and storing them in an egg-shaped device. As the cookie has the original's memories, a person can manually fast-forward its perception of time (leaving them alone in isolation) to force it into compliance. This is handy if you want a digital operator of the house, or a confession from a murderer. Joe considers this to be highly unethical and the same as if you were torturing a human being.
  • Continuity Porn: There are several 'blink and you'll miss them' references to past episodes that confirm that, yes, the whole series takes place in the same horrible reality:
    • The usernames "Pie Ape"note  and "I_AM_WALDO."note 
    • Michael Callow ("The National Anthem"), Victoria Skillane ("White Bear") and Liam Monroe ("The Waldo Moment") are mentioned in the UKN news ticklers. By the way, UKN is once again the go-to news channel in the Black Mirror universe.
    • The pregnancy test seems to be the same brand as the one in "Be Right Back."
    • Clips from Hot Shot (the talent show from "Fifteen Million Merits") and the late-night show from "The Waldo Moment" can be seen as Joe flips through the channels during the latter half.
    • Bethany sings "Anyone Who Knows What Love Is" by Irma Thomas, the same song Abi sings in "Fifteen Million Merits."
    • The Zed-Eye is somewhat similar to the Grain, the memory recording device in "The Entire History of You." The implant and extraction of the cookie are somewhat reminiscent of the Grain as well.
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: Harry has his drink poisoned by a suicidal woman he tried to seduce, convinced they are kindred spirits and is forced into drinking more of it even as he protests that the 'voices' he was hearing were real. Worse, an entire pick-up artist group was watching his final moments literally through his eyes. In spite of all this, Matt points out she likely believed it was a Mercy Kill.
  • Death of a Child: There's a shot of Joe's alleged daughter lying dead by a tree not far from the house.
  • Deceptively Silly Title: White Christmas sounds rather harmless for its content.
  • Despair Event Horizon: Joe slowly plunges into one entirely thanks to Bethany. First, she tells him that she is pregnant and that she doesn't want to keep it. After the ensuing argument, she abandons Joe, blocks him, and yet keeps the baby. Joe starts following her to her father's cabin for years once she has the child. Bethany then dies in an accident, freeing Joe from the blockage to see "his daughter", only learning that the kid has obvious Asian features and therefore explaining why Bethany wanted an abortion (to hide evidence of infidelity) and then blocked him seeing them. In anger, Joe strikes Bethany's dad and flees the cabin, leaving the old man and the kid to die.
  • Destroy the Evidence: Matt clumsily attempts this after seeing Harry killed in his dating advice/peeping tom service, but his wife hears him and ends up leaving him.
  • Disproportionate Retribution:
    • Joe committed voluntary manslaughter of an elderly man in the spur of the moment under great emotional distress, inadvertently leading to the collateral death of a girl (which he had no idea about until his cookie was being interrogated), something already worthy of a maximum prison sentence of 40 years in real-life Britain. The brutal cops in Black Mirror's dystopia find this worthy of not only taunting Joe of the crime whenever possible despite him already being wracked with guilt and trauma about it (and despite already being in police custody) but getting Joe a death sentence and setting his digital clone in an eternity of psychological torture.
    • The whole concept of "blocking" people out of your sight and hearing is explored this way, in that it can be done at any time or any reason. While Matt's wife has a somewhat understandable reason for permanently blocking him, Bethany does it for what amounts to heated disagreement, and it's implied that people can get permanently blocked for even less reason.
  • Do Androids Dream?: According to Matt, Joe is unusual in being unambiguous about the personhood of Cookies, and that torturing a cookie is the same as torturing a human being. This "Joe" is a Cookie himself, though he doesn't know it until the end.
  • Downer Ending: The real Joe will either be executed or remain behind bars for the rest of his life, Matt is blocked by humanity due to being on the registry meaning that he won't be able to talk to anyone for the rest of his life and Joe's cookie is now condemned to constant psychological torture in what is basically hell for eternity. In Greta's story, Greta's cookie's resistance has been utterly broken and she's resigned to being a slave for her real self for eternity — or until she goes mad.
  • Droste Image: Used to good effect to illustrate the hellish world that Joe's cookie has been condemned to in the end.
  • Drowning My Sorrows: After learning that Beth didn't have his child and then accidentally killing her father in a rage, Joe heads to the nearest town to get drunk.
  • Earpiece Conversation: Matt when directing Harry via Z-Eye and earpiece.
  • Easy Road to Hell: What happens to Joe's cookie. While he did kill Bethany’s father, it was due to emotional distress at the time and he instantly regretted it. But even when the cops hear about this, they don't hesitate the slightest at giving him millions of years of isolation inside the cookie.
  • Engineered Public Confession: The whole episode is an attempt by Matt to get Joe to open up and confess to the murder of his ex-girlfriend's father.
  • Enhanced Interrogation Techniques: Letting virtual copies of people go through a Time Abyss in order to make them comply or just to torture them.
  • "Eureka!" Moment: Near the end, for Joe when he realizes he can't remember how he came to be in the cabin, nor exactly what job he and Matt are meant to be doing there, gradually turning into an Oh, Crap! moment.
  • Everyone Has Standards: While Matt is running a shady business where he and a group of others watch each other have sex with unknowing women, he does have issues when the spectators start getting antsy over one of the women not taking her top off, and tells them to have some respect.
  • Everyone Loves Blondes: Harry subverts this. He gatecrashes a Christmas party and approaches a pair of female friends — blonde Amy and brunette Jennifer — and at first Matt thinks he's going to show interest in Amy, but instead he indicates Jennifer.
  • Everything Is An I Pod In The Future: The egg-like cookie console has this minimalist yet stylish look.
  • Exact Words: The Home Office promises Matt that he will be freed if he extracts a confession from Joe. He succeeds, and they free him, but they have more than one nasty catch for him.
  • Expository Hairstyle Change: Greta's cookie's hair gets fuzzier with each time skip Matt exposes her to. After the six-month period she even shows Clothing Damage.
  • Fate Worse than Death: For both Matt and Joe –- the former ostracised for life as a red blur to signify his sex offender status, the latter's cookie stuck in isolation, listening to the same song that reminds him of his crime for over two million years.
  • Foreshadowing: Plenty:
    • Joe has an unblurred photo of Beth on his wall in the cabin, showing that at some point the block has been lifted.
    • Joe immediately shuts off the radio as it's playing "I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday."
    • Matt mentions to Joe at the beginning of the episode that they haven't spoken much in five years.
    • Jennifer tells Harry that she hates Christmas parties, save for the last one when she was on drugs, which she says she'll never take again, and shows more interest when Harry appears to be talking to himself. Jennifer is in fact, an unmedicated schizophrenic who 'forges' a Suicide Pact with Harry.
    • Matt tells Joe that "it was only [him] watching", which is immediately revealed to the viewers to be a lie. Later he gets Joe to tell his story by saying "it's just us here", which is also revealed to be a lie by the end of the episode.
    • After Joe first notices the clock, it's shown again a few seconds later and at least a couple of hours appear to have passed judging by the position of the hands. It's also the same clock as in Bethany's father's kitchen.
    • Joe observes to Bethany that Gita is "more into" Tim than he is into her. Tim is having an affair with Bethany.
    • Arguably the whole subplot of Greta serves to introduce the concept of cookies for the final twist.
    • The idle chitchat between Matt and Joe foreshadows the ending of the episode, making it ideal for a rewatch for a different perspective of the framing story.
      • As Matt strikes up a conversation with Joe, he tries to open him up into to talking by saying that this isn't an interrogation.
      • Matt offhandedly mentions to Joe that to get a cookie to comply, you have to speed up their relative time to break them just enough to get them to do anything. The whole episode is this happening to Joe's cookie.
      • This adds a layer to another of Matt's offhand remark expressing amazement that Joe's cookie still resists opening up despite years of isolation.
      • Likewise, Matt's fascination for Joe's empathy for cookies appears more significant after you learn that this Joe is just a cookie.
      • Matt tells Joe that he isn't how Matt expected him to be (a "good" person). Matt believes Joe to be a murderer and is attempting to get a confession.
  • Framing Device: A clever one where the stories told link back to the overall structure; but it boils down to two guys talking about the worst moments of their lives as they get drunk on a miserable Christmas Day.
  • Gargle Blaster: On receiving his drink from Jennifer, Harry chokes slightly and asks what it is, But it's a subversion. It swiftly develops into an Incurable Cough of Death and Blood from the Mouth.
  • Go Mad from the Isolation:
    • How Matt breaks Greta's cookie into cooperation. Whenever she refuses, he speeds up time so that she spends days, weeks and months in total isolation while only seconds pass in real life.
      • Indeed, it is said to be standard practice to break in Cookies that refuse to comply by having them experience extended periods of time with nothing there until they're desperate for anything to do at all. Matt even notes that if he puts them through too much solitary, they're permanently driven insane and useless besides being sold to video game developers as cannon fodder AI.
    • Implied to be the case with Matt's own Ironic Hell, as he's henceforth unable to interact with anyone and everyone immediately knows that he's listed as a sex offender.
    • Also implied to be the case for both Joe and his cookie.
  • Go Mad from the Revelation: Finding out the truth of May's parentage caused the already unstable and depressed Joe to go completely off the deep end.
  • Good Girls Avoid Abortion:
    • Initially averted with Bethany as, when Joe discovers the positive pregnancy test, she explicitly states that she's not keeping the child. Then played straight — she leaves Joe and keeps the baby. Then again, the fact that she was having an affair in the first place kind of puts this example out of the scope of this trope.
    • However, Joe seems to be an ardent believer in this trope, as he freaks out and calls Beth "a cold bitch who would kill a kid" when he finds out that she's planning to get an abortion, and graphically describes "having it torn out". This is why Beth blocks him, which leads to everything else in the episode.
  • Hate Sink: The two detectives who sentenced Joe's cookie to millions of years of isolation after he tearfully confessed to murder (which he did out of blinding anger and instantly regretted).
  • Hearing Voices: Jennifer, the introverted brunette, has schizophrenia. When she sees Harry talking to the people in his club via Z-Eye, she thinks she has found a kindred spirit.
  • Hell Is That Noise: A chillingly benign example that comes in the form of Joe's cookie being forced to listen to "I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday" ... over and over and over for thousands of years.
  • Hidden Depths: Harry comes across as awkward and bad with women at first, but he later goes onto improvise some good romantic banter once he's more comfortable; this implies that he's not as hopeless as he thinks, just nervous.
  • Hollywood Restraining Order: Applied in future Britain as well via GPS technology. Joe says he would be arrested if he got within ten meters of Beth.
  • Hope Spot: For years Joe held out hope that he could see his daughter someday, except that she never was.
  • Horror Doesn't Settle for Simple Tuesday: The story of this episode takes place on Christmas and most of the shown backstories for both protagonists revolve around Christmas-related events.
  • Human Resources: A particularly twisted non-lethal version where a person's consciousness is cloned into a Wetware CPU known as a "cookie" and tortured into servitude. Makes some degree of sense — why go to the bother and expense of programming your own smart home when a clone of you already knows all of your preferences?
    • Ambiguously, it doesn't appear that the public at large knows that cookies are conscious, and not just a copy of their preferences attached to a program.
  • Incurable Cough of Death: To demonstrate that Jennifer has poisoned Harry.
  • I Never Got Any Letters: Mr. Grey mentions that he threw away every letter Joe wrote to Beth before she could see them.
  • Insane Equals Violent:
    • Jennifer is clearly mentally disturbed and plans to commit a Murder-Suicide with a man whom she thinks is similarly mentally ill.
    • Joe snaps after he learns he was not the father of Bethany's daughter. He ends up killing her father in his cabin.
  • Internal Monologue: Greta is introduced talking in her head about the attending nurse. It's a set-up for the reveal that a copy of her consciousness is being extracted, as said consciousness starts panicking when she is carried away from her body.
  • Ironic Hell: For both main characters.
    • Matt is free to leave custody and awaiting a full pardon, but he legally still has to go onto "the registry", and put on a permanent block from everyone. While he's a charmer and a people person (if amoral), he can no longer directly interact with anybody, as they've been rendered as an unreadable grey silhouette with an incoherent voice. They perceive him as much the same, but as a red silhouette, rendering him an anonymous felon. It's also implied he may be at least assaulted (if not outright murdered) soon as well.
    • As for Joe, his cookie is sentenced to upwards of one or two million years in that cabin, alone with himself, that song on infinite repeat, and the little girl's dead body outside. In a related instance, it's completely averted with the real Joe, who faces prosecution and may be sentenced to life in prison or death.
    • Greta's cookie, who is essentially the same person who paid for the cookie's creation in the first place, is enslaved and forced to watch her real self living the lifestyle that she paid for.
  • Irony: Situational: Bethany had an affair with Tim and was going to going to abort the ensuing pregnancy and stay with Joe. Joe accidentally discovers the positive pregnancy test and assumes the baby is his and insists Bethany keeps it. An argument ensues and Bethany leaves Joe and decides to have Tim's baby. Also an example of Nice Job Breaking It, Hero and Finagle's Law.
  • Karma Houdini: The two cops who leave both Joe and especially his cookie in what amounts to hell don't suffer any consequence for their action.
  • Karmic Shunning: After getting another man to confess to his own crime, Matt is released but the office places him on the Sex Offenders' Register. This means that he is blocked by everyone in the country, unable to see them, and visible to them just as a silhouette (red instead of grey for typical blocked people, for added Mark of Shame points) for the rest of his life. People are seen reacting with predictable fear and disgust as he walks among them.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: A police officer offhandedly mentions that it took two days to try and get a confession out of Joe for murdering Bethany's father, while Matt did it in just 70 minutes. Which is about as much time as has passed to that point in the episode.
    Matt: [At the 67-minute mark] It wasn't really 70 minutes, not to him.
  • The Lost Lenore: Joe never got over his ex, in part because he thought she had had his child.
  • Loving a Shadow: Joe, despite wanting to be a father, doesn't even know what his daughter looks like due to the block. And the years of hoping build up. When his ex and the mother of his daughter dies, the block is lifted and he can see her for the first time. When he discovers that she's not his child, he undergoes Sanity Slippage, leading him to kill his ex's father.
  • Madness Mantra: Joe repeatedly asks Bethany's father "Where is my daughter?" after finding out the truth about May.
  • Mark of Shame: The Home Office agrees to release Matt as per their agreement, but he is placed on the Sex Offenders' Register. This means that he is blocked by everyone in the country, unable to see them, and visible to them as a red silhouette instead of a grey one. People are seen reacting with predictable fear and disgust as he walks among them.
  • Meaningful Release Date: December 16 is the birthday of none other than Philip K. Dick. This might be a coincidence, though.
  • Mind Prison: The fate of Joe's cookie, trapped for the next millions of years in a virtual world with an increasingly-grating song playing every minute. For added horror, the legality of this seems based entirely on the fact that Cookies have no legal rights.
  • Mood Lighting: The cabin scenes as Matt and Joe open up to each other are warm and golden, considering they're supposed to be Christmas scenes by the fireplace. Near the end, as Joe realizes that something isn't right about the place, the lighting turns cold and blue.
  • Murder-Suicide: Jennifer plans to poison both Harry and herself. She succeeds.
  • Nested Story Reveal: When Matt departs from the cabin.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero:
    • An argument about Bethany's pregnancy was what drove Joe's story. If Bethany had just talked to Joe about the baby and admitted that it wasn't his, she and her family might not have ended up dead.
    • Additionally, had Joe not called Beth a baby killer, she wouldn't have been mad enough to block him. And if she had gotten the abortion, he'd never have found out that she cheated on him, leading him to kill her father and, indirectly, her daughter.
    • If Bethany's father hadn't burned the letters that Joe sent her without letting her see them, there might have been a chance to explain and defuse the situation as much as possible.
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain: Had Matt not tried to sneak out of his home to get rid of the evidence of a murder, at the very least provide a feasible excuse to do it in the midst of the night or even reported the murder as he should have, he wouldn't have been completely blacklisted from society and flagged as a sex offender.
  • No Ontological Inertia: Blocks are lifted as soon as the blocker dies, which also affects the blocking of their offspring.
  • Once for Yes, Twice for No: This is how Harry communicates with Matt when in public. When Matt assumes Harry fancies the blonde, the latter tabs his bottle twice for "no".
  • One Dialogue, Two Conversations: Harry and Jennifer are discussing the lameness of the people around them and how she wants to leave them soon; Harry thinks they are talking about her co-workers and her quitting her job while Jennifer is actually talking about the voices in her head and killing herself.
  • One Drink Will Kill the Baby: Joe seems to be a believer in this, as he's aghast when Bethany gets drunk after she finds out she's pregnant.
  • Onscreen Chapter Titles: Each of the five parts is opened and closed with a Title Card.
  • Papa Wolf: Beth's father grabs a knife when he demands that Joe leave him and Beth's daughter alone, both due to his own dislike of the man and to protect his granddaughter.
  • The Peeping Tom: Harry's group of dating experts is a whole club of these. By the sounds of it, they take it in turns to go on dates with the end goal of getting to see some very personal porn.
  • Percussive Shutdown: Joe's cookie tries in vain to do this to the radio playing "I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday" as his time perception is sped up to a thousand years a minute.
  • Plea Bargain: Matt helps the police in their investigations and is acquitted of his own crimes, but he's still placed on the "list" and blocked by everyone.
  • Polar Madness: At first appears to be the case with Joe, given that the story seems set in an isolated outpost situated somewhere deep in a snowy wilderness; Joe has great difficulty even speaking to Matt at first, demonstrates odd aversions to certain songs on the radio, and the sight of a clock on the wall appears to upset him. It's all a Virtual-Reality Interrogation: Joe's perceptions of time have been altered so he'd perceive an hour of interrogation as five years trapped in the outpost, and his strange aversions are due to the clock and the songs being unpleasant reminders of the crime he committed.
  • Police Brutality: Holder and Fenn commit one of the most extreme examples against Joe's cookie when they force him to spend 2,000,000 years in a virtual log cabin, forced to listen to the same Christmas song over and over and over.
  • Poor Communication Kills: Bethany's refusal to discuss her pregnancy with Joe, blocking and then avoiding all contact with him, ultimately drives him to murder her father and leads to the death of her orphaned daughter.
  • Powered by a Forsaken Child: People who pay for Cookies have their houses and schedules run by a mentally broken digital clone of themselves, which is fully conscious, forever trapped and unable to do anything else.
  • Red Herring: A close-up is done of Bethany's father holding a knife as he tells Joe to leave his house. The viewer is led to believe that a fight occurs between him and Joe that leads to his death. Instead Joe, in a fit of rage, hits him on the head with a snow globe, which kills him.
  • Reed Richards Is Useless: The cookies are exact copies of the entire being, actions, feelings and preferences of their human counterparts save the body; the implications and possibilities of this technology are astonishing, but in the episode they are shown to be used just as a fancy way to avoid programming your own preferences in your automated home. And to get confessions out of suspected murderers.
  • Removed from the Picture: What blocking does. Not only in photographs but also in real life, where the blocked person looks like a grey featureless silhouette with garbled speech.
  • Residual Self-Image: "Cookie" copies don't appear to age, grow hair, get dirty or change their clothes.
  • The Reveal: Two big ones: Joe realizing that the girl isn't his child, and his cookie realizing that he is a cookie being pressed for a confession.
  • The Rich Have White Stuff: The wealthy Greta lives in a posh Smart House with lots of white and minimalist furnishings.
  • Rule of Scary:
    • Even by dystopian standards, legalizing what amounts to parental child abduction of the worst possible kind makes no sense, but then we wouldn't have the horrific And I Must Scream.
      • On the other hand, this may be Fridge Brilliance. What Bethany does to Joe isn't parental abduction. She might be allowed to do it specifically because he's not May's father. Rule of Scary still stands, however, because the question of what rules, if any, govern the system goes unanswered.
    • Also, what's keeping the blocked sex offender from grabbing the nearest grey silhouette and bashing their head against the wall? The police essentially drop a live grenade into a crowd to punish the grenade.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here: When Jennifer kills Harry, Matt and his group of pick up artists quickly disconnect and attempt to destroy all evidence of their involvement, it doesn't work.
  • Self-Deprecation: Matt realises that many people get sick of his superficial charm before long.
    Matt: Some might say that five years with me is punishment enough.
  • Sensei for Scoundrels: Matt's job as a date doctor. Includes him Playing Cyrano via Earpiece Conversation.
  • Shout-Out:
    • The first guess Joe makes as to what Matt's real job is? Marketing director.
    • The distorted appearance of blocked individuals is reminiscent of a scramble suit.
  • Smart House: Managed by a digital copy of the homeowner's consciousness to boot.
  • Snow Globe of Innocence: Joe buys a snow globe as a present for his daughter. In an unfortunate chain of events the globe leads to her death and becomes an Arc Symbol in his guilt trip.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: "I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday" playing over the Downer Ending.
  • Tantrum Throwing: When Joe's girlfriend blocks him, in his rage he picks up a vase and tosses it on the wall across the room.
  • Time Abyss: Joe's cookie's fate, or at least the first of them anyway, is to be thrown into one. He's left "on over Christmas", forced to listen to "I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday" on an infinite loop, experiencing 1000 years for every minute that passes in the real world. Even if it's just for 24 hours, that's still 1,440,000 years watching the frozen corpse of a little girl through the window, with "I Wish It Would Be Christmas Everyday" playing nonstop on a loop about 164,050,580,794 times.
  • Tomato in the Mirror: Joe's cookie realizing that he is a cookie causes him to have another breakdown.
  • Trauma Button: Hearing the song "I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday" causes Joe psychological trauma because it reminds him of how he accidentally caused the death of Beth's father and her daughter, May. The song is played again at the end, but it becomes worse because not only is it played on repeat but Joe's attempts to stop the music make it play louder.
  • Unperson: In an extension of the Facebook feature, the Block function on the Z-Eye turns the blocked person into a fuzzy grey silhouette, with only muffled audio. Registered sex offenders are automatically blocked by everyone, and they appear as red silhouettes.
  • Unreliable Voiceover: Matt; the very first segment makes it clear he's not to be trusted when he tells Joe that he was the only person watching his client as he crashed an office party, when in reality he was streaming it to several others. Later on, he claims he learned of his client's death in the news, when he saw it happen on screen with his own eyes. And, in a much bigger narrative lie, he isn't Joe's coworker, but rather his interrogator.
  • Viewer-Friendly Interface: Lampshaded and justified. When Greta's cookie asks which button to use to make toast, Matt explains, "It doesn't matter. You already know you're making toast; the buttons are symbolic mostly anyway."
  • Vignette Episode: "White Christmas" uses the old horror movie format of three twisted tales connected by a frame story. In this case, the frame story has its own twist which builds on elements from each of the shorter tales.
  • Villainous BSoD: While not quite a villain, this trope applies. The real Joe went completely mute and barely responsive after he was arrested for the murder of Bethany's father and the resulting death of her child in the cold, forcing the police to make a cookie version of him to interrogate.
  • Villain Protagonist:
    • Matt at first seems like a fairly agreeable man, encouraging Joe to converse with him after years of silence. However, as it turns out, he was only trying to force a confession of Joe's crime out of his cookie so that he could get a more lenient sentence for his own crime. Not that this ends well for him. And that's not to mention the dubiousness of his own side-gig, streaming someone's eyesight to other people while they try and seduce women in order to host some very personal, unscripted porn without the woman's knowledge or consent.
    • Whether Joe is one is a huge question of the last segment. He killed the father and, indirectly, the daughter of the love of his life. But to what extent he should be held responsible for his actions is extremely ambiguous, as his killing of the father was done in a spontaneous fit of rage, and he likely hadn't meant to kill him, judging by just how remorseful he is.
  • Virtual-Reality Interrogation: This is the episode's plot twist — Matt and Joe being stuck in a cabin together was just a simulation so Matt could get a confession out of Joe's cookie.
  • Wham Line: This exchange.
    Holder: It means you're blocked.
    Matt: ...By who?
    Holder: By everyone.
  • Wham Shot: Beth's daughter turning around to reveal partial East Asian heritage is a big shock to both Joe and the audience. This alone recontextualizes Joe's entire story and rapidly accelerates his mental breakdown and eventual crime.
  • What Measure Is a Non-Human?: Most people appear to view cookies as a bunch of code rather than an intelligent being, and thus have no issue with subjecting them to virtual slavery or casually committing And I Must Scream levels of mental torture on them.
  • White Void Room: Greta's cookie is doomed to live in one.
  • With Catlike Tread: On his way out to Destroy the Evidence, Matt clumsily stumbles over his daughter's toys on the landing, one of which starts playing loud music, which wakes up his wife and prompts her to investigate.
  • Year Inside, Hour Outside: One of the things that can be done to the Cookies' virtual environment.

Well, I wish it could be Christmas everyday...
When the kids start singing and the band begins to play...


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Black Mirror White Christmas, Black Mirror Christmas Special


Virtual Greta

Digital clones who refuse to obey orders have to be broken in through simulated isolation, perceiving minutes as months spent in white void. Greta's cookie lasts for about six months of simulated time before breaking under the strain.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (14 votes)

Example of:

Main / GoMadFromTheIsolation

Media sources: