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I was skeptical on Black Mirror at first, considering it to be decent, but leaning a bit too heavily on an angle of human misery and relying on style over substance. Currently halfway through season three, the show has grown on me, and while I do think it has a lot of style over substance, many episodes are still compelling watches.
Not so White Bear, the midpoint of the second season. This seems to be the most famous episode of the second season, between the more low-key Be Right Back and the fan un-favorite The Waldo Moment. Having watched The Waldo Moment shortly after this one I have to wonder why that one gets so much flack. The Waldo Moment has, at least, a main character with a personality and a vague arc, some strong dialogue, and social commentary that turned out to be rather prescient.
White Bear has two main problems. The first is that its protagonist is ultimately a completely passive character who has no real characterization or arc. The lead actress (who I assume would be fine given a decent script) is wasted on material that gives her no opportunities to do much besides wail and moan. The second lies in a fundamental issue with the plot. To wit, the entire thing hinges around a plot twist that comes fifteen minutes before the end of the episode. The show proceeds to spend ten minutes after the audience now understands everything wasting time by shining a light on a minor supporting character the audience likely doesn't care about.
The big problem with the twist, despite the fact that it drags on for way too long, is the fact that it doesn't make any sense. The show wants to make a point of social commentary, but the cynical misanthropy at the core fails to take into account how anything in the real world works, fancy technology or not.
It's also not helped by the way the episode feels so darn pleased with itself.
It's a real stinker. I hope I don't encounter any more episodes as bad as this one.
I hated that episode; it exemplifies a lot of the problems I tend to have with Black Mirror; firstly, it has this dishonest mystery element to it, full of clues towards something that you are meant to ruminate over. It turns out the something is so far removed from anything sensible that you could work out, you feel cheated; it\'s along the lines of \"HA! It\'s all a dream!\" in terms of cheapness as a twist.
Secondly, even before the twist, most of the story is simply watching an individual suffer a lot for no apparent reason. The show is very careful to establish the character is the victim of something crazed and unjust - but then the twist tries to pull the rug on the viewer by saying \"HA! The victim was a baddy! And I made you feel sorry for them!\" It\'s like Kafka comedy, if Kafka would then lose his nerve and try to retrospectively offer some justification for why the world is treating an innocent person like crap.
Thirdly, the twist is so ridiculous that it would only work in an impossible, surrealist setting... which White Bear definitely wasn\'t for 90% of the time. Before the twist, it\'s a weird situation, but one that is deliberately made to look grounded and real. Then by the end, the twist requires its setting and its people to join in an all consuming, convoluted conspiracy for morons.
A few of the episodes work feature those shitty ingredients; an idiot plot, disguised as something smarter (Nosedive). A needlessly cruel premise that\'s weirdly satisfied with how inventive it is at being cruel (White Christmas). A mystery and twist that feels completely artificial, and again, really pleased with itself (Shut Up and Dance).
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