JON Hamm was the standout star in the ‘Christmas special’ of Charlie Brooker’s acclaimed Black Mirror tonight.
The episode came after Series Two ended in February 2013 and Series One, whose first episode drew in 2.07million viewers, hit screens two years ago in 2012. This time around it was a 90-minute episode split in to three, 30-minute mini stories. Even that principle is hard to get one’s head around but what actually follows in the episode, in keeping with true Black a Mirror fashion, is just as difficult to digest.
This one might be as controversial as previous episodes – the series’ very first episode featured a fictional Prime Minister having intercourse with a pig – but it is, in a similar vein to the past six episodes, a very apt social commentary, showing us just what may happen if we did have the ability to do some of the things social media gives us the impression we can do. Brooker, the man behind the show, told the Guardian in 2011: “Each episode has a different cast, a different setting, even a different reality. But they’re all about the way we live now – and the way we might be living in 10 minutes’ time if we’re clumsy.”
The surprise inclusion of an American in Hamm in an otherwise all-British cast turned out to be a master stroke, as the man most famous for his portrayal of Don Draper assumed the role of Matt Trent, a cool yet cunning man involved in the darkest possible depths of the cyber world, with ease.
The episode begins rather unspectacularly, with Wizzard providing the ever-present soundtrack, as Joe Potter (Rafe Spall) wakes up in a snowy cottage on Christmas to a dinner being cooked by Hamm. Why? You’ll soon find out in the form of flashback, often used like a cliché but on this occasion, executed brilliantly.
Initially it seems, through telling his tale to Joe Potter on this dystopian December 25, he is a coach for singles in the future, seeing the world through a man named Harry (played by Rasmus Hardiker)’s eyes and guiding him through his efforts to find a girlfriend at an office party – including what he wears and even his trips to the bathroom!
Hamm’s character’s ‘real’ job is ‘copying’ people. Oona Chaplin, of Game of Thrones fame, hires Matt Trent to ‘copy’ her, to make her life more easily controllable. However, the ‘copy’ is resigned to a life of making toast and little more.
He continues to regale his story to Joe while crafting a Christmas lunch but receiving little dialogue in return from his acquaintance. The episode then shifts into the premise that a person can ‘block’ other people from their lives, just like in social media. It is at this point where Joe Potter opens up, telling his story of an idyllic relationship that turns sour, and ends with him being ‘blocked’ by his pregnant girlfriend. It turns out that when one is ‘blocked’ by somebody else, they don’t just disappear visually and aurally as seen on screen – each person turns into an anonymous, greyed out, silent character – but memories disappear.
As the episode segways into the final 30-minute stanza the tale turns sour, and even rather sad, with viewers feeling apologetic towards Potter. Thanks to being ‘blocked’ by his now estranged pregnant girlfriend he is unable to see or hear his newborn baby, even to the point where he does not know whether it is a boy or a girl.
The acting between Hamm and Spall is great in parts, with Hamm’s inviting portrayal of his character keeping the audience hooked. Spall incites a sense of unease about the viewer, his reluctance to open up to both Hamm and the audience leaves us wanting more. We relate to the awkward Harry (Hardiker) in the first segment of the episode as he bumbles about a staff party looking for love.
All in all, even Black Mirror: White Christmas’s length doesn’t make our attention stray. At 90 minutes in duration, it is long enough to be classed as a film and the standard of the casting, the cast’s acting, and the cinematography means it could just as easily be that.
Speaking of social media, here is how Twitter reacted to the programme:
— Robert Bester (@besterbothworld) December 16, 2014
Well, #BlackMirror did not disappoint.
— Matt Oliver (@mattroliver) December 17, 2014
— Tom Cullen (@tomcullenactor) December 16, 2014