Warning: this review contains spoilers.
White Bear was the second episode in the new series of Charlie Brooker’s Black Mirror and it began as a zombie apocalypse story similar to Dead Set in its unflinching violence.
Lenora Chrichlow and Tuppence Middleton in Brooker’s Black Mirror.
Victoria (Lenora Crichlow), who has lost her memory, is being chased by “hunters” who wear masks and carry electric carving knives, baseball bats and shotguns. At the same time, the public follow her with camera phones held aloft, snapping photos and videos of the scenes they deem to be hilarious.
She runs into some other innocents at a petrol station and becomes part of their plan to knock out the transmitter that is causing the chaos. I was needlessly worried that Brooker had written an unnecessary, though extremely tense, rehash of the hysterically gruesome Dead Set, but of course, he hadn’t.
At a crucial moment, just when you’re completely invested in the lame idea of disabling the transmitter, the backdrop opened outwards to reveal a jeering audience. For a moment, it’s easy to believe they’re jeering at us for having believed such a disturbing apocalypse story but they weren’t; it was aimed at Victoria, who had been convicted of videoing her fiancé’s murder of a little girl – this disturbing world now acting as a sort of eternal punishment to be enjoyed by others.
The “hunter” (Michael Smiley, Tyres in Spaced), who had chased Victoria with a shotgun and threatened to torture her with a power drill, gleefully reveals all: this is Victoria’s sentence, to wake up every day without a memory and be chased by knife-wielding actors.
At this point in the Black Mirror series, it is easy to see this falls into the category of, in Brooker’s words, “the way we might be living in 10 minutes time if we’re clumsy.” It is an episode about voyeurism, a subject that he frequently discusses in his various Wipe shows, in relation to rolling news and the coverage of criminals.
“In ten minutes time”, we could become a society that focuses on punishment rather than rehabilitation, a society in which we’re obsessed with knowing every detail about crime scenes and criminals and a society in which justice is merely a façade that serves no productive purpose.
As is now expected from Brooker, the script was fantastic because it doesn’t treat you like an idiot – it makes you do some work to understand what was going on.
Critchlow was good, although her performance began to wear thin by the end, as a confused, out-of-breath and then screamy victim of justice.
The performance of the episode certainly came from Smiley, whose portrayal of the creepily gleeful MC of the “justice park” (called While Bear) was tempered by his final scene, in which he crosses another day off Victoria’s calendar, hinting at the scale of this torturous sentence.
Needless to say, episode three is eagerly anticipated.
We’re reviewing each episode shortly after it airs. Keep your eyes peeled for our take on episode three. Episode two (which worried us quite a bit) is reviewed here.