blogging by Andrew Wickliffe

Black Mirror (2011) s02e02 – White Bear

White Bear feels contractually obligated, which is strange since it’s got a script credit to series creator Charlie Brooker. Maybe it just fell apart in production, too; Bear crumbles about halfway through, and it’s a short episode already—around forty-one minutes. It begins with Lenora Crichlow waking up in an empty house, apparently having just survived a suicide attempt, pictures of her husband and daughter downstairs, but she’s got amnesia, so she can’t be sure they’re her family. Her neighbors all look at her from their windows, then run around and take pictures of her with their smartphones.

None of them know how to turn off the shutter sound.

Carl Tibbetts directs and, for much of the episode, does the best directing in a “Black Mirror” yet. Of course, it’s not a particularly high bar, but Tibbetts’s work is quite good. After chasing one of the onlookers, Crichlow finds herself on the run from a man in a mask, shooting at her with a shotgun. His mask has a symbol on it, which she (and the audience) have already seen on the TVs in her house. Nothing makes any sense!

Then Crichlow happens across Tuppence Middleton, who’s just trying to survive in this dystopia. Middleton gives Crichlow some information on the ground situation—one day, everyone got a text on their smartphones, looked at it, and all became obsessive voyeurs. Except the people who go out and kill and torture for the amusement of the obsessive voyeurs.

Presumably unintentionally, Middleton’s a lot more compelling than Crichlow. Maybe because she knows what’s going on, and Crichlow doesn’t have any character development because amnesia. And because reveal.

Before the reveal, the episode has time to introduce fellow survivor Michael Smiley, who’s playing a medley of caricatures. Even after the reveal and all the stakes have changed, Middleton’s still more compelling than Crichlow.

It’s half a good episode, but then still a bad one.

Tibbetts, though. Tibbetts does just fine.

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