Black Mirror S1:E2 Fifteen Million Merits Recap

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Hi there. I've recovered from the horror of the first episode of Black Mirror where (to sum it up in one line): neo-David-Cameron had to roger Babe to save faux-Princess-Diana. I was not happy. HOWEVER. I hear not every episode requires a day of soul searching and mind-bleaching, so I'm ready to give it another go. Who's with me?

We open with Bing (Daniel Kaluuya) being gently awoken with in his cube by lights and music; I say cube but it could as easily be a cell. It's about that size. Upon sitting up, he signs in to see he has 15 million merits, a number that seems to change with every single thing he does, from brushing his teeth to smiling.

In the bathroom, the program WraithBabes asked if he wants to resume Y/N? Who WOULDN'T want to see the hottest girls in the nastiest situations? Me, I would not like to see any girls in nasty situation, fanks. He doesn't have time anyway, time to put in your Abba Earbuds and hit it!

He travels in an elevator with 5 other young beautiful people, all listening at Abba in various states of happiness. One guys is grooving in the back but the woman in front looks worried. I hope she's not being put in a nasty situation.

Exercise time for everyone, people of varying sizes working away on stationery bikes. Bing chooses his screen and the Abba cover cuts oot. He's earning credits while cycling, so is Dustin (Paul Popplewell) who is really enjoying watching fat people have their clothing torn off while being sprayed with high pressure hoses. Bing gets a notification of Dustin's approval on his screen while pedaling bike #324, all the closeups indicates That Means Something.

Swift (Isabella Laughland) has been watching Bing, stepping forward to help him with his vending machine apple purchase. Even in the future, those things suck arse.

After "lunch", everyone's back on bikes enjoying some more telly. Dustin's checking in on the WraithBabes and just when he's grinding one out against his bikeseat in "Slitsville" the attendant interrupts, which unleashes a barrage of abuse against her. He's commenting on her weight, I gather, but she doesn't seem all that big, does she? She's got less body fat than he does, I can see that right off but he calls her a "pie ape" after some gratuitous humiliation.

Good to see the future still has all those double standards intact!

He stops shouting at her to make fun of one of the other men on the bikes, he's really struggling.

Back in his cube, Bing's playing some shooter video games when a show interrupts: Hot Shot is some kind of entertainment program, similar to The Voice and American Idol. The competitors were all bike jockeys like them to start. He doesn't want to watch, but skipping incurs a penalty, which he takes after he checks his credits. Back to shoot 'em up!

But no, Wraith Babes has taken over the screen. He shuts his eyes and falls back on the bed in resignation while the screens scream around him: RESUME VIEWING. He reluctantly opens his eyes while the announcer prompts "Hey, what else were you going to do with that hand?"

It's different in the elevator the next morning, a beautiful young woman Abi (Jessica Brown Findlay) gets on and Bing is immediately drawn. He can't stop looking at her.

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The struggling man from yesterday isn't on his bike, Dustin says he's "gone lemon" which doesn't sound good, whatever it means. Ginger Kai (Colin Carmichael) is picking through hairstyles for his doppel (avi) on his screen, Swift thinks the red afro is a bit much but I think it's brilliant. He settles for a more usual style under the weight of her disapproval.

Dustin's watching Hot Shot now, the beautiful Selma Tesle (Hannah John-Kamen) explaining how gold really expressed who she is when the chubby struggler from the other day comes by; THAT'S what gone lemon means! They wear yellow. Dustin can't wait to rub it in to Oliver (David Fynn - looks exactly like a chubby Zac Efron: YES PEEZE)

Bing listens to a woman singing in the washroom; Abi has a voice like a bell! I'm sure that's her. It is and he can't stop staring at her. I can't stop staring at the fact that they have screens everywhere, even in the can.

He tries to make small talk

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but Wraith Babes outs him as a regular user: wanna get caught up on all the hot girls in nasty situations? He canea get it off fast enough and it's as funny as it is sad. Who hasn't felt that mortification?

Ahhh Swift has noticed Bing's fascination with the new biker, she looks so young and so sad all at once. At lunch, Abi folds an origami penguin and places it on her bike, to have it cleared by Oliver as detritus. She notices Bing then.

Is it wrong that I'm wondering what show there is like Wraith Babes for the female gaze?

Bing uses the vending maching trick he learned from Swift to strike up a proper conversation with Abi, you know, out of the washroom and all. I've not heard him talk until then, really! He sits with her, he loved her voice in the washroom! She rolls her eyes, gently

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She learned that song from her mum, who learned it from her mum: it's a hand-me-down. He pushes, she should be on Hot Shot! She needs 12 (thousand? Million?) merits just to enter, she'd rather eat fanks. He pushes further: she has a gift. And he'll give her the 12 million (millions!) credits to enter, he has that to spare. He got it from his brother, who died last year. Maybe that's why he's been so robotic.

He wants to give her the credits, but doesn't he want to buy some cool cyber stuff with his clockage? None of that is real, though, it doesn't mean anything and her singing does. It's the first real thing that's happened this year. She refuses to take it; he'll go with her! He'll force her!

What are the rules on falling in love and fornication in this Big Brother-y Marathon-Man-y future?

Back in his room, he orders an entry ticket but the price has changed: it's now 15 million merits, which is almost all he has. He takes it, leaving him just over 9000 for himself. Jeez.

She receives it in her room and sends back a cyber kiss and Wraith Babes's aggressive hyper-sexuality takes over. He uses 1500 of his merits to skip it.

She's babbling nervous the next day, she can't believe she's doing this. How did he talk her into it, anyway? She's made him an origami penguin as a present from the vending machine wrapping. He would like a kiss. Or a handtouch, and she gives him that. It was unexpectedly beautiful.

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They're branded walking through the doors at Hot Shot; it's chaos behind the doors. She gets picked right away for a preview on account of being so pretty, Hammond (Eugene O'Hare) escorts her through as an angry contestant protests. He doesn't pick the order! Glee (Kerrie Hayes) is furious, she's been here all week!

A producer walks her through a soundbite then she's taken right to the stage and handed a drink called Cuppliance. It's drugs and it's compulsory, fanks, sip to it. And like that, with no notice or warmup, she's in front of the massive crowd and judges.

Here we have Judge Hope (Ruper Everett), Judge Charity (Julia Davis) and Judge Wraith (Ashley Thomas) which must be a play on hope, faith and charity. Wraith MUST be associated with Wraith's Babes, right?

Judge Wraith would like her to lift up that top first, see those "titties" and I don't know if there is another word in the English language I hate more than that one. Dustin's excited, though! Judge Wraith plays at at it some more, but it's time for singing. Oh wow, her voice is gorgeous.

Judges Hope and Charity are blown away; Judge Wraith coldly appraising. Judge Hope stops Abi, that might have been the best piece they've heard all season. Kai is SUPER excited for her! But. Hope continues. He's with Wraith, Abi is so pretty and all along he couldn't stop thinking about her in "a erotic scenario", which means that she's being slotted over to Wraith's Babes instead of Hot Shot.

She has to decide right now; it's Wraith's Babes or the bike, what will it be? Bing is carted off screaming while Abi tries to figure out where everything went completely off the fucking plot; she dithers and Judge Hope has had enough of it. He wants a decision! This is it, not only is she being pushed into a decision she wasn't expecting, she's being attacked for taking too long to decide her life path and treated like nothing.

The crowd chants and Dustin cheers and everyone is pressure and that's it, with a whispered"I suppose" Abi has a new career in the porn industry that cannot wait to chew her up and spit her out.

Watch "Hot Girls Wanted" on Netflix if you can. It's a documentary on the current state of the porn industry and how young women fare.

Dustin's watching Abi's work on Wraith's Babes, interrupted by the female attendant again (Chloe Driver) who I looked up, she's fecking gorgeous.

Bing isn't eating healthy any more, he's having french fries and soda instead of an apple for lunch. He's back in his room when the mandatory Wraith Babes show comes on, it's time for Abi's full debut. He doesn't have enough credits to skip it this time. He loses it, screaming and throwing everything he can and smashing the screens.

He sees a shard of glass on the floor; he uses it to cut the Hot Shot branding on his hand and then sees the container for Cuppliance on the floor while Abi sings her song in the background while being "made a star" by Judge Wraith.

He's only working on building credits now, riding his bike in the middle of the night, conserving toothpaste, eating leftover scraps from other lunches. He's working hard while that Hot Shots branding is still active on his hand and practicing a dance routine in his room at night.

The branding is gone and he has his 15 million merits; what's his plan? He gets the ticket

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And ohhh. He has that shard of glass from the screens in his room. He's going for blood.

He waits backstage while Glee and everyone else dances and sing around him; Hammond gets a call for "an ethnic one"; looks like Bing is headed to the big time!

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He's brought the empty box of Cuppliance, so he won't even be drugged when he goes on stage, good planning, Bing. He starts off about right, dancing and taking his shirt off, to Swift and Judge Charity's delight, but then takes out his glass shard and holds it to his throat.

His speech is better heard in it's entirety, but it's a railing against the death of authenticity, the numbing of us, the culling of :fake fodder" and the end of wonder in it's natural form. Wonder, which is packaged and augmented and pressed through 20 thousand filters until it's a bunch of blinking nights in screens we can't turn off. It's turned into "one more ugly joke in a kingdom of ugly jokes."

Judge Hope respects his voice; it's the most heartfelt thing he's felt since Hot Shot began! He likes Bing's "stuff" and he'd like to hear him speak again.

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Judge Hope has just the stream for him; 30 minutes twice a week? He looks around as the crowd cheers, this is where Abi was not that long ago...

Oliver hit the upper weight limit for cleaners and has been bumped to Botherguts, where they torture fat people. Glee finally made it on stage, she's not a great singer. Judge Charity calls her "fundamentally unlikeable and really quite worthless." Glee fights back as Dustin turns the channel, bored. He even skips past Abi's video series, where she is ETERNALLY BEING FED A THUMB. Honestly!

Bing's still got the glass at his throat for his talks, Kai adds one to his doppel (avi) but Swift hasn't the time for it. She's back on The Rolling Road.

Bing ends his show and stores his glass shard carefully in it's velvet box, beside the large penguin statue he has on his desk next to his orange juice.

The song Abi was singing plays on while we're out to watching Bing stare at screens of nature. Here is the YouTube snippet

Well. Here we are at the end of another episode of Black Mirror kind of wanting to throw up. Again: a perfect snapshot of part of our society. The call to be famous, the drudgery of being poor and working for no real purpose or way to make a difference in your own life. Some "make it", if they're lucky enough to be able to prostitute or sell the essence of their beings in a way that is accessible for us to be marginally entertained. Before we switch to something else.

The five young people represent society: Dustin is the lowest common denominator, coarse and easily amused. Swift is very tightly contained, only releasing at home, madly jealous of those who have more than her and secretly coveting what others have. Her voice is dangerous as well, because it is poisoned by her anger and petulance based in her fear of making a change. Then we have Kai, who is just happy as long as SOMETHING exciting is happening, he doesn't examine it or ask questions about whether it's right to massively pressure an intoxicated and vulnerable young woman into a profession she hadn't previously considered. Oliver is representative of those struggling on the fringes, falling off and becoming fodder for farce, no longer human because they don't fit society's ideals. And finally Bing, who just wants to feel something REAL for once, who is corrupt at the end, realising that there IS nothing real and maybe it is all about nicer, bigger cells with better food choices.

Once more I feel as though I am part of the problem just by watching, certainly by reviewing reality TV programs. Some was exaggerated for effect (the screens screaming whenever Bing closed his eyes) but don't we always have a screen in our faces these days? Phone or TV or both, with a laptop on the side, for checking Facebook while catching a show that we DVRd last week and are chatting about on our phones?

How much dumbing down do we need? I guess enough so that we don't fight against governments that decide what REALLY happens without our input for the most part. How can there be a huge turnout for hockey or the Tragically Hip's final concert and less than half that in our last Canadian federal election?

How many debasing hoops do we demand our entertainers jump through to satisfy us? I can draw a straight line from Botherguts to the humiliation-entertainment of The Biggest Loser, how about The Walking Dead and it's torture-porn turn this last season? Remember all those dystopian future nightmare scenarios where people are murdered horribly on screen for the audience to pay-per-view? Tell me how that is different. Sure, actors are not really dying, but if we weren't connected to the characters, we wouldn't care, would we? We can at least turn it off in this reality, as I have done with The Walking Dead and so many others of late.

It's not just the reality TV and zombie genre realms that we've stuck our oar in on lately, is it? How about a write-in campaign about a writer's decision to kill off a beloved character on a much-loved show? That's putting your tweets where your mouth is, but is trying to influence art to make us feel a certain way the function of art? Must art always be palatable and like warm chocolate on a winter's day? Or can it also push us to question ourselves, our lives, the way things are, the way they aren't, like Black Mirror does on an irritatingly regular basis?

The fat-shaming, misogyny and forced sexuality that everyone was bombarded with reminded me of Sarai Walker's book Dietland, which everyone should read, honestly. It was also reminiscent of Mr. Robot; the "fuck society" speech from season one and all the contemplation of selling out in season two, minus all the mind-humping.

Until next time, you guys. Cheers