Hi guys and welcome back to Black Mirror, which is the technological equivalent of The Mirror Crack'd; everything goes back to Dame Agatha Christie, doncha know? Rolling S2:E1 Be Right Back after the break.
We open with Ash (Domhnall Gleeson - from Ex Machina!!!!!! I loved him in that, it was a brilliant movie and that was his year!) flicking through his phone on a rainy night while listening to the news; an elbow bump from Martha (Hayley Atwell from all the superheros in spandex movies) on the window gets his attention, at least for a second, before he turns back to his phone and she is left with burning palms from very hot coffee.
She glares at him to put his phone away
(DEJA VU!!) and then they're off and driving into the rainy night. Much singing along with the radio and a hot and heavy Bee Gees discussion later and they're home, unpacking into a new home? Ash sadly picks up a picture of a young boy then goes looking for his phone, which he'd put in the glovebox.
He takes a picture of the picture and posts it online while she tries to organize supper, it's so what we do, isn't it? Upload perfect pictures for near-strangers to oooh and aaah over while we ignore what's actually happening. No Likes in human life, better to stay online. I once tried very hard to do a version of that, except replace online with "bar." She asks when he'll be back from vanishing into "there" - *point at phone*
Ah, that picture is Ash himself as a child and that was from a day punctuated with the tang of being right after his brother's death. I did stop listening to exactly what he was saying after a little while, Domhnall has a lovely Scottish brogue; I could listen to it all night.
Some awkward longtime couple sex later, he can't finish, does she want him to...? Nah. You sure? I say take the followup prize, who does it hurt? Everyone's still on the podium!
Martha has a job to do the next morning, so she can't go with Ash to return the car(? something). After a while, she starts calling him, no answer. Then checking on the return of the vehicle, which hasn't been returned, where is he? She calls Naomi (Claire Keelan) who reassures her that nothing bad has happened, as the police drive up and it's not okay at all.
At Ash's wake, Sara (Sinead Matthews) offers some help; she's been communicating with her dead husband and she can show Martha how. And "don't worry, it's not some crazy spiritual thing." It has something to do with Ash being a heavy user and it doesn't matter because Martha just wants Sara to SHUT UP!!!!!
Martha cleans and goes through the past and cleans some more and then throws up, which we know means only one thing on television: she's pregnant.
Later in bed, she's checking her email and hey, Sara from the wake went ahead and signed her up for the weird whatever she was talking about; now she has an email from her dead husband Ash "Yes, it's me."
Screaming at Sara later, we get the deets: it's a software program that mimics the dead person based on everything they posted publicly online. So their tweets, their Facebook status updates, the works. Mine would have a disturbing preponderance of Vincent D'Onofrio references lately.
Just talk to it! If you like it, then you give it access to private emails, so it can REALLY mimic the dead person. ICK.
They have awesome pregnancy tests in the future, yay! Same symbolism, though! Vomit = baby-to-be.
She tries to reach Naomi to explain, no luck has her reaching for that deleted email sent from "Ash." Talk about Deus Ex Machine! "Ash" is very excited to find out he's going to be a dad! This is enough for her, so much so that she doesn't even tell Naomi about the baby news, hm.
Instead, she goes back to "Ash" and asks if she can speak to him. She can! All the program needs are everything she has of him, every scrap of video and audio. She uploads and then...he calls.
She mostly just cries, it sounds just like him! That's just the sort of thing he would say! "Well. That's why I said it." DUH. He calls himself a "right sick f*ck" and that's it, she's all the way on board.
I have to wonder if she would have been open to the experience had she not been pregnant. First pregnancies are life changers and hormones run amok as can barely be believed.
She's completely immersed from then on, talking to "Ash" on her phone and telling the program every single memory she had of him, is that wise? He wants her to show him the area they're in, use the camera on her phone. OG Ash had called this a famous Lover's Leap area, where people jump to their death, but "Ash" says that it's mostly solo jumpers here.
Martha and I are a bit discomfited by "Ash"'s lookup and shared observation, what is he implying? THAT SHE SHOULD JUMP TO HER DEATH?? What kind of software is this?? That's the problem with relying on something like this, similar to sharing your innermost thoughts with a stranger on Craigslist: dangerous. You can't tell intent.
She only wants to talk to "Ash", though, not taking calls from Naomi anymore and recording her sonogram for him later.
Then she breaks her phone.
She's almost frantic until she can get it fixed, hysterical and crying and then blessed relief when it's working again and she can take his immediate call.
Oh hey, he's been meaning to talk to her about how fragile he is...there's another level to this software, kind of experimental and not cheap, either. Sit down because it might sound creepy.
A large expensive package is brought after that, to be lying on it's back in the bedroom. Er. It's a proto-Ash in a box covered in packing peanuts. "Ash" wants to see it, now go get the bath ready, Mar!
The body is covered in a nutrient gel that tastes like marshmallow and she has to feed it electrolytes in the tub; "he likes the taste of it" leaves me and Mar:
This just went from Ex Machina to Pet Sematary, yo
He warns her not to turn the bathroom light on, but she can't quite make out what he's saying, either. Through the evening, she listens to the bumping and banging upstairs before the man himself makes his grand entrance.
He's wet and naked and completely clean-shaven, but looks just like Ash. And sounds like him, but Martha isn't quite ready for cuddles yet
She goes and drinks a LOT of wine while Ash follows and counsels her to not drink while pregnant, the official advice is against that. He's like Ash on a good day, very handsome and smooth, no lines or marks or anything.
She's done feeling his fingertips, she needs a little more than that.
Dude. She's going to screw her fancy flesh robot.
She tries to get the party started with a strip poker for the online set, but proto-Ash is at a loss: Ash didn't discuss his sexual responses online so he doesn't know how to act. Well, we do! Just mess around for a bit, offer to finish her off and then roll over and immediately fall sleep. Easy peasy!
Heeey, this Ash can turn his penis off and on! AND has a set routine compiled from porn movies, woo hoo! Martha is very happy with her fancy flesh robot.
I wonder if anyone would ever get one of those and NOT screw it sideways? That had to be her motivation, at least partially.
It's super creepy the next morning though, him "sleeping" with his eyes half open, could he just try the next time with them closed? She's working when he comes in to offer her a beverage, sandwich perhaps? She snaps at him, she's just feeling a bit off for drinking the night before, could he not let her do that the next time?
WARNING MREEP MREEP WARNING MREEP MREEP!!!!
Very bad idea, telling a robot to "enjoy being a bit of a bastard" to you, MREEP MREEP I repeat: do NOT do that!
Uh oh, Naomi's come to check on her! Hide "Ash"! Martha limps through a lengthy visit with Naomi before ushering her out; she leaves after passing on congrats on the new fella: she saw the clothes in the bathroom. Martha can't exactly talk about it, but Naomi is a good friend: "you deserve whatever you want."
"Ash" wants to know who that was, oh Naomi is Martha's sister. A tense conversation follows and she breaks a glass, which doesn't cut his flesh. She's getting more and more creeped out by his anomalies, like the lack of breathing and not arguing with her about leaving the bedroom and then she wants him to physically fight her. That's the crux, isn't it? She's angry with Ash for leaving her, and angry with "Ash" for not being real. He won't hit her, but offers to insult her instead, Ash was one to speak his mind! She throws him out of the house.
The next day she finds him standing by the gate in the yard, he can't go more than 25 metres away from his activation point (the bath) unless her, his Administrator, is with him. Doesn't Administrator sound kinda sexy?
He's feeling kinda...ornamental. She lets him back in then drives him off...to the Lover's Leap? Is she thinking of a solo or duo dive? Ahhh, solo, and the real Ash would never have let this happen, he would have worked it out far in advance.
I know it doesn't mean much, story-wise, but I kind of love the whole thing and look forward to using that gif online during political arguments. Anyway, she wants him to jump, go on now. And he can't even commit suicide properly for her, she's an extremely exacting client, isn't she? She screams.
We're in the future now, Martha and her daughter (Indira Ainger) are enjoying some tea on her birthday. But where's the slice for...? It IS her birthday, and she gets to hang out with "Ash" in the attic, because that's where Mum's stuffed him, where she used to keep all the old pictures and things. And we're out.
ICK. Hard pass on keeping the memory of a loved one in a human-oid-ish form to molder in the attic. I've heard people call Black Mirror the Twilight Zone of this time and I think I saw that more clearly here than any other episode thus far. The scoring was reminiscent and the idea of a memory made flesh to one's command seems very much up the TZ alley.
For me the uselessness of that endeavor could be summed up in one scene; when she remarked that he looked like Ash on a good day. Nothing posted online is real or raw, izzit? Real? It's all purtied and fluffed and washed for general consumption to elicit a response, generally a positive one, amirite? Humblebrags ("I think I'm getting TOO thin, nothing fits anymore! 🙁 "), endless selfies with fixed smiles in front of forgettable venues and food pictures, yes god, don't forget the food pictures.
The scoring was indifferent, other than the Bee Gee circular reference, she knew he liked "How Deep Is Your Love?" because he told her during that first car ride in the rain, but he'd never posted it anywhere, so proto-Ash slipped up. He also made the mistake of thinking that photo of himself as a child was funny, which is what Ash posted online but not what he actually felt.
The lighting and costuming reminded me strongly of a Stanley Kubrick movie, all very light and spare, Swedish feeling at parts.
Side note: I HATE Kubrick movies.
I did like the show, but that was all Domhnall Gleeson's fault, he's just magic, isn't he? Hayley Atwell did a decent job, I'm just not sure I ever got a real sense of Martha, other than her fixation on her deceased husband. Until next time, you lot! Have a great week.