Black Mirror S1:E1 The National Anthem Recap


Hi everyone! I'm TalksTooMuch or TTM and I will be recapping this widely respected show Black Mirror for you! I don't know what it's about specifically, but I've had it recommended by more than one person, so I'm rolling! Starting with S1:E1 National Anthem after the break

We open with a couple asleep in bed, a buzzing phone almost wakes them up and then the landline ringing finishes the task. Michael (Rory Kinnear) answers finally while Jane Callow (Anna Wilson-Jones) tries to figure out what's going on from his side of the conversation.

Something's happened to Princess Susannah (Lydia Wilson) but he doesn't tell us what yet.

Princess Susannah looks miserable in the video. She cries on camera and tells the people behind the camera to not kill her. Unusual phrasing, it was in no way a plea. The six people watching, including Michael Callow, seem completely detached from how upset she is. The kidnappers want her to read a statement.

Oh! Michael Callow is the Prime Minister, no wonder he was so calm. And her life is in his hands, he must do exactly as instructed or they will kill her by 4pm this afternoon. Senior advisor Julian Hereford (Maester Luwin!!!! From Game of Thrones!! I mean Donald Sumpter) stops the tape at this point, they know for sure the woman is Princess Susannah (meant to be like Princess Di?) and before we go any further we also know the demand is a legitimate one... Callow is confused, what demands? Free jihadi? Money?


WHAT?? Another senior advisor Alex (Lindsay Duncan - from Sherlock Holmes!) breaks it to him gently: the demand involves the Prime Minister directly. The PM is to appear on live television on all networks and have full intercourse with a pig. Um

What?? He's relieved then: this is a joke, right? Nooope, no, well they don't have long to formulate a plan then. "I'm not f*cking a pig, that's page one" and this made me laugh out loud


Callow struts around in his robe directing the staff that already know this man will be f*cking a pig before high tea; not only has this already leaked, the video itself came from YouTube. If Princess Susannah ends up dead, everyone will know the Prime Minister lost a member of the royal family to some squeamishness over bestiality. I'm joking, that is totally not okay for the pig.


So the tape has gone wide, it's spread and there's no putting that particular genie back in the bottle. The press can't run anything, there's a ban straight from the PMs office, but everyone's already seen it. How many of you watch news and how many read it online? I try to only read ACTUAL news, but every bit of it is online these days. Instead mainstream media are covering the closure of an art exhibit; was there a pig in THAT exhibit?

In the UKN newsroom, editor in charge Martin (Alastair McKenzie) is still honouring the voluntary ban, but Malaika (Chetna Pandya) is pushing: the video is all ANYONE is talking about. He's trying to protect Princess Susannah's life, but drops that when he hears that the American networks are running it. He deliberately leaves Malaika out of the story.

Tom Blice (Tom Goodman-Hill) gets the bad news directly from Martin himself, he's furious but grabbed for a chat by Alex; they're working on contingency plans with Special Agent Callett (Alexander MacQueen). Callett's working with a renowned director to fake the filming, they want to map a face onto a live performer. By 2pm. Sure!

Nobody can figure where the threat is coming from; no known radical groups and just as people are wondering if it was a hoax after all, UKN's new report legitimizing everything comes on. Malaika isn't giving up that easily, she's working an insider at the PM's office, half-nekkid selfies and all.

Everything is on social media, just like her selfies! Guess who else is on social media and wants to know what the FECK is going on? Jane Callow; why is her husband lying to her? She confronts him; everyone is laughing at them! It's in their heads. That's what people do, feed on humiliation. She is taking this very personally.

The Queen is here.

The peanut gallery is reviewing the list of demands for filming, it's essentially based on the Dogme 95 manifesto by Lars Van Trier and Thomas Vinterberg, basically: un-manipulated and as authentic as possible.

UKN is holding live panels all day on what should be or could be done with regard to terrorist demands, but there's a break at the PMs office. They may know where the video originated, they may even have a location that isn't far. Go get the People's Princess!

I feel as though I should be shocked that people are taking the possible murder and coerced bestiality as entertainment, but that IS social media these days. It's not so much shocking as mind-numbing.

The actor Rod Senseless (Jay Simpson) has arrived for the "scene"; back at Downing Street the susceptible young man overhears about the possible location of the kidnappers and SENDS.THAT.TO.HIS.REPORTER.FRIEND. While it's in progress. While the princess could be killed if it's botched, while a man prepares to make an unholy union with a farm animal who has no stake in this matter, truly. Of course she'll use that, right after she sends him a picture of her vagina as payment.

Ohhhhh. Rod doesn't know the nature of his coworker for this particular scene.

Tom takes Michael aside for a bit of a pep talk; public opinion is on his side, this isn't the sort of thing they expect in England (do I infer that he believes it's expected elsewhere?), so bottom line: if the Princess is killed, the blood isn't on Michael's hands.

You know who's it is, though? Martin, literally, who gets a package in the mail with the princess's finger innit on ice. There's a video attached; with the notes: "I SAID NO CHEATING. ROD SENSELESS? PLEASE"

A man took a snap of Rod as he was walking in, a redhead with a lot of muscles, he must be connected.

UKN doesn't slow their coverage at all, in fact ramping it up with the grisly video of them removing the princess's finger. I assume, anyway, I didn't watch.

Michael puts this blame squarely on Alex; the video said no trickery! He didn't know this plan was afoot. Tom comes in with public opinion: it's no longer on Michael's side. Jane's made the mistake of reading Twitter comments; I've met some truly amazing people on Twitter, but just a glance at that was like reading anything during the election. Stomach churning. She's only paying attention the humiliating parts, which: to be fair, is most of it.

Everyone's thinking he should just do it. 86%. 86% of England thinks their Prime Minister should perform an illegal sex act, on camera, to save their Princess.

Wait: is this 86% of people, or 86% of social media, because we all know those polling numbers are shite after the 2016 American Presidential Election.

Michael sends the S.W.A.T. into the campus NOW. Malaika is ALSO there, all by herself, in the middle of a bunch of armed soldiers about to open up hell on a bunch of someones.

All of their hopes are pinned on this working...Malaika films from outside the room's a decoy. They could be anywhere and oh shite, they've just figured out that Malaika's there. Don't shoot! They do, getting her in the leg and then shooting her phone when they realise who it is.

They're out of time.

Alex explains it clearly  to Michael; if he doesn't do this, if he doesn't save the People's Princess, his life will be as much as over. The madman will kill the princess and upload the video.


He will be a despised individual and if he refuses, they cannot guarantee his physical safety. Or that of his family's. "I'm sorry, Michael. It's out of your hands."


Michael heads to the studio with Alex; Jane's calling but he can't talk right now. Alex tries to offer some slight comfort; after midnight it will be a criminal offense to have video or still images of the event.

I think Michael and I are going to throw up.

The fact that there are viewing parties in bars ALSO makes me want to throw up because of course there are. The studio broadcasts a tone to induce nausea and


Alex counsels Michael on some last minute details; maybe don't take too long, but don't be too quick and


People are looking away now, sick and horrified and where was that morality before you aholes? Thank you for not showing anything.

The princess is released and it wasn't her finger, it was the finger of another man who was hanged, who may have been the mastermind. So he didn't even follow his own rules of un-manipulated video. She was released 30 minutes BEFORE the broadcast. Alex wants that buried.

Micheal, vomiting in the toilet, crying and not answering his wife's calls isn't reassured by the news of Princess Susannah's safety.

We get an update of everyone a year after the fact; Princess Susannah is pregnant and still in the public eye. The hanged man missing a finger was indeed the mastermind, he killed himself as his plan was realised. I do think it would be a bit of a stretch to imagine that the man as depicted could be a hacker supreme.

Michael and Jane Callow appear at an event together, they seem happy and his approval rating is actually up three points. They aren't talking in private, however. She can't even look at him. Him watching her run away from him in disgust then standing with his head hanging is devastating in it's simplicity.

We're out.

There's almost too much to say about this show, it's a perfect snapshot of society as we live now, even though it's from 2011. Think about any event of note that happened lately; the response depicted was perfect. People joking about it, tweeting about it, attacking the Prime Minister, the Prime Minister having to actually go ahead because of his approval ratings: all of that is comparable to what happens on the reg. Who has watched Making a Murderer or followed the Serial podcasts on the murder of Hae-Min Lee? Most of us, right? Entertainment, an interesting puzzle to be solved, something to talk about online or at the water cooler. Just like this: a trainwreck of humanity that nobody could turn away from. They're making the case that we're losing our humanity in chasing public perception, in chasing attention with as nasty as possible comments to be first, to be the worst.

But after all of that; people did recoil. They did stop watching, and if they did, they did it in sympathy, in solidarity to this poor wretched man so clearly stripped of power as they were clearly stripped of the ability to ignore it, to shut it out.

You can see our arc with Michael Callow; at first incredulous but dismissive, then you can start to see the reality of the horror dawn on him; that the internet will have it's way with him as surely as he will have to have his way with the pig. And then finally: the abasement and it's aftermath. Will he ever be the same? Will any of those people, for having watched? For causing it, but for not being able to stop it? As someone once said: you don't play chess with 120 million people.

I really did not like that show.

But if I only watch things I like, what good is that? An entertainment echo chamber where I only watch the things I want to see and never think disconcerting thoughts about my own compliance in popularizing sensational content.


It might be awhile before the next Black Mirror. Cheers, all