FWD Reviews: Every Episode of Black Mirror

#1
Fun With Despair
Why? Why not.

I've had a bit of a history with this show, I used to really like it, especially in the earlier seasons when it was a little more surreal but nowadays I don't even feel like watching the newest season because it doesn't even sound like the same show I guess? I dunno. Either way, this thread will FORCE me to watch the new season, but after I revisit all the older ones to kind of re-contextualize the show in my mind.

But why am I reviewing them? Well, I'm out of playgrounds.

I'll be posting each review in this thread as I go, rather than shit up the board with a topic for every episode, so stay tuned for later today as I look at the infamous first episode, The National Anthem.
#2
Fun With Despair
Season 1 Episode 1: The National Anthem

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I'm gonna give a disclaimer here that obviously this is gonna have spoilers for Black Mirror, like no shit, so if you care for some reason, I recommend you leave and maybe go join KG instead. Jokes aside, you should probably watch the show first as I'm gonna be talking about it from the perspective of someone who has, but if you're here for the borderline standup comedy routine and will never watch it, then more power to you, my friend.

Anyway, The National Anthem is an episode that seems to get an absurdly bad reputation, with a lot of people telling newcomers to the show to outright skip it, but I don't think I ever really understood the Gato-sized hate boner that people seem to have for this episode.

The National Anthem has a pretty simple premise compared to most other episodes, which might be why people dislike it, but I think it works as a modern-day episode easing you into the crazier shit down the line. Basically, the Princess of the royal family is kidnapped, and the kidnapper has but one simple demand: the Prime Minister's got to fuck a pig on live television or the Princess dies (He's got to put his dick in the pig, not the other way around, to clarify).

Admittedly the gross-out factor could be why some people are turned off from this episode, but they don't actually show any hot XXX pig action onscreen. I'll also get back to this gross-out point later, mind you, but to sum up the events, it mostly consists of the PM trying to bargain his way out of fucking the pig while the government tries to track down the Princess and rescue her so that no pig has to get fucked.

Kind of an off-kilter premise for a thriller, but it works, and you really feel for this poor motherfucker sometimes as he and the government keep getting outsmarted at every turn.

There's a bunch of wacky hijinks like them trying to bring in a porn star stunt double to do the deed which gets leaked online, as well as the PM's wife trying to get him to not fuck the pig while the government tells him he'll be considered a national hero for doing it, SWAT teams busting into places, the kidnapper being stupid tech savvy, etc. It's all pretty entertaining but ultimately he's left without options and he has sex with the pig on public television anyway, only to find out that the Princess was released half an hour before the televised event, making the whole thing a total bluff to begin with.

...And, well, the government was right. The PM becomes a national hero despite his humiliating act and boasts a massive approval rating. The downside though, is that his wife's pissed at him and won't talk to him. Now, I'm not gonna lie, looking at details like that are sort of where some minor elements kind of fall apart. First of all, the guy's wife comes off as a total bitch in this episode, and not just because of the ending, but because she kind of spends the episode trying to get this man to let someone else just get murdered because she... doesn't want to get cucked by a pig I guess? Her motives are never really clear at all, nor is her anger and disgust with her husband at the end of the episode ever really justified, because the PM didn't WANT to fuck the pig and was basically forced into doing it.

The other thing I find kind of hard to believe, is... well, earlier I said that the gross out factor might be why this episode's hated but...

Come on, guys. Don't try to fucking lie to me here.

I know full well, 100%, that there are a massive chunk of people, not even total degenerates, who probably would have fucked the pig for less. This guy spends the entire episode trying to get out of having to fuck the pig, and understandably so, but I honestly feel like realistically, a lot of people probably would have just done it and gotten it over with WAY before this guy does, and I'm not even talking about the furries.

You know who you are.

Regarding the acting and the effects and the cinematography and all that, this episode isn't that interesting in any of those respects, unlike some episodes I'll get to later. It looks fine, the acting is mostly fine (although the Prime Minister's pretty good), and there aren't a whole lot of moments that would really require any kind of interesting settings or effects or anything. Most of the story's contained in government offices and TV studios, after all. But saying it's fine isn't an insult or anything, it's good enough in a technical sense that I don't notice anything bad about it.

So what does this mean for The National Anthem? Well, it's a severely underrated and over-hated piece of television, that's for sure. It's not incredible, but it's definitely not bad, and the premise is solid enough, despite being bizarre and a little gross, to carry a decent political thriller to a higher spot than it otherwise would be. Perhaps it's disliked due to the lack of WOW COOL TECHNOLOGY, but I think the sheer amount of exposure that television can shed on something is scary enough, from the tech-horror standpoint that the show's typically going for.

In conclusion, it may not be amazing enough to warrant a round of applause, but this national anthem is probably worth standing up for.


6.5/10
#3
Aidan
the only ones i've seen are the first one and san pamalamadingdong or whatever the fuck it's called

the pig fucking one was not bad television but it ultimately felt pretty hollow and pointless. like once you put aside the dumb gimmick it's a story about the prime minister having to do something uncomfortable on TV. what's the message? they seem to be pointing at the fickleness of public opinion, voyeurism, maybe something to do with online media (youtube shit?), domestic terrorism, duty to one's country, the sanctity of marriage and cuckoldry, but they don't really go anywhere with it. do you want him to do it, and if so why? does the hostage dude's life matter, or is it just weirdly fascinating that the prime minister has to fuck a pig? and if you don't want him to do it, are you putting some nebulous concept of sexual freedom over a man's life? there are questions to be asked here but i'm not sure the answers are very interesting.
you also really have to suspend your disbelief for this shit to work. the terrorists are infinitely smarter and more connected than the prime minister and the entire government but all they want is a dumb pig video. now i don't usually care if a fictional story is "realistic" but the fantastical elements didn't serve much of a purpose either. why did it have to be faceless terrorists? i think they were trying to reference Anonymous or whatever the fuck but it's a loose connection at best, like they looked up "internet terrorist type guys" and wrote the first page of results into the script.
speaking of the script, it was excellently paced and i was engaged the whole time, but i think they dropped the ball with the prime minister's character. for whatever reason they wanted to portray him as this sort of generic Politician Man, i guess so you could substitute in the real PM in your mind. problem with that is you don't really empathize much with him. he's the closest thing the story has to a protagonist but your connection to him is distant at best. if they would've played it closer to him it would've gotten the audience to think "what if i had to fuck a pig to save people's life" instead of "what if the prime minister had to fuck a pig to save people's life" and i think the first one would've played better. they were trying to be ambitious but there's only so much you can do in an hour-long episode.

the other one i saw fuckin owned tho
#4
Fun With Despair
I don't entirely disagree with your take on it, which is why i just rated it as a 6.5 and not anything actually super above average, but you did make a mistake there. The reason the hostage's life is worth fucking the pig for is because it's the princess of the royal family and that's why the government is putting so much pressure on him.
#5
Aidan
fuck lol i thought it was someone's daughter but i couldn't remember who's
this episode is somehow more British than i remember
#6
Nabber
Is The National Anthem generally hated? I was under the impression that it was seen as a pretty good episode.

Aidan Wrote:the terrorists are infinitely smarter and more connected than the prime minister and the entire government but all they want is a dumb pig video. now i don't usually care if a fictional story is "realistic" but the fantastical elements didn't serve much of a purpose either. why did it have to be faceless terrorists? i think they were trying to reference Anonymous or whatever the fuck but it's a loose connection at best, like they looked up "internet terrorist type guys" and wrote the first page of results into the script.

The perpetrator is an artist; he just wants to point out how people get caught up in dumb bullshit, which is why he releases the princess early and cuts off his own finger instead of hers. No one notices the princess was released because they're all watching the guy fuck the pig on the telly. Yes, it's unreaslitic that the entire town would be glued to the TV, but I find Black Mirror is best if you don't take it entirely seriously, and focus on what the show is trying to say. Which, for the record, this episode does a pretty good job keeping a dry sense of humor about the entire thing; it's dark comedy for sure and the first time I watched this I was pretty revolted, but the entire episode is completely aware of how ludicrous the premise is.

This is the only episode I think that I've actually seen more than once, and at 44 minutes I think it's a pretty tight one (but not as tight as that pig :uniporn:). And that's part of the thing - yes, Black Mirror can often get way over its head, but because the episodes are self-contained, and sometimes relatively short, it can do a decent job of keeping the premise from being stretched thing (at least until they end up making 5 seasons.) This episode works on a few levels: first, the sheer distress of the Prime Minister, who yeah, seems like a decent dude in a horrible situation. The thing about this episode is that basically all of the characters act like it's an inevitability that he's going to fuck the pig, and so even when they're doing their best to mitigate the situation, it feels like no one's on his side, and he just gets closer and closer to disaster until he has to actually do the deed, and the whole thing feels dizzying and kind of nauseating.

The second level is the sheer voyeurism of it: Black Mirror really gets what a circus politics can be, and how easy it is to get sucked into the whole reality tv aspect of it all. It's not really "everyone's addicted to technology!!!" here as much as: this is a once in a lifetime thing, a train crash in motion, and how can you not watch? The moment when the fucking commences, and you see the reaction shots, and... everyone just kind of realizes how depraved it is, and some can't even go on watching, and how long it goes... it's kind of heartbreaking. And it's coupled with the release of the princess, which again, as unrealistic as it is, there's nevertheless something affecting seeing a drugged princess wandering through a city alone, everyone too distracted by bread and circuses to remember what it's all about.

There's also the whole social media/news cycle aspect of it, which you know, not exactly the highest-hanging of fruit, but not exactly wrong, either.

Anyway, overall, I think it's a solid episode, and I don't really have any real problems with it considering its length; I don't think it's lifechanging, but like, it's enjoyable and good for what it is.
#7
Jetamo
wait what the actual fuck
reading this i thought "oh it came after the news that david cameron did things to a pig head" but it actually fucking PREDATES IT???

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Piggate
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#8
Yrrzy
brooker had the time of his fucking life when the piggate news came out and it turned out that had been the most prophetic episode

national anthem isnt bad at all tho, its one of the better ones imo, its generally well receieved but i think its less recommended than the others just cause its less representative of the series premise

here's my own thoughts on black mirror episodes;

Spoiler:
Ref
#9
sealelement
bandersnatch was lit and i liked the robot dog one
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