Black Mirror Season 1 Episode 2 15 Million Merits Review. Black Mirror: Season 1, Episode 2: 15 Million Merits was an examination of the present and the future of human society.
The viewer will immediately see references to Fahrenheit 451 and 1984 in this Black Mirror episode. The video walls were one of these aspects and also a big brother aspect, making sure the occupants of the rooms watched one of the screens at all times (the screen image tracking with their line of sight).
How video and video panels were used in ’15 Million Merits’ was a bit over done (in the bathrooms) but creative (the vending machines) nonetheless.
During the episode, the viewer is given nothing about what the outside world is like. The viewer initially thinks its a high-tech future, a utopia where everyone exercises constantly but they soon see that it is not.
What is intriguing is the creators of this apartment complex, comfortable prison, and power station that the people in this episode exist in know the inhabitants will grow to resent and hate their lot in life and the rotund yellow clad workers that do less than they do. The cage masters created a Wii-like video game where the inhabitants can murder those yellow clad workers with various weapons, thus releasing bent-up animosity and keeping them from lashing out, destabilizing the environment. Everywhere there is fore-thought.
The subtle hope, distraction, and social control mechanism combined within a clone of American Idol and Britain’s Got Talent entitled Hot Shots was brillant, a show within a show (Black Mirror) and a entertaining one at that. The judges on Hot Shots could easily be caricatures but somehow they avoid that trap, especially the one of being Simon Cowell clones. The actual Simon Cowl could-be (Rupert Everett), seating in the same position Simon Cowell sat in on American Idol, is the most compelling Hot Shots judge, he seems to say the same thing all the time (he begins the same way) but its always different.
Hot Shots satirizes how objectified the music and entertainment industries are and also puts the viewer inside the heads of male talent show judges, male industry executives, and the male audiences of such talent shows. The viewer gets to hear out loud what some guys think when faced with a comely singer, potential employee or client.
The drugging of contestants (Cuppilance) before they go on stage at Hot Shots and the name of the drug is thrown in the viewer’s face like Camp Climax was in Lolita. Cuppliance is another example of social control in this world but this time individualized. The Hot Shots show runners get contestants to agree with their wishes and decisions of the judges more readily (except in the case of the girl who couldn’t sing) because of that drug (compliance in a cup).
It was tragic what happened to Abi (Jessica Brown Findlay) but without the Cupplicance, it would have been a common story: girl wants stardom, ends up in the adult industry. What is in that Cupplicance? Pure compliance? Faced with a life of bike monotony, being on that talent show stage, nervous in front of millions (possibly billions), with that compound in her system (drug-induced peer pressure), Abi’s decision was not surprising. It was also one of the strongest dramatic momnets of the episode.
The boy/girl relationship in this episode of Black Mirror was sweet, like the one in the film Drive. Even the music in ’15 Million Merits’ when Abi and Bingham “Bing” Madsen (Daniel Kaluuya) were together took up the cause. Its a young, budding romance cut short while its still blooming because of Hot Shots. What’s worse is that Bing good-heartedly prodded Abi into taking part in the show, a double whammy of guilt and regret that boils over and shatters glass.
When Bing got on stage for his revenge, the viewer previously watching as he tirelessly earned his way back into the arena that stole his would-be love away, the viewer was once again surprised at the choice made on the Hot Shots stage (without Cupplicance).
Out of the three episodes of this season of Black Mirror, ’15 Million Merits’ was the best. Charlie Brooker and Kanaq Huq‘s script constantly surprised.
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