It’s time to look at the second episode of the current season of Black Mirror, and it’s not gonna go the way you think it might go…
The episode centers around Chris (Andrew Scott), a ride-share driver in England. He picks up people at takes them places. He spends time listing to recordings to control his breathing and spends some time looking at his glove box.
He also attended some kind of grief counselling; this is where he meets Hayley (Amanda Drew), whose daughter killed herself a year and a half earlier.
She asks Chris if he’d like a drink and eventually they end up back at her flat having sex. After they finish Hayley mentions that she’s trying to get into her daughter’s “Persona” social media account so she can get a look at her inbox, to see if there was a trigger that drove her to suicide. She gets three tries a day to guess the password: she doesn’t get in that night.
One day Chris picks up Jaden (Damson Idris), who is on his way to the airport. On the way there we learn he works at Smithereens, the social media platform of the Black Mirror universe. Chris drives, but he’s not heading to the airport: he ends up going to another car and taking Jaden hostage.
We don’t know why Chris is doing this, but it’s only a matter of time before the police notice a car going down the highway with a passenger in the back with a bag over his head, and before you know it Chris’s car is in the middle of a field surrounded by police.
Soon Chief Superintendent Linda Grace (Monica Dolan) is there with a negotiator (Quincy Dunn-Baker) and snipers are waiting to put a bullet in Chris’ head.
But why has Chris taken Jaden hostage? All we know is Chris has been looking to pick up someone from Smithereens — and now that he has them, he wants to talk to Billy Bauer, the CEO of the company: their Mark Zuckerburg, if you will.
People are listening into Chris’s phone — he was put on hold and technology allows us to hear what he’s saying. The cops know he has a gun, but they don’t know if it’s real or not.
At one point he says it’s a fake, but when the police start moving in on him, he shows them it’s not. The snipers take their shot but miss. It’s starting to get more than real now…
It takes some time, but eventually Billy Bauer (Topher Grace) is located and, after a lot of speaking with the FBI and Smithereens league, Billy gets Chris on the line.
And that’s when we get the lowdown. It’s not about money and it’s not about wanting attention — it’s about guilt.
Eighteen months before, Chris was driving back at night with his fiancée and a message popped up on the Smithereens’ app — an app Chris monitored all the time.
He glanced down to see what it was about and didn’t see the drunk driver coming his way. They crash, and of the four people involved in the two cars, Chris was the only survivor.
Now he’s engulfed with guilt because everyone’s blamed the drunk, when Chris feels it was his fault because he couldn’t take his eyes off social media. Turns out he just wanted Billy — who’s on a retreat to decide if he wants to leave Smithereens — to know.
He hangs up. He tells Jaden he can go. Jaden knows Chris is going to kill himself — after all, he’s been chanting “This is the last day” over and over — and he doesn’t want that to happen. Chris sets his pistol down for a moment and Jaden goes for it. There’s a struggle: the police think things are going sideways.
The sniper has a shot. She takes it. Then people stop for a moment check their Smithereens app to see what’s trending. And move on. Here’s the Smithereens ending explained.
Black Mirror Easter Eggs:
Jeez, there were a bunch.
First, the Smithereens news feed. The #SaitoGemuAnnouncement hashtag relates back to Playback (S3 E2) as that was the gaming company in that episode.
#SaitoXNetflix indicates they may be doing something interactive with the streaming service — a nod to Bandersnatch? #SeaOfTranquilityReboot referees to a show that was mentioned in both The National Anthem (S1 E1) and Nosedive (S3 E1). And PM Callow is the notorious Prime Minister from The National Anthem (S1 E1).
The names in Chris’s contact list aren’t your usual blokes. Carlton Bloom is the main antagonist from The National Anthem (S1 E1); Clayton Leigh is the convicted murderer from Black Museum (S4 E6); and Cooper is the play tester from Playback (S3 E2).
It also turns out that when Chris’s social media is analyzed, one of the names that turns up is Victoria Skillane, the main character from White Bear (S2 E2).
Smithereens and Billy Bauer were referenced before, in one of the endings in the interactive episode Bandersnatch.
And while it’s not exactly an Easter Egg, when the snipers take their first shot at Chris, the hole in the windscreen…
…is reminiscent of an ad Black Mirror has used in the past.
Line of the Episode:
“Modern f**king companies! Everyone looks so f**king young! How is anyone looking in supposed to have a sense of the f**king hierarchy? Half of your c**ts coming out of the building are dressed like f**king gap-year students!” (Chris to Jaden, upset that Jaden, who is only an intern, is wearing a nice suit)
Black Mirror Season 5 is streaming now on Netflix.