Black Mirror: Smithereens
Director: James Hawes
Cast: Andrew Scott, Damson Idris, Topher Grace
It's like gadgets and technology form their own separate world in Black Mirror, one that is boldly transgressing into human relationships, unwittingly destroying lives in the process. Good thing is, automated machines don't have insecurities, fear or moral qualms to deal with or they'd be another boring version of us mortals and we wouldn't be so invested in them.
Black Mirror's creator Charlie Brooker at times feels distant from us, so much so that his dystopian, cyber world appears more natural to him and we are all but silent spectators. Usually, he has a cell phone notification to tell a story or a robot to convey emotions, but in season 5's Smithereens, Brooker is more invested in exploiting a deeply human story than delving into the aftermaths of modern tech slavery.
Sherlock actor Andrew Scott plays an unassuming cab driver Chris, who stays put outside a particular building in London so that he can pick up employees of a certain social media company called Smithereen, owned by entrepreneur Billy Bauer, played by Topher Grace.
Chris is mourning the death of his fiancée, who was a victim of a car accident involving a drunk driver and a notification distraction syndrome on Chris' behalf. He has beaten himself over the woman's death so much that his last wish is to speak to Billy and let his pain out by talking down to him and to the addictive social media culture his company has set in motion.
Scott is the only actor who has a real conflict at hand, of course apart from the hostage he has confined to his cab, an intern at Smithereen named Jaden, played by Damson Idris. The equation between Chris and Jaden holds through most of the episode and is both comical and tragic in equal parts. While Jaden fears his life is at stake and does what he is asked, he is so out of his wits that he cannot see that Chris just wants to be heard.
What Chris is suffering from here is a real-life controversy and he can't process this world that makes memes faster than actual conversations, and his paranoia is quite palpable in certain scenes. Ironically, this was very much Chris' world prior to the accident.
Over the course of the episode, the executive team of Smithereen is introduced to us, who by virtue of owning the company know more about Chris' history than local police in the area. And there are cell phone wielding youngsters bent on destroying Chris' plans of a half-baked, imperfect getaway kidnapping in the fields.
All in all, Smithereens grows on you and Scott's performance is the mainstay behind that. You would just pity the guy, but then turn to your cell phone right in front of him any second. Does a Chris deserve to live in this world? Brooker is drawing from existing tech controversies and we need to pay attention.
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