Black Mirror Season 3, Episode 1 “Nosedive” Review

One word to describe this episode: anticlimactic

Nosedive

  • Directed by Joe Wright
  • Story by Charlie Brooker
  • Teleplay by Rashida Jones & Mike Schur

Official Premise: “A woman desperate to boost her social media score hits the jackpot when she’s invited to a swanky wedding. But the trip doesn’t go as planned.”

Actual Concept: What would happen if Instagram, you know, became more real than it already is?

nosedive-black-mirror
We would all start wearing lighter colored clothes, that’s for sure!

Good Things

Production Value

  • Putting this under a list of pros feels like I’m cheating. A show with a huge budget should have their aesthetics on lock. I didn’t expect anything less. In short, this episode looks expensive.

World Building

  • They could afford the world building and goodness did they want the viewer to see it. I mean, the amount of time spent on world building as opposed to the actual plot is absurd.

Acting

  • The main actress Bryce Dallas Howard can act. I’ve noticed people rave on about this but much like the production value, I didn’t expect any less. She’s an A-list actress, not some desperate rando in Hollywood, one step away from performing in adult films. But yeah, it’s good to give credit where credit is due.

Satire

  • This is an iffy one. Let me explain. I liked how this episode depicted the effects of a numbers ruled society. Everyone acts fake to be liked. People hire ratings consultants. One of my favorite and also the shortest part of this episode is when our desperate heroine visits a consultant to get her rank up. The real world and this dystopia are blended so naturally in these scenes, unlike others where we’re clearly in the Insta-world. At the same time…
ratings.png
Having bad ratings is like having bad credit, only the former is just plain petty

Bad Things

Satire

  • We don’t get enough. The concept of Instagram is understood well enough among the general population. Taking 20 minutes to essentially explain how this works doesn’t make any sense. Because of this we only get about 10 or 15 minutes worth of commentary, and those minutes were great.
  • Our protagonist is driven to the brink and her speech at the wedding is riddled with the kind of contradiction that comes with being a part of this ratings driven society. One moment she’s insulting the bride and the next she snaps back into the vain flattery because that’s how you survive in that society and at the end of the day we have to survive, right? But at what cost, is what this episode seems to ask. The answer is sanity, of course.
  • We get this picture of her being pulled in two directions and she snaps. Too bad this is only 5 minutes of the bloated 60 minute episode.
  • Nothing new is added to the general conversation on social media mania. We get it. The people at the top are fake douches who lack any sort of substance. Everything is about numbers. Everyone is shallow, except me and you, friend. We’re like Holden Caufield. We “get it.” Everyone is a phony.

Plot

  • The plot was buried so deep in this Insta-world that one could easily forget what the point of the story was. Sure you could say it’s a slice of life but that has never been Black Mirror. They don’t specialize in slice of life. They specialize in modern-day satire.
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Lacie’s Sphere of Influence: a huge turning point in the episode is when Lacie is told she needs more positive interactions with higher rated people

Pacing

  • An utter disaster. This is an hour long episode, and I felt every minute. This is coming from someone who couldn’t care less how long it was because I’ve been waiting for this show to come back. I was actually glad when I saw they were longer, but we all know quantity rarely lends itself to quality
  • In season 1, only one episode was this long: Fifteen Million Merits. Both boil down to having to sell one’s soul for success. The difference being that in season 1, the protagonist exploits the system, knowing that it cannot be beaten. In season 3, our protagonist becomes a victim of that society.

The Conclusion

final scene.png
Lacie looks a hot mess.
  • Upon first glance I felt she had won, but her story seems to say this is how trolls and cynics are made. In the last scene, she exchanges profane insults with another “prisoner” which initially seems like an exercise in freedom, but by the end it’s clearly madness, a broken conversation between two people who don’t know how to have a meaningful conversation outside a meaningless society. These grown adults are hurling child-like obscenities at each other which ends up being more sad than funny.
  • Which is all good and well, but let’s talk about this character arc. In its season 1 counterpart, we have a somber but optimistic guy whose last hope in purity and innocence is shattered. The second act of that episode, basically depicts his attempt to confront this system of corruption from the inside out, only to willingly become a part of it in the final scenes.
  • In season 3 however, our girl believes in the system from start to finish, with no variation. The message being that the only way to escape is through a social suicide of sorts, and if one does achieve this the only freedom you’ll find will be in isolation…where you’ll probably suffer from PSMD (Post Social Media Disorder). The symptoms of which are quite trollish.
  • We get this image of disparity which is great but it feels long overdue and the payoff isn’t nearly as impactful as it should’ve been.

What I Wish Happened…

Visual Exploitation

  • Naomi or Nay Nay (yikes) is just someone who the system is built to work out for. She has the wealth, the beauty, the connections, etc. But who are the people really pulling the strings in this world? I would’ve even appreciated a call back to Fifteen Million Merits by deliberately showing a character like our former protagonist who was once a skeptic only to become a smart skeptic.
  • This episode also spends a decent amount of time showing how Lacie is screwed over by everyone she encounters, no matter how fake nice she is.
  • Nosedive had time to blow, is all I’m saying. A lot of that time was wasted on gratuitous scenes of rating.
netflix-black-mirror-nosedive
Like this

Any Real Alternatives?

  • In one scene, Lacie’s Call of Duty brother calls her out on her desperate antics, only for her to call him out, saying something to the effect of, he gets upvoted by the guys he plays games with, so he’s not any better than her. This “as you know” statement is clearly there so we the audience knows that there are other ways people get their upvote fix; HOW-FREAKING-EVER, her brother has a garbage rating, so that’s clearly not an equal alternative, and his behavior does not make it seem as though he even cares.
pewdiepie-revelmode
I guess the people behind this episode have never heard of Pewdiepie. Now that I mention it, most social media juggernauts like Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and even YouTube are interconnected. Why zero in on Instagram? Especially when it’s social platforms like YouTube that truly have the ability to make seemingly random folk both rich and famous?

Can the system be exploited?

  • Any system can be exploited (or hacked, in many cases).
  • This is a common theme in Black Mirror. Both societal and technological systems can be breached and always are. The show also has a tendency to show how they work hand in hand, how one feeds off the other.
  • To make it seems as though the predicament in “Nosedive” is inescapable is rather unusual for Black Mirror.

Commentary Clarified

worst of the worst.png
Worst of the worst
  • But maybe they’re saying it is inescapable. Maybe they are saying this whole ratings scenario is indeed based on whim, that in this manner success cannot be projected or calculated.
  • An example of this being when she Instagrams a picture of the raggedy Mr. Rags, which gets the attention of 4.8 / 5 user Naomi, who had good cause to upvote because she knows about Mr. Rags; however, if I’m not mistaken others followed suit and upvoted because Naomi upvoted. There were other occurrences that seemed to insist that who or what becomes popular is determined only by those already at the top.

Where are the corporations?

  • If this is the case, I don’t understand why the huge advertising (marketing, in general) aspect of Instagram isn’t even touched upon. From this episode it would seem as though narcissistic flexing is the crux of this phenomenon.
  • We have no idea who created this program and for what, exactly? At least in The Entire History of You (season 1, ep. 3)  we get some background as to why such technology exists.
  • Who benefits from the Insta-contact lenses? Because someone is benefiting.

Is race a factor?

  • I don’t know if anyone noticed, but it was a black man who lost his job for his low rating and it was also a black man who occupied a cell opposite our tragic lead. Maybe that’s a coincidence, but wow what a coincidence indeed, the implications of which are too much for a review.

Did Lacie beat the system or what? Does it even matter?

  • I said before, the male protagonist in season one beat the system by joining the system. Some would say, “oh, but was he really free though?” a la, Inception whatever, but I think that’s a silly question.
  • The only way to beat the system is by being the one at top, so the system is no longer getting more from you than you are getting from it. Absolute freedom is impossible in any society. What made Abby’s fate so heart wrenching in season one is that she did win. She played fair and square, only to literally be used by the system, physically even, just to drive the point home, making it all the more apparent that in societies such as these we are bodies to be used for profit.

Is this something new? Is this ground breaking news?

  • This is only ground breaking news for people who think The American Dream is something noble and not the by-product of a capitalist society that thrives on flawed concepts of success.

black-mirror-01-02- (11).jpg

  • Much like Abby, our girl here was victim of the system through and through; however, she never had any ambitions to go beyond it anyway. She is chewed up and spat out. The results of which aren’t clear.

gah.png

Final Whatever: C, a meandering episode that didn’t say much beyond what the average person already knows. Social media distorts reality, narcissism is bad, and did I mention how social media is bad?

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