We knew Jerome Flynn aka Bronn on Game of Thrones was coming to Black Mirror when the series return was announced, but not all the episode details nor acting credits were released.
Recognize the actress seated at the desk? I didn’t at first, though I knew there was something familiar about her.
How about now?
You might notice in a marketplace crowd, even the scene rings familiar. That’s because we’re used to seeing her chasing a girl through crowds, often trying to kill her. It’s none other than Game of Thrones‘ Faye Marsay, aka The Waif(inator).
Coincidentally, Faye Marsay and Kelly Macdonald made for the best unexpected police pairing since True Detective‘s Cohle and Hart. They just fit perfectly together. They also took part in my favorite of the Series 3 episodes, ranked best to least below.
Best of the Bunch: “Hated in the Nation”
Directed by James Hawes, starring Kelly Macdonald, Faye Marsay, Benedict Wong, Jonas Karlsson, Joe Armstrong and Elizabeth Berrington. “Hated in the Nation” presents a perfect parallel to those Twitter trolls (and in fact, Charlie Brooker said that’s what inspired the story), taking things to the next level in a typically Mirror-ish, horrifying way. It’s also got a wonderfully Hitchcockian vibe, right down to a critter problem. Macdonald is fantastic as a lead London cop with her new “shadow” Marsay, fresh off the cyber squad (so to speak) and immediately thrown back into the world she was trying to get away from. Together, the pair make for a smart, well-balanced (in expertise) team chasing down a nasty predator.
Second Place (tie): These two spots of hyper-intensity both have the classic Black Mirror vibe, with one facing our ultra dark side and the other, playing with lightness.
“Men Against Fire” …
Directed by Jakob Verbruggen, starring Malachi Kirby, Sarah Snook, Michael Kelly, Madeline Brewer, Francis Magee and Ariane Labed. Reminiscent of Neill Blomkamp’s District 9, a military team (Kirby, Snook, Brewer) are on a mission to wipe out the Roaches, creatures who are remnants of a biological war, invading a town. When one of the soldiers begins experiencing nightmarish flashes, he becomes uncertain what his reality is … and so will you. Fantastic and, terrifyingly dark, “Men Against Fire” will leave you contemplating what kind of wars could be in our future.
Directed by Joe Wright, starring Bryce Dallas Howard, Alice Eve, James Norton and Cherry Jones. Howard is insanely good as a freaky-cheerful woman living in a time where Facebook likes and upvoting have been taken to the umpteenth level (you’ll seriously wonder whether you want to go back to your social media accounts at all); everything is rated by everyone, from the simplest of gestures to the quality of people one spends time with. How seriously a person takes such things is obviously at play, but when everything from jobs to dwellings are affected, “Nosedive” proves how easily a personal roller coaster can fly off the rails. Howard’s performance is an over-the-top revelation.
Third: “San Junipero”
Directed by Owen Harris, starring Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Mackenzie Davis. I’d have bumped “San Junipero” higher for the spot-on eighties vibe and beautiful, emotional resonance alone, but this hour meandered a bit and for me, Kelly’s (Mbatha-Raw) behavior vs. motivation didn’t always sync. It was a lovely story in the end, though it didn’t necessarily feel typical Black Mirror, which depending on your view could be a wonderful thing.
Fourth: “Shut Up and Dance”
Directed by James Watkins, starring Jerome Flynn, Alex Lawther, Paul Bazely and Hannah Steele. “Shut Up and Dance” is probably the most Black Mirror-ish of the bunch; upon finishing the hour, I wanted to simultaneously take a shower and have my brain wiped. Shades of (though not nearly as awful) the traumatizing “The National Anthem” — and Mr. Robot –may haunt, so if you’re a newbie, you might leave Bronn and his cake delivery kid — the excellent Alex Lawther — for last. I’m still angry that this wasn’t a twisted, dancing themed episode.
Directed by Dan Trachtenberg, starring Wyatt Russell, Hannah John-Kamen, Wunmi Mosaku and Ken Yamamura. It’s a crying shame that “Playtest” doesn’t live up to its potential, because the concept is brilliant. Russell plays a traveler who, when he’s running low on funds, uses an app to find odd jobs. London brings an opportunity to test new gaming technology that at first, seems damned cool and displays 3-D imagery through a biological connection. The next step is spending the night at a creepy house where subjects will experience the things they’re most afraid of, with data culled directly from the mind. Here’s where things fall flat; there’s a lot of Russell’s character wandering through the house with both he and the audience waiting for something to happen. There are a couple of good scares, but it’s all so drawn out, the suspense gets wasted. Additionally, the way things wind down with a jumbled up ending, “Playtest” is ultimately unsatisfying. It’s easy to see this could have been the best of the bunch, and parts are well done; the players are all at their best, so it’s still worth a watch.
No matter what the ranking, Black Mirror‘s third season continues its tradition of a stimulating slant on humanity and the way we interact with technology and each other. Charlie Brooker’s is a mind attuned to the dangerous future that could spring from the here and now in a way like nobody else; you can hardly leave a single episode without being affected and wondering how many of his twisted tales might terrifyingly come true.