The first episode of the highly anticipated new series of Black Mirror unfortunately feels too on the nose to have the same impact the show is known for.
The concept of ‘Nosedive’ is a classic example of Black Mirror and its trademark near-future dystopia. Bryce Dallas Howard plays Lacie in a society where your worth is dictated by a ratings system. The higher your rating, the more worth you have in society, the more caveats life affords for you and the more power you have to judge others. Lacie sees an opportunity to increase her rating when her childhood friend Naomi, played by Alice Eve, asks her to be maid of honour at a ceremony that will be full of highly-rated guests.
I can really see why this episode was chosen as the season opener. It’s a good entry point to the themes Black Mirror explores and it has a recognisable American cast and writers. With the move to Netflix, a new audience of Americans will be seeing the show for the first time, so it stands to reason they’d want to make it seem more accessible.
This does have the side effect of losing some of the inherent British self-loathing of the show, but I know future episodes will still be based in Britain. Finally, it’s probably the episode with the lightest stakes of the season and assuming the season gets darker, something lighter was probably a good move to stop sensitive audiences from turning away immediately.
Going back to the writers, ‘Nosedive’ is the only episode this season where Charlie Brooker wasn’t a writer. Unfortunately, Brooker’s absence is very noticeable. Writing credits go to Rashida Jones and Michael Shur who have worked together in the past on The Office and Parks and Recreation and it feels like they try to add some of their comedic flair to the episode. But while the comedy of Black Mirror usually comes from a darkly comic take on human folly, this comedy is right on the surface and it just doesn’t land.
This reliance on surface laughs also makes the episode incredibly on the nose and predictable, something Black Mirror has always managed to avoid. Subtlety is important in shows like this. As people become more cynical and analytical of TV, it’s hard to have people buy into such an obvious and blatant core message. Ironically, Community had more success with the exact same concept in 2014 with their episode ‘App Development and Condiments’, dialling up the comedy and absurdity in a way I think the writers may have wanted to do here, but couldn’t due to the format.
While headier in concept than what a lot of other shows attempt, ‘Nosedive’ fails to live up to Black Mirror‘s pedigree, but it at least works as a decent palate cleanser for the heavy darkness that is certainly to come in future episodes.
Black Mirror Season 3 is available on Netflix now.
Do you agree with this review? What did you think of Black Mirror’s season opener? Let us know in the comments section.