Thoughts On: Black Mirror – Season 3 (Ep.2)

Playtest is the second episode of the new season on Black Mirror, and it’s safe to say it’s somewhat darker than opener Nosedive.

Narrative

Playtest follows an American traveller (Wyatt Russell) as he winds up in London. However, when his bank card is rejected when while trying to book a flight home, he signs up to test a new gaming system in the hope that it will give him enough money to get back to the US. Of course, he maybe the one that’ll end up paying…

Overall, the episode was well written and undeniably Black Mirror, but in the end, I was actually wondering what the point of the episode was. Sure, the plot is built around what virtual and augmented reality could actually achieve and where it could go wrong, but it doesn’t feel like writer Charlie Brooker has that much to say about it. Still, that doesn’t mean that the script wasn’t well-written and engaging.

Direction

Seeing as Playtest is the horror entry of the season, it comes as no surprise that many tropes of the genre are present here, including a gradual building of suspense and jump scares (eurgh!). The execution of said tropes is managed quite well, though, and the episode never feels like it’s speeding down clichéd canyon – in fact, it plays with these clichés now and again, often turning the expected into the truly unexpected. Director Dan Trachtenberg also does a great job of gradually darkening the tone as the episode progresses.

Screenshot 2016-10-23 at 13.57.58.png

Playtest takes the idea of a haunted house and turns it on its head

Characters

I was a little unsure about the characters at first, including our main man, Cooper. I’m not entirely sure whether it was the acting or the script – or maybe both – but something didn’t sit right for the first fifteen minutes. Thankfully, any worries I initially had were put aside as the story started to kick into gear. Performances from this point on were completely fine, and just like episode one they peak during the final act.

In a few words…

Not a perfect Black Mirror episode, but still a fantastically thrilling watch.

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