We Review Charlie Brooker’s Black Mirror SN01 EP01 – ‘The National Anthem’
In the first episode of Charlie Brooker‘s anthology masterpiece, Black Mirror, the Prime Minister, Michael Callow is awakened at dawn. He is brought into a room with 4 of his advisors which present him with a daunting publicized YouTube video of Princess Susannah of the royal family. She appears to be tied up, in a white room, fearing for her life begging to be spared by an off camera presence. A man’s voice tells Susannah to relay the message to the PM (Prime Minister) in which we find that the ransom for Susannah’s life is that Michael Calloway must have sexual relations with a pig on live national television before 4:00pm. The PM laughs in denial, questioning the reality of the situation and denying the request to mate with a pig, while his advisors sit their in silence nodding in agreement. Callow then starts to frantically find a solution to this with his team of advisors.
After this video goes viral, the nation is wondering, “Why is this not receiving any national coverage?” UKN a British News station starts to argue about broadcasting the story, as the government listed a restriction to allow this information to be leaked. Malaika head of press for UKN is fighting to release coverage to the public. Martin president of UKN is then informed FOX, CNN, MSNBC as well as other big time TV networks are all covering the morbid news. While the rest of the world is laughing at the matter and poking fun at Prime Minister via social networks, Callow’s wife Jane Callow is extremely worried and is horrified of the news, she knows that his reputation is at stake and the fact that the image of her husband getting busy with a pig on national television is in the mind of the people brings her to a crying point, as she states “I know people, we love humiliation”. Michael then assures her, that everything will be fine.
Malaika, has an inside hook up within the Prime Minister’s advisors. She sends a young man a rather raunchy picture with intent for some inside information she can use to get the upper hand in her reports. As the story gets national coverage, the public’s eyes are glued to the television screen. Callow’s team of advisors then find an abandoned college, where the YouTube video was originally uploaded. Chief Walker of the Prime Minister’s section then advises a full firing squad will relay to the location, Callow then raises his fist in success as it seems they are a step in the right direction.Meanwhile another agent, Agent Callett is devising a plan to use special effects, green screens, and having a male “adult performer” named Rod Senseless do the deed in place of the PM. Callow is absolutely ignorant to this as his advisors do not inform him of this decision.
Around 2:00pm Martin at UKN receives a box and a flash drive that says “Watch Me”. Martin opens the box to find a severed finger with a ring as well as pink painted nail, to confirm to UKN that this is indeed the duchess’ finger, the flash drive also contained a video of a masked man going behind the princess’ tied up hands as she screams in pain while he brings the finger to the screen. UKN then broadcasts the new information, bringing Callow into a rage, his last hope is Chief Walker catching the man at the abandoned college.
The fire team arrives at location to find the princess and her kidnapper. Michael Callow is watching a live stream to assure the team finds the kidnapper. Around the same time, Malaika (reporter from UKN) is also on site ready to record and bring UKN exclusive footage. Agent Walker and his team maneuver through the abandoned college, bashing into doors, throwing smoke bombs, to finally find a room with a woman tied to a chai. The firing team surrounds the room, guns pointed at every direction only to find that it’s nothing but a mannequin tied to a chair. As the disappointed fire team lower their weapons, they notice a figure behind a small window on a door where Malaika is recording the incident. As the firing team yell at her, she panics and starts to flee the scene. Malaika escapes the building, Agent Walker bashes a window and opens fire with his semi automatic. Malaika gets hit in the leg by multiple bullets as Walker makes his way to her and finds out she’s press. Walker then shoots her phone, and Callow sits there in disbelief as he now only has 1 hour to fulfill the kidnapper’s request.
The PM then starts to freak out, considering to not comply and making an argument that the princess’ blood should not be on his hands. His advisors calmly break down, the public hate vs the public humiliation he must go through and that the Princess’ life is absolutely on his hands. Callow know’s the only solution to Susannah’s safety is to comply to the man’s request. He and his advisors make their way to a production scene. Callow is informed he must see the deed to the end, and he was advised to not rush, as it may be misinterpreted as enjoyment. As he walks down the hall he is given a Viagra and a cup of water. Agent Callett then advises him that the pig is docile and heavily medicated and two monitors will be showing content to help him if he has any trouble physically.
Callow finds himself in a room with black curtains, a cameraman and a bowl of slop with a large pink hog with its tail facing the him. He turns to the camera, tells the nation he loves his wife, and he hopes the princess’ safety. The nation is dead silent, roads are empty, not a person in sight, everyone’s eyes on the television to witness history in the making. Callow then drops his pants and continues to do the dirty. The nation watches at first cheering, laughing, but quickly turning their expression into disgust. An hour goes by of this heinous act and the nation’s eyes are still glued to the screen, though the expression amongst the masses has majorly turned into disappointment and sadness, Jane Callow is found in a fetal position as the hour goes by. One peculiar reaction is a man alone in his basement, he has his hand wrapped up, and he looks up in disbelief to what he sees on national television. As the broadcast is coming to a near, we are treated to a scene where a stool lays knocked over on its side and the man’s feet dangling in the air with his hand hanging down showing a severed finger.
Princess Susannah is then found barely walking across a bridge safely being returned by a patrolling policeman. Callows is found in the bathroom stall puking out his soul. As he leans up against the bathroom stall, drool, sweat, snot and tears run down his face as his phone rings, he looks down to see his wife’s name as he uncontrollably starts balling his eyes out as he cannot even fathom speaking or seeing his wife at this moment.
A year goes by and we find out that a Turner Prize Winning Artist by the name Carlton Bloom was the mastermind behind it all. Susannah is pregnant with a child and Michael Callow is a loved politician amongst the nation, Michael and Jane go home after a press meeting, where Jane goes straight up stairs without even looking at Michael, while Michael attempts to speak to his disconnected wife.
Overall, wow, this is the opener to an anthology piece to bring people in. Obviously the comparisons to Twilight Zone are justified as this show will be a series of stories. As an opener I do feel the wow factor will bring the audience to go ahead and take a look at the next episode just to see what else Charlie Brooker has up his sleeves. You can easily binge and watch each of these episodes on Netflix, and have your mind blown by these raunchy, comedic and out of this world concepts within each episode. Frankly I’m looking forward to reviewing and analyzing this show from now on. Was this first episode a little too much? Are you compelled to see what other stories Black Mirror has to offer?
Check out our review of Episode 02 HERE!
- Huge wow concept that keeps you tuned in, makes you wonder what else the show has to offer.
- Kinda gross Minimal antagonist screen time