We Review Charlie Brooker’s Black Mirror SN02 EP01 – ‘Be Right Back’
Check out our review of SN01 EP03 HERE!
Another week, another season! We move on from the short Season 1 to the next and in the premier episode, we follow a young couple, Ash & Martha. We find the young couple is moving into Ash’s childhood household. Ash examines an older photo of himself that he shares via social media. Eyes glued to his phone, Martha asks if he’d like some soup, sensing the disconnect in the conversation, Martha then asks if he’d like his soup in a bowl or a shoe testing to see if Ash is engaged in conversation, he replied with “Mmmhmm”, a shoe goes flying into the room to hit Ash on the head. He asks what that was for, as she told him he keeps disappearing into ‘that thing’ as she points at his phone. Ash then tells Martha that he was just sharing an older photo of himself thinking people would find it funny, as Martha interjects saying it isn’t funny, it’s sweet. We then learn that on the day the photo was taken, Ash and his family went to the safari while he and his family sit in the car surrounded by monkeys somberly, as this was the first family outing since his brother Jack died. After the tragic incident, Ash’s mother removed all photos of Jack in the very same house they are currently moving into and replaced them with the photo that was taken at the safari.
The next day, Ash has to return the van they rented to move their furniture to the new house and pick up the car. He asks Martha if she’d be coming though she does have to finish some art pieces for her job. He then makes fun at her stating he’d have to do all this alone, while she entertained him and poked fun back stating she’d have to enjoy lunch alone. As the day goes by, she does not hear a peep from Ash. Beginning to worry she calls the van rental company to learn that the van has not been returned yet. Later on in the night, Martha calls her sister, Naomi worried and frantically pacing around the house. Sara begins to ensure Martha that his phone battery is not the best and that he’d be fine. She begins to rant about how Martha is over thinking as flashes of red and blue lights fill Martha’s house, she’s interrupted by a knock on the door. Martha opens the door to find a policeman and an ambulance to only further prove that her worst nightmare is coming true.
We now find the recently widowed Martha, in the wake of Ash’s funeral. She sits next down to a blonde woman named, Sara who then tries to find some way to connect with Martha as we are now learning that Sara has also lost a lover recently. Sara begins to say she can put Martha on something, and sign her up to a program to help her grieve when Martha’s had enough and begins to tell her to shut up. Sara continues to talk about the program when Martha begins to lose it and begins screaming “SHUT UP SHUT UP SHUT UP!” when Naomi comes to comfort her. Cue the montage to begin the timeline in which Martha begins her 5 steps of grief. We see scenes of Martha constantly drinking, and renovating Ash’s old childhood household as she finds pictures of the young Ash and his brother Jack in the basement. Maybe a bit of denial after Martha throws up and begins laughing at her reflection when she begins brushing her teeth. Martha goes onto her laptop and signs into her email account when she receives an email from Sara that says “I signed you up”, as well as another email from Naomi for a series of books on grief.
While she is deleting emails she receives an email from Ash Starmer saying “Yes it’s me”. She nearly begins to cry as she gives Sara a call. Justifiably, Martha is now freaking out at Sara, questioning what is going on. Sara lets Martha know that it’s a software that takes all the public information of dead people and creates a substitute that you can speak to via text. She also tells Martha that if she enjoys the program she can give the software more access to private information for a more authentic experience, authentic being a loose term. Martha refuses to comply to the software as she believes it is not right and it hurts more than actually grieving.
The next morning, we find Martha working on her art when she begins to feel sick. She rushes to the bathroom to throw up in the toilet again, as we learn that Martha is actually pregnant. Overwhelmed, Martha tries to call her friend Naomi. Naomi doesn’t answer as the harsh reality of being a single mother set in, she begins to consider the software program. Martha rushes to her laptop and opens up the email she received from the artificial Ash. The program opens up with a thumbnail image of Ash, and a greeting saying “Hi Martha”. Martha hesitates to reply, finally asking if it is him. Facetiously, Ash replies, “No, it’s the late Abraham Lincoln.” in typical Ash fashion. Tears begin to fill Martha’s eyes, probably at the thought of how realistic the program’s response is as she tells the software the big news. “I only came here to say one thing, I’m pregnant.” the software acts surprised, asking if he’s going to be a dad and wishing he was there with Martha now. Martha begins to cry alone in her room. She receives a call from Naomi later, assuring Naomi she’s okay she also tells her not to come over and that she needs to work on some art.
Feeding more into the program, she tells the software she wishes to speak to him. Ash then gives Martha direction to upload any videos or audio files she has of him, as the upload finishes, Martha receives a call and is greeted by Ash’s voice. As the software begins to speak to Martha, she doesn’t know how to respond at first. Blubbering words in between tears and sniffles. The artificial voice sounds and speaks just like Ash, telling jokes to lighten up the very eerie situation. In the coming weeks, Martha is basically attached to her phone telling old stories of the late Ash to the artificial Ash. She begins to get comfortable with the voice as it responds the same way Ash would respond with witty banter and teasing. Martha is able to show and share audio with the software through her phone. Martha doesn’t seem to go anywhere without having artificial Ash in her ear.
Martha is now looking at a Sonogram of the child inside of her, she records the heartbeat to share with Ash. As the appointment is done, Martha decides to share the audio of her child’s heartbeat with Ash. As she tries to put on her jacket she drops her phone on the ground and it appears to stop working. She then begins to freak out in public, dreading the fact that she may have destroyed what was left of her husband, or artificial husband. She was worried she lost her husband again and the sound of her child’s heartbeat. Martha gets home, puts her phone on the charger then finds out that artificial Ash is okay. Ash continues to assure her that he isn’t going anywhere and that there is another step in the software they can take to the next level.
Martha receives a very heavy package. A large white styrofoam box containing a vacuum-packed sack of what looks like flesh. Martha looks at the flesh sack and tells Ash it looks nothing like him. He advises that it will not take form until it is activated. Ash then tells Martha to start the bath as she begins to feel what the body was like. She puts the flesh sack into the bath and pours a bag of “electrolytes” into the bath. As Martha waits for the project to be done, she stays on the phone with Ash. Towards the end of the transformation, Ash then tells here he needs to go and to NOT turn on the lights. Now the horror film “weeb” inside of me is saying “Please please show us what happens if she turns on the light!” Sorry to disappoint you guys, they do not show us what happens if you turn on the light throughout the rest of the episode.
Martha then finds a naked Ash standing at the end of the hallway. Ash looks at Martha and says “You coulda left me some clothes” Marthe stuck in awe doesn’t reply to a word Ash says. We then see Ash and Martha sitting on opposite sides of the couch. Martha still not being able to process the situation, decides to make herself an alcoholic drink. Ash then advises against drinking due to the fact that Martha is carrying a child. Martha begins to feel the artificial Ash. Bewildered, she feels his pores and hands. Ash asks if it bothers her, she replied with “no, yes, I don’t know” completely showing her confusion at this point. She then begins to cry again missing her husband while she stares at this artificial version of him.
They make their way into the bedroom, Ash takes his shirt off and Martha tells him that he has a mole on his chest. Ash says “Hold on” while he generates a mole on his chest. Trying to get a reaction out of Ash, Martha places his hand on her breast. No response, we then find out that since there is no record of Ash’s true sexual response he will not be able to mimic it. Ash is actually able to turn off and on any sexual reactions. As Ash works on Martha under the sheet we find that Ash basically takes any information from pornographic videos to perform in the bedroom. They end with Martha confessing her love to the artificial Ash. As Martha wakes up in the morning she’s greeted by Ash staring at the ceiling eyes wide open. This startles her as she requests Ash to at least close his eyes since he doesn’t require sleep.
During the coming weeks, we see Martha regretting the decision she made. She’s constantly looking for a genuine reaction from Ash knowing well that this Ash is basically an artificial slave version of Ash. He does what she says, says what she wants him to say and acts how she wants him to act. Naomi decides to give Martha a surprise visit. Naomi finds a set of Ash’s clothes in the bathroom and she assumed that Martha had moved on. Setting into a realization that she hasn’t moved on, her attitude towards Ash is beginning to change. Demanding Ash to argue with her one night, she yells at Ash telling him to leave the room, as he gets up to leave she then gets upset at the fact that this Ash is not fighting back. She’s demanding him to hit her and fight her while she hits him and pushes him. She then demands Ash to get out of the house. Ash is then found standing outside of the house all night.
Martha is now completely done with the artificial Ash. She asks him to join her on a drive. Martha then takes Ash on a hike to a hill overseeing the seas. The cliff was known for its history of couples jumping off the cliff to die together and be with each other forever. Morbid I know. Anyways, Martha starts to demand him to jump off the cliff. After she gets upset, she states that Ash would have fought back. Artificial Ash then reverts to his reaction bank and starts freaking out, begging Martha to let him live and to not make him jump. Stating that he does not want to die. Martha begs him to stop, seeing her husband beg her to keep his life begins to mess with her mental health as he continues to beg for his life.
Years later, we find Martha at the same house with a young girl. It appears to be her birthday as Martha gives her not 1 but 2 slices of cake. Martha’s daughter says she would like to go upstairs. Hesitant, Martha said it wasn’t the weekend but it is her birthday so she did allow it. Martha lets the attic latter fall, as her daughter makes her way to the attic to speak to, you guessed it, Artificial Ash. Martha stares at the floor, knowing what she is doing is wrong, snaps back to reality and makes her way up to the attic to join her family.
It seems like Martha never reached the acceptance part of grieving. Now she’s stuck with her own version of a haunting, keeping the artificial Ash up in her attic and not ever being able to move on. Honestly, the concept of the episode was again, amazing but for some reason, me personally I couldn’t keep my attention on the episode, I did have to watch it a couple of times to keep my interest. I just wish we were able to see what happens when you turn on the light during the transformation. Now that would have been an episode to watch.
Check out our review of SN01 EP03 HERE!
Check out this video of Artificial Ash begging for his life.
- Another great concept, great performance by our main character.
- Flat. No twists to tickle your brain.