Black Mirrorthon Pt 3: ‘The Entire History of You’
Needless to say, this show made a big splash when it first landed. First the Prime Minister has sex with a pig, then a reality show destroys a person’s soul. Now it’s time for recorded memories to tear us apart.
Title: ‘The Entire History of You’
Director: Brian Welsh
Writer: Jesse Armstrong
Cast: Tony Kebbell, Jodie Whittaker, Tom Cullen, Jimi Mistry, Amy Beth Hayes
Premise: This episodes shows us a world where almost everyone has a ‘grain’ implanted behind their ear, a small device that records everything they see and allows them to replay it privately or publicly. When Liam begins to suspect his wife hasn’t been completely honest with him the technology feeds his jealousy and sends him into a spiral.
Review: Once again Black Mirror presents us with a reality disturbingly close to our own, taking existing technologies and trends to a disturbing extreme but connecting them with familiar and relatable characters. ‘The Entire History of You’ takes a simple idea – our memories are now recorded – and demonstrates how it can breed and nurture distrust between people. The entire concept of ‘backing up’ our memories is something already peddled by companies like Apple’s iCloud, with photographs and contacts being the primary focus of the service. With this having quickly become an established business model it’s no stretch to imagine people wanting to adopt the ‘grain’ as a means of recording their life.
One of the strongest aspects of this episode is the art design of the technology. It genuinely looks like accessible, unintrusive technology. Even at the glance the display is intuitive and the control appears to be responsive…more so than Siri has ever been. With all the options to revisit memories, focus on the details, zoom in and translate it does look like really good technology. The most interesting parts of the world building comes in seeing how the world utilises the technology for everyday purposes, such as remembering a persons name or at security checks. A minor point comes when woman without a grain encounters problems in contacting the police because she doesn’t have one to relay the footage back to them. Unfortunately due to this episode focusing more on the emotional impact this has on one couple rather than the world at large this aspect of the story doesn’t get explored any further.
The core of the story is Liam (Kebbel) and Ffion (future TARDIS occupant Whittaker), a married couple and new parents who are both installed with grains. Although it’s not explored at length we briefly see that their baby also has a grain, as they use it to check up on the babysitter at one point in the episode. Liam is quickly established as nervous and somewhat paranoid as he scans back over an interview time and time again looking for clues as to how he did poorly. This attitude surfaces again when he suspects his wife of showing interest in an old friend, Jonas, at a party.
Over the course of the next twelve hours Liam interrogates and berates his wife over her past relationship with Jonas and insists on watching footage from her grain to prove her claims. Eventually he instigates a drunken encounter with Liam and threatens to cut out his grain unless he deletes his recorded memories of Ffion. Even though Jonas complies, in doing so Liam is able to zoom in on a small detail in his own memories to reveal a worse truth – that he might not be the father of his child.
Upon close examination it’s hard to imagine how much the technology actually contributes to the story. Taken on it’s own the relationship drama could have played out on it’s own without the ‘grain’, swapping it out for more conventional evidence of indiscretion. The previous two episodes could not have played out the same way without the technology and the era in which it was created. For this reason the episode is weaker than the other stories of season 1 in spite of the brilliant design and performances. ‘An Entire History of You’ is an emotional journey for sure, but doesn’t stay with you like some episodes.
That Moment When You Feel Your Stomach Drop: When you make the connection that this goes further than a past affair and calls into question the parentage of his child.
Links to Other Episodes: There’s some similarities to technology used in later episodes but nothing specific jumped out for us.
Ranking Black Mirror: As said before, it’s a good story but doesn’t quite have the Black Mirror magic. Might be lacking the Brooker touch, I personally find his style or writing very effective.