Black Mirror is not, according to its creator Charlie Brooker, anti-technology. It’s concerned, rather, with technology’s potential to worsen human weaknesses. “I think that’s what Black Mirror is saying,” Brooker said in an interview to promote series two of the show. “What if the pace of change [of technology] is out of control, and we haven’t evolved to deal with it yet in the same way that we as basic apes haven’t really evolved to take responsibility for nuclear weapons?”
In White Christmas, a feature long episode that follows the previous two series, that theme is certainly visible. Utilising a format that seems particularly Christmassy, the film began with Matt Trent (Jon Hamm) and Joe Potter (Rafe Spall) – workers, seemingly, in an isolated location – sitting down to tell each other stories in a cold cabin.
Like most of Black Mirror, Matt’s story dealt with a society more connected than ever thanks to technology, and yet one in which isolation and loneliness remains, and if anything is made worse by that technology. In this world, everyone has gadgets implanted into their eyes, presumably at birth, that opens up a world of possibilities and problems.
The final episode of The Escape Artist was its weakest, relying on implausible plot twists more suited to a continuing entertainment series than a supposedly intellectual three-part drama. The show never lived up to the early promise of the opening episode, with that episode’s strongest elements discarded and its plot holes proving not to be forgivable missteps but harbingers of things to come.
Episode three began with Liam continuing his streak as the luckiest person in history, getting away with the murder of Will’s wife thanks to some dodgy practice at a crime scene lab and incompetence on the defence’s behalf (incidentally, why is Will, the UK’s number one lawyer, working for such an inept law firm?)
Episode two strained credibility and was cartoonish in places, even more so than the first episode. The show is well made and enjoyable, but only if you don’t think about it too much while watching. Writer David Wolstencroft also created Spooks, and he has brought that show’s fast-paced, implausible fun along to The Escape Artist. It doesn’t work as well in a serious drama though, were credibility and tight plotting matter.
The Escape Artist is essentially a horror. Like Arlington Road or Fatal Attraction, it’s the type of drama usually referred to as a psychological thriller. This first episode was a little pulp-like and contained a few plot holes but it was creepy and tense and ended with an unexpected punch that leaves me wondering where the show will go from here.
David Tennant plays Will Burton, a top lawyer who is tasked with defending brutal murderer and all round not very nice person Liam Foyle. In this first part of three, Will got Liam out of prison on a legal technicality, arguing that the jury had been prejudiced by faulty testimony from an expert. I’m not sure how believable that is but I’ll roll with it this early on, assuming that the dodgy writing won’t become a regular issue with the series.