Black Mirror season 5, episode 2 recap: Smithereens

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Photo: Black Mirror Season 5 production still / Stuart Hendry, Netflix

Blown to Smithereens

Like everyone else, Chris was attached to his phone, looking at it all the time. In 2015, he was driving home with Tamsin, his fiancée, when he picked up his phone to look at a Smithereen notification. In that split-second, he rammed his car into another. It took Tamsin two months to die, and Chris became ‘Mr. Tragic’, while the other driver, who was also killed, got the blame because he was drunk. Chris has been living with the guilt of killing Tamsin for all these years.

Having said his piece, Chris accuses Billy of creating a platform designed to become addictive. Well, it did its job and now Tamsin is dead. Billy has nothing to say to Chris, except that Smithereen wasn’t meant to be this monster and he has little control over what the tech people do to the platform. Billy claims to be a front man now. Chris doesn’t care about all this. He’s going to end his life, that was always his plan. Billy tries to talk him out of it, but Chris refuses.

When Billy asks if there’s anything he can do for Chris, Chris makes one simple request – he wants Billy to get the owner of Persona to give Hayley the password to her daughter’s account. Hayley gets a call from the Persona office, not knowing who her guardian angel is.

Chris unties Jaden and tells him to exit the car slowly. Jaden doesn’t leave. He tells Chris about how his uncle’s suicide affected his whole family, but Chris doesn’t want to listen – he simply doesn’t want to live anymore.

A struggle ensues when Chris puts his gun down and Jaden makes a grab for it to save Chris. On CS Grace’s command, the snipers are cleared to take a shot when the target is clear. They try once, and miss, they try again and succeed. But who do they hit?

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We don’t see the final outcome of this scenario because this entire episode is a reflection of the digital environment that we live in – and no one cares about the final result, as long as the headline catches our eyes. The episode ends with everyone going back to business, heads buried in their phones. Whoever was killed in this encounter – be it Chris or Jaden – is just another click-bait title. I won’t say this episode is a critique of the user though, rather it is an indictment of how large conglomerates feel the need to homogenize experiences into condensed timelines. Was Chris at fault? Absolutely. And he took the blame for it and suffers the consequences. Yet, his speech to Billy was powerful, though simplified one which will certainly be memorable.

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