Luke Owen reviews the final episode of season 2 of Charlie Brooker’s Black Mirror…
Last season of Black Mirror saved its best and most ambitious episode until last and it seems as though Charlie Brooker has done the same thing again with season 2. Like great anthology shows, The Waldo Moment doesn’t feel like a re-tread of previous stories and in fact is completely different from the previous episodes.
Unlike Be Right Back which focused on two characters in one location and White Bear which was a story that built to a twist, The Waldo Moment is a complete story with multiple characters with different arcs and development and a story that wasn’t relying on human drama or a twist. Daniel Rigby (that “geeky” student fella off the BT adverts) plays Jamie, a comedian who acts as the voice and movement of Waldo, an animated character who is a segment on a nightly magazine show – think Ali G when he was working on The 11 O’Clock Show. His role is to essentially humiliate politicians by posing as a kids cartoon character and ridiculing them with childish jokes (can you see the Ali G comparisons yet?). As the most popular segment on the show, the network decide to give Waldo his own show which prompts them to start parading the character around on screen attached to a truck to verbally attack Tory politician Liam Monroe while he is campaigning for the By Election. However the character and his cause start to gather steam and before he knows it, Jamie is leading a political revolution that conflicts with his wants of not being a politician and his lust for Labour candidate Gwendolyn.
But this is where the problem of the episode lies. While undoubtedly the best episode of the series, The Waldo Moment tries to cram in too much story for an hour long show. Because of this a lot of it feels rushed and the actions of Jamie and the consequences they lead to are never given time to sink in with the audience. The last quarter of the show zips by and moments that should have been tender and powerful are merely afterthoughts. The biggest victim in all of this is Jamie’s ‘relationship’ with Gwendolyn where they share a whole three scenes together which includes their meeting, copulating and break-up. With a bit more time (say spread over two hours); this could have been the best episode of both seasons.
But while it may not be the best episode of Black Mirror as a whole, I do think that The Waldo Moment is the best episode of this series and it’s mostly sold on some great acting. Rigby gives a really, really strong performance as Jamie – a man who is being given everything he’s ever wanted for his career but isn’t happy. Even when Waldo is reaching the peak of his fame, Jamie isn’t satisfied because all he really wants is someone to love. And when he hurts that person whom he could fall in love with, his whole world falls apart. Chloe Pirrie also gives a good turn as love interest and opposing politician Gwendolyn (even with her short amount of screen time) but I do feel as though her character was more there to poke fun at wannabe politicians who enter into elections even when they know they won’t win just so they can get their name on TV as opposed to really being part of the story. Her relationship with Jamie is never fleshed out and even her candidacy isn’t given any real screen time which means she isn’t given much to work with. However Jason Flemyng is absolutely brilliant as smarmy and evil TV exec Jack. There is just something about Flemyng as a performer where he can just slot into any role he’s given and do it with such style.
The story itself is incredibly gripping and it did leave me wanting to see what was going to happen next. What sets The Waldo Moment aside from the previous two episodes is that you’re emotionally invested in both the characters and story as opposed to one or the other. And despite it’s ridiculous premise, it never feels outside of the realms of possibility. The likelihood of a cartoon character running for election is very low but Brooker’s script and story make it seem like it could really happen and that Waldo could really sweep the nation as a likeable character.
There is a lot to like about The Waldo Moment and I do genuinely think it’s the most interesting of the three stories, but it just needed a bit more time to flesh out some of its characters and plot points. According to the end credits, this was originally an idea pitched for Chris Morris’ Nathan Barley which would have been interesting to see, but I think this more serious and dark take on the story made for a more entertaining watch.
And there we have it for another season of Charlie Brooker’s Black Mirror. On the whole I think this has been a really strong series with some outstanding performances (Hayley Atwell in Be Right Back in particular) and some really interesting ideas. It does work only being three episodes long as you can tell more time and effort has gone into each story, but I do wish there was more of it. We need more shows like this on TV.