warning! mild spoilers: I try not to go too much into plot details but this review still has spoilers on settings and premise of the episode. so if you haven’t seen it yet and don’t want to be spoiled do not read.
“Playtest” is the the second episode of the new series 3 of Black Mirror (available on Netflix). Black Mirror is known for it’s unique and fascinating technological concepts and this one was as fascinating as they come. This episode focuses on a virtual reality game that takes over the player’s senses and traps them in a virtual world to the point where they are clueless as to where reality begins and the game ends.
Cooper is the name of our main character, a dopey flâneur who travels the world after the death of his father. But after losing all his money and being stuck in England, Cooper is referred by an app on his phone to earn money by testing a new virtual reality game at a company called SaitoGamer. Soon after the testing begins Copper’s mind is taken over by the virtual device. It turns out that SaitoGemu is working on an implant that essentially functions as the ultimate augmented reality device, with the ability to layer lifelike images and sounds into Cooper’s perception of the world without the need for wires or glasses.
This is definitely one of Black Mirror’s more terrifying, horrific and hauting episodes as it looks at the dangers of what could be the future of virtual reality gaming. But sadly a poorly executed one. Unfortunately, “Playtest” does digs particularly deep into it’s fascinating concept. As the episode wears on, it becomes increasingly focused on the nesting-doll nature of Cooper’s reality, turning the episode into an endurance test of what-is-real fake-out endings. Every false resolution brings a slightly tweaked theme to the table: the ethics of corporate bio-experimentation, the importance of making peace with family, our lifestyle obsession with digital screens, and even the dangers of smartphone signal interference. I found the ending of this episode completely incomprehensible, though to call it an ending is a bit reductive since it is actually multiple endings layered within one another. Any one would have made sense and been satisfying on its own. But cobbled together as they are, it makes no sense and is tremendously disappointing.
Production wise there really wasn’t anything special here other than some good cgi effects and Black Mirror’s consistently awesome visuals. The acting was good but the dialogue tended to drag on throughout the episode, Cooper’s goofiness was a prime example of this. If episode falls quite low on the Black Mirror list in my opinion, but is of course still a good watch and has more in common with “White Bear” when compared to others in the series.
- Premise: 7/10
- Writing: 5/10
- Plotline: 6/10
- Acting: 7/10
- Production: 7/10
- Cinematography/Visuals: 8/10
- Sountrack/Editing/Efx: 5/10
Overall Rating: 6.4/10 ★★★★★★☆☆☆☆