Black Mirror, Episode 3×05: Men Against Fire

Black Mirror - Men Against Fire.jpg

Set in a post-apocalyptic world, we follow Stripe (pictured), a military grunt whose job is to hunt down mutant humans and exterminate them while arresting anyone harboring these dangerous beings. The new technology here are neural implants the soldiers use that not only enhance their senses (making them better killing machines) but also gives them incredibly realistic sex dreams. The sex dreams, of course, were added just in case the viewer wasn’t tipped off already (by the whole killing machine part) that this technology might not be altruistic. Or maybe Netflix just wanted to show some boobs.

Stripe’s partner is a blood-thirsty caricature named “Hunter.” She reminds me of one of Kubrick’s characters from Full Metal Jacket that brags about killing Gooks. If by this point in the script it isn’t completely given away that the military is being lied to about roaches, then the genocide propaganda allegory is handed to you on a silver platter once Stripe’s neural implants starts defecting. Surprise! He’s just been killing regular humans that the government has decided are subhuman.

The rest of the episode hits all the standard beats of this kind of story. Stripe tries to save the regular humans but gets caught doing so. The evil psychiatrist tortures Stripe with all of his awful deeds and threatens to keep torturing him unless he agrees to have his memory wiped and his neural implant reset. He agrees. His life remains sad. The government remains genocidal. The end.

Much like District 9, this episode left me cold and unmoved. It break no moral ground; its lessons are obvious. The new technology adds nothing to the story as we are told that the neural implants are only installed in the military; in other words, there are a ton of regular civilians who also hate the roaches, but not because they look like mutant humans. They just have bought the propaganda. That also brings up a plot hole as to how the military personnel remain ignorant to the reality of the roaches when they are seen regularly interacting with civilians. And much like Crocodile, I never get to know any of the characters well enough to empathize with their plight. If Hunter had also been sympathetic, and all of the civilians had been duped by this technology, then we might have had an interesting story here. As it stands, this was a not very fun waste of sixty minutes.

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