‘Black Mirror’ 1×01 Review: “National Anthem”

Black Mirror.  An anthology series which to me means I could start with any episode and not be lost – other than the different levels of confusion from just watching one episode kind of lost me.

With so many people talking about it, I decided to give it a go and started with season one, episode one. National Anthem.

Initial reaction? WTF?!?!?! I mean, seriously, THAT was the first episode? A kidnapping where the ransom demand is for the Prime Minister of England to have unsimulated sex with a pig on live television? That is some incredibly messed up shit going on and for someone like me who watches their fair share of programs, I loved it.

Television shows like to play it safe lest they upset the fans and then there are the rules that many programs follow but that’s not the case here.  Episode one of Black Mirror didn’t get a copy of the rules and that is one of the reasons why so many people can’t help but talk about it once they finish watching.

So, let’s get into it. The moment the Prime Minister is told about the ransom, I immediately thought the kidnapper made such an outrageous demand that there was no way anyone would go through with it; a way for him/her to validate in their own mind the killing of a royal, because, in all fairness, would you actually go through with that to save someone you knew? I don’t think I could do it, even for my own mother.

This was when I began to empathize with the PM. He said no. The people polled were against it. That should have been the end of it but a personal call from the Queen, telling him that he had to do whatever it took to get the Princess back occurred. There were the wheeling and dealings happening with the porn star, graphics genius and television studio got out and the tide started to turn.  How many times have we seen this play out in real life at 6pm each night.  One moment everyone loves you and the next, they want you to have sex with a pig.

Mrs. PM seemed to be the only one desperately begging her husband to think about the consequences.  Their consequences, not the Princesses, or the Royal Family or general public. What would this mean for them? As she read the never ending tweets of public opinion her fear grew and it seemed no one was on her side. Being the PM’s wife definitely didn’t have any perks in this scenario.

I’ll be the first to admit I didn’t think they would go through with it. I had everyone pegged as an insider, working against the PM (like his snooty female advisor). I was convinced some amazing twist would happen at the eleventh hour because it still hadn’t hit me that this wasn’t your typical television program. As the time grew closer and I watched the PM walk down the hall (what were those pills he was given? Valium? Viagra?) I wanted to yell at each person in front of their television sets, gleefully anticipating this objectifying humiliation that they were all partially to blame for what was about to happen. Each and every smiling person, sipping on their beer, contributed to the rape they were about to witness.

When the last cheer faded and the look of horror crossed their faces, I thought, that’s right, you did this. It was all fun and games until he actually had to go through with it.  Don’t look away. Maybe next time you’ll remember the saying ‘be careful what you wish for’. But we’ve all been around to see most people don’t learn from another’s humiliation.

There have been a few people I’ve spoken with since watching that haven’t agreed with me on the rape point, but I stand by it.  The Prime Minister of England was raped.  He said no but was coerced into doing something he did not want to do.  Another pointed out that he’d watch if Trump was in the PM’s place and I disagreed.  If someone wants to make a fool of themselves, go at it.  If someone wants to make a fool of someone else just because they don’t like the person, that’s against everything that so many people are fighting for when they say they want equality.

But getting back to the actual episode. The ending was heartbreaking. Even with the support of so many people, he had lost the one person that he needed the most.

Many programs have made me angry.  This episode of Black Mirror, along with a handful of others, made me think like it was supposed to.

  • Tanis11

    It’s sad and dark…..S3 had some great depictions and thought provoking episodes. Best season so far imo.

  • Larry Version 3

    Playtest was soul crushing because of how innocent the main character was.
    I don’t know if I watched Men Against Fire because of how bad shut up and dance was lol.

  • Tanis11

    S3 had some DARK ones. That one was alot but Men Against Fire messed me up and Playtest still haunts my dreams.

  • Larry Version 3

    Shut Up And Dance ruined my world view

  • Tanis11

    Which episode?

  • Larry Version 3

    Uh oh. Black Mirror scarred me for life. I’m sure I’ll have a few bad flashbacks reading these reviews :’)

  • TheDeadFellow

    Holy shit mate. Glad to have new blood. Hope to see more stuff from ya soon!

  • William Dhalgren

    This show can be depressing, man. There’s one about social media that was rough to watch.

  • Sailor Monsoon

    There it be

  • Vincent Kane

    You definitely don’t want to watch too many in row. Haha But there is some real thought provoking episodes. I didn’t enjoy everyone of them but majority are really solid.

    Episode “Black Museum” from season 4 is worth the watch alone.

  • It’s worth it.

  • DryButSoupy

    Hey…welcome. Always good to see a new face around here.

  • DryButSoupy

    I think we already know the answer to your last question.

    Having said that, as interesting as this article is, I’ve yet to watch any of Black Mirror. I’ve read a couple articles about this particular episode, however. Even simulated bestiality is enough to make me give it a pass.

    The concept is definitely interesting, but I’ve also heard that it’s somewhat of a pessimistic downer of a show. That, primarily, is what has kept me away from the series as a whole.

  • Sailor Monsoon

    Apparently it’s based on a true-ish story.
    A British politician was rumored to have had sex with a pig.
    It was clearly a smear job but that’s the genesis of the idea.

  • TheGreenMalice

    fuhgeddaboudit.

  • Kemosabe 🦇

    I think we should make them fight. Highlander rules. There can only be one.

  • Kemosabe 🦇

    More blood makes Vampire Club happy.

  • Kemosabe 🦇

    Nice review and welcome. Black Mirror is one of my favorite shows so I’m glad someone is doing these reviews (lord knows I’m too lazy to do it). Fun fact: I was so enthusiastic about Black Mirror when the season before last came out that I convinced a friend of mine to watch. I had completely forgotten about the first episode and she ended up watching this episode with her family. When she told me, I was horrified I hadn’t warned her. It turned out to be okay, but I know now to provide a disclaimer when I recommend this show to anyone in the future.

  • Vincent Kane

    I agree with pretty everything you stated. Some of those same thoughts went through my head while watching this. The rape angle is definitely a valid point.

    In the Black Mirror universe, my biggest question is what would have been the impact had it been a female politician? A Hilary Clinton type figure? Would people have been so eager to watch then or would they have immediately cried rape?

  • William Dhalgren

    I want to believe this episode was just the writer’s excuse to have a politician fuck a pig.

  • King Alvarez

    Welcome to the party Stephanie! I’m still in season 3 of this. it’s a great show but I can’t do more than one at at time. Can’t wait to see more reviews!

  • Welcome Stephanie!
    I only saw Season 1 of Black Mirror for now, and the first episode certainly left an impact, but it’s my least favorite, it’s just too over-the-top.
    I did like the point they make about the frenzy of modern Internet culture: it was satisfyingly ironic and depressing that the pig-f*cking was completely unnecessary in the end.

  • King Alvarez

    Probably not, but it’s like when I say I’m from NJ and people respond oh, New Joisey, and then I walk away from them.

  • Stephanie

    Hello everyone! Thanks for the welcome. Happy to be here. Yes, I’m Canadian but I don’t think I’ve ever said a boot about anything. Looking forward to more Black Mirror reviews and reading this site.

  • Sailor Monsoon

    Oh and welcome to the site new blood!

  • Well it’s aboot time eh

    (Is that how we sound?)

  • Fellow Canadian, Duke!

  • New writer, who dis?

  • Sailor Monsoon

    It’s still insane to me that this was the pilot.
    Their debut episode was about pig fucking.
    That’s balls.
    24k balls.

  • I have to agree, it was a trying episode, but the series gets much better in the next few episodes. WELCOME STEPHANIE!