Black Mirror: “Nosedive” Season 3 Premiere Review

It’s been almost two years since we last got new Black Mirror, inching toward four years since it was regularly airing. That’s a longer gap than most shows tend to survive. But Charlie Brooker’s contemplative sci-fi series has only gained traction in its absence. Regardless, for viewers new and old, “Nosedive” is a near perfect gateway into the Netflix era of the anthology series. It wonderfully recaptures the bleak tone of paranoia intertwined with technology that made the first seven episodes so fascinating. Yet it also resembles a leap forward. Black Mirror exists because technology and society are simultaneously evolving at an unparalleled rate. The explosion of social media was still somehow unexplored.

“Nosedive” shows us a world where people continuously rate each other like we do restaurants or movies. Your friend posts a cute picture with their dog, you rate them five out of five stars. Or, if you want to grab someone’s attention, rate them a four. Star ratings act as a currency of sorts, with scores granting you better rental cars, express lines, eligibility to live in certain apartment complexes, and easy rescheduling when your flight is cancelled. We follow Lacie (an exceptional Bryce Dallas Howard, playing for both the big and small moments), a normal woman just trying to improve her life the only ways her world allows her to. Her social coach (yup), tells her she needs to get really high-rated people to rate her highly to bump her score enough to get the apartment she wants. That’s when her childhood best friend (Alice Eve) asks her to be her maid of honor, sending Lacie into a tizzy of possible “likes.”

With a title like “Nosedive,” Lacie is pretty obviously doomed from the start. But how writers Michael Schur and Rashida Jones (yes, the Parks and Rec. alums) naturally unveil her downward spiral in the context of the world is fascinating. Lacie has to keep her cool at all times to keep her rating up. That includes when things go wrong. We see how a bad mood or a single accident can really damage someone’s reputation. It’s disturbing how the masses seem to gang up on Lacie, as if she’s a celebrity that said the wrong thing in an interview, when really the whole thing started by making her cab driver wait too long. Director Joe Wright puts a pastel shade over the world, not unlike Tim Burton did in Edward Scissorhands, that slowly deteriorates the more real Lacie is forced to be.

It culminates at the wedding, where Lacie, now banned for having too low of a rating, breaks in and gives a speech laced with anger and realism between the weak attempts to regain her status. This is where Bryce Dallas Howard does her best work, alternating between fake Lacie and real Lacie without warning, even occasionally emoting that Lacie might not know herself when she’s real or not. After pulling a knife on the groom, she’s eventually subdued and brought to prison. But just when Black Mirror looks like it might leave us there with her without any kind of release, she and a fellow prisoner start hurling insults at each other. It’s a wonderful moment of catharsis after a stuffed-up episode. Like most Black Mirror episodes, it runs a little too long, but “Nosedive” serves as the perfect, eerie welcome back for the series. Surely gone too long it was. Grade: A-

By Matt Dougherty

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