Let’s talk about Black Mirror’s ‘White Christmas,’ shall we?

There was a time long, long ago (in the ’80s) when our TV sets were temporarily taken over by twisted, haunting tales of modern life. For those of you who don’t remember the pinnacle of that genre, Tales From the Darkside: here is your YouTube refresher.

For those who do still hanker for the post-Twilight Zone era of chilling anthology series, you probably welcomed the addition of Black Mirror to Netflix, a similarly eerie series that imagines how technology can corrupt human nature. The British show has been my best Netflix friend for the past month, so when I heard about the Black Mirror “White Christmas” — the series’ Christmas special which aired on DirecTV and is not yet on Netflix — I made like Sherlock, and snooped around the forests of YouTube to find it, HERE.  The 82-minute long episode, which stars the unapologetically perfect Jon Hamm (he’s not in all the Black Mirror episodes, sorry), is basically two stories wrapped snuggly into an over-arching tale of dystopian crime. The episode is like two pigs in a blanket — a lame joke you will only get if you watched Season One’s first episode. (Go do that, ps.) Also, as soon as the episode was available it became instant conversation fodder. EVERYONE was (and still is) talking about it, and who are we to let a great pop culture conversation slip on by? The Black Mirror Christmas tale opens on two dudes, played by Hamm and Rafe Spall, seemingly snowed-in in a remote cabin. Hamm’s cooking up a hearty meal, and completing my fantasy, while Spall sits confused at the table, occasionally questioning where he is and how he got there. We’re led to believe, despite their cozy situation, that this is some kind of Christmas wasteland, and that these two men have a common bond in their own moral corruption. Hamm, we learn, was a virtual dating coach (like Hitch but with a laptop) who taught helpless guys how to talk to women. The only problem was that he wasn’t great at reading the woman one of his clients was enamored with. When it’s time for Spall to spill his own story, we learn that the world outside this cabin has sufficiently become a romantic nightmare. In a darker riff on the Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, you now can effectively “block” people and turn them into bobbling shapes so you don’t have to deal with their ish. It’s great if you’re on the blocking end of the equation, but it sucks if you’re the one being blocked. Without giving too much away, we learn that being blocked by someone you really love right in the middle of the most important fight you’ve ever had, could lead you to a life of stalking and craven obsession. At it’s core, “White Christmas” envisions a world, perhaps not too far away, where technology aims to cure the puddle of emotional anxiety we feel in romantic situations. But what emerges when you repress those feelings is essentially a dangerous blockage of the heart. Hamm’s “likable weasel” as the AV Club puts it, is perfectly cast — just as in Bridesmaids, you know you can’t trust him, but your judgement is arrested in the face of his, well, face. Always with the half-smile, always with the sparkling eyes that promise if not safety, then a kind of good-natured humor that will eventually, and always, backfire. Such is love, and in the age of heightened technology, we’re told, it doesn’t get any easier. Now go watch, will ya?