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Mallory Ortberg Accidentally Inspired A New Episode Of ‘Black Mirror’ By Making Fun Of The Show

"Next on 'Black Mirror': what if phones, but too much?"

Spoilers for ‘Playtest’ and ‘Nosedive’, the first two episodes of Black Mirror’s third season.

At the beginning of last year, former co-editor of The Toast and Excellent Internet Person Mallory Ortberg started watching Black Mirror for the first time. She didn’t love it.

Ortberg described the general premise of the show as “The Internet Is Bad” and suggested that a specific episode — the 2014 Christmas special featuring Jon Hamm — was “like something a smug seventh-grader wrote”. Her next tweet, which inspired a hilarious follow-up post on The Toast, then immediately burrowed its way into my brain for all eternity. Its mix of total savagery and absolute truth ensured I could never watch this show without wincing a little ever again.

Now, in an unlikely but excellent turn of events, the Black Mirror series creator has taken inspiration from Ortberg’s fake pitch. In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Charlie Brooker has said the ending of the third season’s second episode ‘Playtest’ was directly influenced by the joke.

Judging by her reaction, I don’t think it’s exactly what Ortberg was gunning for.

If you haven’t seen it already (and don’t care about spoilers), ‘Playtest’ is about a young backpacker who helps try out a new unreleased virtual reality game to score some extra cash on his travels. The game developers lodge software into his brain that targets his deepest fears and brings them to life.

Eventually, they lose control of the program leaving him to helplessly battle his (increasingly real and malicious) projections on his own with no escape. Then, when things get particularly horrific, he wakes up and realises that was all part of the game and he’d only been playing for one second. He then heads home, traumatised by the event, and finds out something terrible has happened to his mother. That is also part of the game. We cut back to the test lab. It turns out the entire thing was the result of his brain getting fried because his phone was left on next to experimental equipment. A call from his mum instantly killed him.

To be honest… that last twist ruined the episode. It transformed a well-paced and compelling hour of horror from 10 Cloverfield Lane director Dan Trachtenberg into an overstuffed “technology is fukt” turducken. To hear that the second twist was tacked on by Brooker to “amuse” himself is not surprising at all.

But that’s not to say that his idea of responding to Ortberg’s criticism in a funny, good-natured way is a bad one! I’m just surprised Brooker didn’t dob in guest writers Rashida Jones and Mike Schur for ‘Nosedive’ — the one where Bryce Dallas Howard becomes obsessed with the social media on her phone and eventually ends up covered in mud, screaming, and brandishing a knife to a soft toy’s throat at her best friend’s wedding.

God bless this amazing and amazingly dumb show.

Black Mirror

Pictured: too much phones.

Season three of Black Mirror is on Netflix now.