The anthology TV series Black Mirror has quite a few gems under its belt. One of the best and brightest is from an earlier season and is a great entry point into the show if you’re looking to draw people in and show them just what Black Mirror has to offer. We’re talking, of course, about the episode titled “White Bear.”
While the episode starts off with us sympathizing with the protagonist, we eventually realize that things aren’t as simple as they seem. Just like every other episode of Black Mirror, this one forces you to reconsider existing notions you may have had about punishment, crime, and technology. Let’s take a closer look at “White Bear” and its ending, as well as some of the controversy contained within.
“White Bear” Plot Recap
In case you forgot some details or watched it long ago, “White Bear” centers around a woman named Victoria Skillane (played by Lenora Crichlow) who wakes up in a mysterious house with no memory of who she is or how she got there. She finds people outside holding smartphones and cameras, recording her without intervening despite her pleading for their help.
As Victoria explores the outside world, she gets attacked by a man with a gun, only for a stranger to show up and help her. The stranger explains that a signal is being transmitted turning everyone into voyeurs, and that they must destroy the transmitter. As more “hunters” begin to attack, they’re aided by an unaffected man, who eventually reveals that he’s a hunter and is going to torture the both of them, but not before the stranger kills him, and they run away towards the transmitter.
At the transmitter, they’re attacked again. Victoria eventually gets a hold of a shotgun and shoots at one of the hunters, only for confetti to fly out of the barrel, and the real twist comes alive. She’s been in front of an audience the entire time, no one was killed or in danger, and she is strapped to a chair, frozen in shock.
It is here where it’s revealed that she committed a horrible crime with her boyfriend and murdered a young girl. Her punishment is to relive the same events, again and again, scared and alone, just as the young girl was. She is sedated, the neighborhood and its scenes are reset, and we are left with the crew preparing for another day of punishment for Victoria.
“White Bear” Explained
“White Bear” is a thought-provoking commentary on the modern obsession with voyeurism, sensationalism, and the role of technology in our lives. The episode explores the idea that in a society desensitized to violence and suffering, people are more interested in documenting events for personal gain or entertainment rather than helping those in need.
The twist in “White Bear” comes when it is revealed that the torment of Victoria Skillane is part of a staged event, a form of dark entertainment known as the “White Bear Justice Park.” The audience is a crucial part of this spectacle, as they unknowingly become complicit in the dehumanization and torture of the protagonist.
The punishment is a cyclical form of retribution, where Victoria is subjected to the same traumatic experience repeatedly, effectively erasing her memory each time to ensure she experiences the same horror over and over.
This episode is a chilling reflection on the consequences of mob mentality, the dehumanizing effects of technology, and the fine line between justice and cruelty. It raises questions about the ethics of public punishment, the role of the media in shaping public opinion, and the dangers of reducing complex moral questions to simple entertainment.
The best part is that the viewer sympathizes with Victoria at first, as they’re in the same boat. They have no idea what is going on, why she is being attacked, and what is going on in the world. As she’s about to be tortured, you can’t help but feel scared for her.
However, once it’s revealed that she committed an unspeakable crime, do your feelings change? Do you now agree with the reprehensible punishment she has been given for a reprehensible crime? Or do you still sympathize with her and feel that the punishment is barbaric and has no place in the modern world, no matter what the crime could possibly be?
In the end, “White Bear” is a standout episode in the Black Mirror series, known for its dark and provocative exploration of the human condition and the impact of technology on society. Ultimately, the punishment depicted in “White Bear” serves as a cautionary tale about the consequences of dehumanizing criminals and turning their punishment into a form of public entertainment. It underscores the importance of upholding ethical principles, due process, and the humane treatment of individuals, even in the context of punishing heinous crimes.