The National Anthem

Last night saw the start of Black Mirror, a strand of three techno-parable-satire stories created by Charlie Brooker. Up first, “The National Anthem”, featuring a Prime Minister confronted with an impossible, humiliating demand, and dealing with it in the glare of Twitter and 24 hour rolling news.


Brooker isn’t exactly known for his lightness of touch, so I was prepared for him to make his point like a brick to the head, but I was still surprised by how gleefully he soared over the top in the first few minutes. I mean, once you’ve started the series off on webcast pig-sex, I’m not sure where else to go. Series finale: a man cannibalises his baby in front of a sold-out Wembley stadium?

Probably not. (Hopefully not, even.) Nonetheless, Brooker managed to keep the desperate need to outdo himself in check here. Once he’d introduced the ludicrous premise, he played it dead straight. Constant smug winks to the audience would have undercut any drama or point.

Rory Kinnear as the PM also helped sell the emotion with a strong performance, the script cleverly not giving any party affiliation or cheap political jokes to get in the way. And by the by, it is nice to see TV shows using Twitter in a way that reflects its real life workings. The tech aspects of this show mostly sounded plausible for once.

The middle act was a bit redundant; it was clear Brooker wanted that final moment of stark horror, so you didn’t feel much drama as they tried to avert it. Still, there was a lot more deftness and restraint than I expected, and I didn’t see the final reveal about the culprit coming at all. A good start to the series, I look forward to next week.

Watch The National Anthem on 4 On Demand now.

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