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Black Mirror Season 3 Episode 2 Recap – Playtest

BY Arabelle

Published 4 days ago

Black Mirror Season 3 Episode 2 Recap – Playtest

A guy is packing things into his travel bag. He quietly gets out of the house and rides a car. Not long after he left, his mom calls him, but he rejects the call. While on an airplane, he plays on his phone while watching a movie. A flight attendant approaches him and tells him to turn off his phone for a moment. He sees a young girl getting nervous because of the flight turbulence. He tells her that their flight is like riding a roller coaster, so he raises his hands up and tells the young girl to imitate her.

Cooper starts his travel worldwide: Australia, Thailand, India, Dubai, Spain, Italy, France, and more. He is currently in London, enjoying the London Eye and Big Ben. He goes to a café and sees a couple kissing. He starts looking for a date on his phone. He swipes Sonja to the right, and they match. They meet and talk about her work and his travels. He tells Sonja he is already going home next week. Sonja flirts with him, so they end up in bed together. The next morning, while in bed, Sonja sees his scar. She assumes where it came from, but he tells her he got it from a high school classmate. A phone rings. Sonja looks for the phone ringing, and she sees it‘s from Cooper’s phone. His mother is calling him again. Cooper rejects it again. Sonja prepares breakfast for Cooper: a piece of bread with a spread. Cooper’s phone vibrates — his mom is calling him again.

Sonja tells him to answer his mother’s call because she‘s just concerned about him. Sonja adds that he is her son, and he is away from her, traveling. Cooper tells Sonja he still lives with his mom because he was taking care of his dad who already passed away — early onset of Alzheimer‘s. He says he doesn’t connect with his mom, especially when his dad died, so he left and traveled. He wants to do everything he wants while he still can. He knows he must talk to her mom, but he wants to do it personally when he gets home. Sonja sympathizes with Cooper. She comes closer to him and kisses his forehead. She tells him he is a good guy and encourages him to call his mom.

Cooper goes outside to withdraw some cash from the ATM, but he doesn’t have enough money in his account anymore. He tries it again, but the result is just the same. He calls the bank to check his account. The bank tells him there is an error in their system, and it looks like it will take some time to fix it. Cooper says he needs the money because he needs to buy a ticket to go home. Cooper doesn’t have a choice but to call his mom, yet he still doesn’t do it.

He comes back to Sonja’s house, and she lets him stay with her that night again. Cooper tells Sonja he will look for odd jobs on an app he has used whenever funds get low. Sonja reads “Thrillseekers wanted” from a job advertisement on the app. Sonja thinks he can try it out. Cooper checks if the job is legit. It‘s a playtest deal for a company called Saitogemu. Sonja tells him they‘re huge. She mentions Harlech Shadow to Cooper, and it rings a bell. She then gives Cooper a magazine showing Shou Saito, the owner of the company. She suggests he takes a photo of anything Saitogemu is doing because the owner is very secretive. They‘re currently working on a very big project with big money involved, but nobody knows about the details. If he gets a photo, Sonja tells him it‘s worth way more money than a four-pound sign. Cooper decides to go and asks where the place is.

Cooper arrives at the venue. Katie takes the lead while he follows. She tells him Rav will take care of his bag. They enter a room where everyone is working. Cooper gets overwhelmed by everything he sees. They go upstairs. Katie asks for anything that allows Cooper to send and receive anything. He gives her his phone, and she turns it off. They enter a room, and Katie gives him the NDA about the game. Katie tells him there‘s a small medical procedure involved, but it‘s nothing permanent. He is ready to sign when he notices there is no space for him to sign, so Katie goes out to get another proper contract. While Katie is outside, Cooper uses his phone to capture a photo inside the case in front of him and sends it to Sonja.

Katie comes back. Cooper signs the paper. The game starts. Katie puts on a mushroom on the back of Cooper’s neck. She tells him it‘s not permanent. Katie starts the system, and it appears something is being uploaded into Cooper. Cooper‘s mom suddenly calls in the middle of the upload. Katie gets the phone and turns it off. She says she thought she turned it off. Katie tells Cooper to look at the targets. The targets become holes, and a pixelated gopher appears. Katie checks if Cooper can see it, so he confirms. Katie upgrades the pixelated gopher into 3D. Then, into an almost real gopher. Cooper gets amazed. Katie tells him the gopher is just a mental projection, and she can‘t see it but Cooper can. Katie invites Cooper to give the gopher a whack like “Whac-A-Mole.” Katie tells Cooper it‘s still a limited demo game, and she thinks Cooper should test the whole experience. He agrees.

Katie takes Cooper to Shou Saito‘s office. Shou shares with Cooper some thoughts about why he likes to make people jump in games. He tells Cooper what they are working on: the most personal survival horror game in history. It works by scaring people using their own minds. Katie uploads the neural net package to Cooper. After putting the device off, Katie asks him how he is feeling. Cooper says he feels normal. Shou asks him if he is ready to play.

Katie takes him to what Cooper thinks is the Harlech Shadow house. Katie tells him it‘s part of the estate. The house is actually the gamekeepers‘ lodge. Cooper asks Katie what he needs to do. Katie tells him he doesn’t have to do anything aside from staying in the house and seeing how long he can stay until he gets too scared. Katie gives him an earpiece so they can contact each other anytime. Katie asks Cooper for a safe word, something that will signal them that he‘s getting too scared. Cooper tells her the word “stop.”

Cooper roams around the house and checks everything. He gets himself a glass of non-alcoholic wine. Katie speaks on the other line and tells him that they need him with a clear mind. Cooper finds a heavy chest around the house. He pulls it in front of the chair he‘ll sit on and puts his feet up. He reaches for his pocket to get his phone; he forgot he left it outside. Katie welcomes him to the 19th century: no TV, internet, or wifi. He finds a book beside him, and he decides to read it. While reading, he sees a spider. Katie tells him his heart rate increased. Cooper tells her he‘s seeing a spider approaching him. The spider climbs onto his chair, so he jumps in fear. “Tough guy like you, scared of spiders,” Katie comments.

The hallucinations and illusions are starting for Cooper. He kills the spider, but he eventually realizes it‘s not real. He continues reading the book. The lights flicker. He looks at the painting and sees light from the painting of the Harlech Shadow house that was not lit earlier. He tells Katie to zoom in on the painting. He gets shocked when he sees a guy in the window. Something distracts him. When he looks back at the painting, both the light and the man in the window are gone. He immediately starts to hear sounds coming from the second floor. He downplays it as just leaky pipes. He follows the sound and slowly peeks into the stairs. He confidently confirms it‘s just leaky pipes, but he gets shocked when he sees a man standing in front of him. He laughs and tells Katie she got him. He then describes the guy he is seeing. Then, he realizes the guy looks like Josh Peters.

Cooper gets another glass of non-alcoholic wine. He looks for something to eat in the cabinets and sees some cookies. He closes the cabinet, and he sees the shadow of Josh Peters which immediately transforms into a big spider. “Peters-spider mash-up,” he describes to Katie. He asks if they are doing everything in the house or if it‘s just him. Katie confirms it‘s just him. Katie’s line gets cut.

Someone bangs on the door. He gets nervous but tries to fight it. When he opens the door, he sees Sonja. She tells him he‘s in danger. Cooper gets amazed again. He thinks she‘s not real, but when she touches her, she‘s solid. He checks everything about Sonja, but he still can’t believe she is there. He tries to make sense of how she‘s real. Sonja tells him they need to get out of there and explains that Saito‘s project got rejected outright. Cooper does not believe her. He thinks Sonja is their accomplice. Sonja gets a knife and stabs Cooper. He tries to get away from her, but she is stronger than him. While they are in a scuffle, the Sonja in front of him changes appearance. The Sonja she saw is not real.

Cooper starts to hear Katie again. He explains everything that happened to Katie frustratingly scared. Katie tells him nothing he ever sees can harm him or touch him. But Cooper stands by what happened. He knows he felt it. She further explains that it might be the neural connections replicating physical experiences. Cooper tells Katie that he wants them to stop the game. Katie says she will stop the game. Cooper tries to forcefully remove the mushroom, but Katie stops him and says it can kill him if he forces to remove it. Katie tells him to follow her instructions to get to the access point. Cooper reaches the door to the access point. Cooper hesitates to enter and tells Katie the scenarios that could happen behind the door. Katie tells him to open the door.

When Cooper enters the room, he asks where the access point is. Katie laughs and tells him there is really no access point. Katie tells him that she told him to go up in the room to know if they have broken him enough to obey their instructions without question. Katie asks him about his mother, but he can‘t answer properly. She follows up with another question until Cooper gets frustrated because he can‘t remember anything. He says it‘s taking his memories. 

Katie tells Cooper to look in the mirror and asks him if he still recognizes himself. Everything Cooper hears is all in his head. He gets crazy and frustrated. He punches the mirror and takes the shard of glass. He tries to pluck out the mushroom behind his neck. Katie and the team enter the room and stop Cooper from taking out the mushroom. Katie attempts to shut the system down, but she tells him that the system in Cooper’s head has dug deeper than it actually should. It‘s unstoppable now. Shou Saito apologizes to him and tells his team to take him. Two guys drag him out while he repeatedly shouts “Stop!” Then everything dissolves; everything is part of virtual reality. Katie rushes to remove the mushroom from Cooper. They are still in Shou Saito‘s room. Katie tells Shou everything that happened virtually was just a second in the real world. Shou Saito apologizes to him. Cooper goes home.

At home, Cooper sees his mom, but she doesn’t recognize him at all. Hearts beat rapidly, and everything goes back to the white room where Cooper was initially plugged into the device. His mom was calling while he was plugged in. Katie drops the call and immediately unplugs the device from Cooper, but it‘s all too late. Cooper dies. Katie reports to Shou Saito that all of Cooper‘s synapses fired all at once and then he died. The signal from his phone when his mom was calling interfered with the upload of the game. Shou Saito tells Katie to take note of what happened. Katie notes 0.04 for the test duration and the cause of the crash is phone interference. Under the observation field, she notes “Called Mom.”

Our Thoughts

This is one of the creepiest and scariest episodes of Black Mirror. All he wanted to do was play a game that can help him earn some money to buy a ticket to go home and talk to his mother. But everything turned out worse leading to his death. The point of technology is to make people‘s work easier. And it‘s really promising that people can think of different ways of improving it. Yet, not everything with technology is positive. All things have pros and cons. And we have to be sensitive to these two sides of advancement. Otherwise, what happened to Cooper might really happen in real life. Do you really want technology to take over your life?

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