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Tara Ariano

S03.E02: Playtest

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Thrill-seeking globetrotter Cooper (Wyatt Russell) visits Britain, hooks up with Sonja (Hannah John-Kamen) -- and tests a video game so advanced, it's terrifying...

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Heheh.  Wyatt's character was a likeable guy but was truly exhausting as the episode went on.  The actresses (Wunmi Mosaku and Hannah John-Kamen) were very good.

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Yeah, he was a bit much. Just settle down. This one got to me more than the first one as despite the annoying qualities of Wyatt i identify with him. I have been backpacking in part to avoid family drama, had my card cloned and signed up for random trial things without much thought to the consequences.  Luckily things turned out ok for me but the tragedy of this one definitely felt more real. His poor mother waiting at home for a son that will never return.

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Anybody else notice that one of the symbols on the targets that Cooper was asked to watch before the whack-a-mole game was the White Bear (Season 2) symbol?

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He was playing the same type as he was in 22 Jump Street. I didn't hate him. 

 

But man did this episode get me good. So screwed up. So messed with my head. Had to walk around and then lie down for a while. Hit all my triggers. 

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Lol at the posters who found the lead actor annoying. He was a little over the top. I was confused by the ending when it was revealed that none of the other stuff past the white room really happened and the whole test took place in the span of 0.04 seconds. I would never, ever want to play a "game" like that, but you just know its totally coming. 

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Everything about the "haunted house" setting was making me wish they'd get on with it, as I knew calling Mom and the father's Alzheimers HAD to be the real fears, as they'd been repeated throughout the segment, but I kept trying to figure out whether the similarities in the two actresses' (hey Dutch!) voices was intentional. Weird and creepy episode.

On 10/21/2016 at 6:42 PM, snowwhyte said:

Yeah, he was a bit much. Just settle down. This one got to me more than the first one as despite the annoying qualities of Wyatt i identify with him. I have been backpacking in part to avoid family drama, had my card cloned and signed up for random trial things without much thought to the consequences.  Luckily things turned out ok for me but the tragedy of this one definitely felt more real. His poor mother waiting at home for a son that will never return.

Except for the card cloning (just ran out of cash and had to do some stuff for money...) me too! It must be a thing.

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I enjoyed this episode a great deal, although I agree that the main actor was a bit much. Loved the ending. He finally called mom!

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Huh, I thought the lead actor was pretty good. I feel like I know guys like that. He'd wear me out if I had to spend a lot of time with that character in real life, but the performance seemed authentic to me. Was shocked to learn who his parents are, but once I knew, it made so much sense! 

23 hours ago, Capricasix said:

Anybody else notice that one of the symbols on the targets that Cooper was asked to watch before the whack-a-mole game was the White Bear (Season 2) symbol?

YES!

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I didn't think Wyatt Russell was bad.  He was quite likeable but he just became exhausting as the show went on.

In relation to another Black Mirror episode...

Spoiler

I loved Nosedive though living in that world must be exhausting.  I can only imagine exhausting Wyatt in that exhausting world.

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On 10/23/2016 at 0:37 AM, Charlesman said:

He was playing the same type as he was in 22 Jump Street. I didn't hate him. 

 

But man did this episode get me good. So screwed up. So messed with my head. Had to walk around and then lie down for a while. Hit all my triggers. 

As it did mine...after watching the first "sherbet toned" epi 1, this was a real shock to my system and I felt like I was on a bad trip. I haven't had a movie or TV show do this to me since I was seven and thought The Blob was going to come in through the radiator in my old bedroom! By the time it was over, I almost cried for young Wyatt.

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I found this episode somewhat terrifying.  Maybe it's the arachnophobia in me, though.

And just think if he had only called him mom back....   (and not turned his phone back ON, ofc).  

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This was a really mind fucky one. It was pretty clear that it wasn't going to end well, but this was really bad.

I wonder if the game designer was inspired by somebody in real life. Only one I could think off would be Hideo Kojima.

Btw. can't those game designers spring for an RF shielded room when RF interference means death? I mean even if you are a sociopath and have no problems getting rid of the bodies. That has to be more hassle than shielding the room...

On 24.10.2016 at 5:02 PM, PreviouslyTV said:

Let's rank all the mixed-reality and bio-shocking technology!

View the full article

So I wasn't the only one who picked up on the "would you kindly"? :D

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This was a really mind fucky one. It was pretty clear that it wasn't going to end well, but this was really bad.

I wonder if the game designer was inspired by somebody in real life. Only one I could think off would be Hideo Kojima.

Btw. can't those game designers spring for an RF shielded room when RF interference means death? I mean even if you are a sociopath and have no problems getting rid of the bodies. That has to be more hassle than shielding the room...

  On 10/24/2016 at 10:02 AM, PreviouslyTV said:

Let's rank all the mixed-reality and bio-shocking technology!

View the full article

So I wasn't the only one who picked up on the "would you kindly"? :D

Ah, damn, I meant to reference it in the write-up, but yes, Hideo Kojima is exactly who I think the character was modeled after. The game makes me think "Resident Evil," but the posters and personality and reputation of the game designer seem totally based on Kojima. Kojima was actually working on a horror game recently, so this fits perfectly.

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On 28.10.2016 at 7:36 PM, Omar G. said:

Kojima was actually working on a horror game recently, so this fits perfectly.

Yeah, he was working on a new Silent Hill installment before he was fired by Konami. I think now he's just going to do it on his own under a different title. Still with lots of Norman Reeddus though. :D

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This basically reminded me of that David Cronenberg movie Existenz with Jennifer Jason Leigh. Instead of the video game designers firing a port into the base of your skull, in that movie they fire the port into the base of your spine.

I'm not into video games at all, so I can't imagine 1. agreeing to let anyone fire a vague "attachment" into my neural system for any reason, unless it was to save my life and 2. I can't see getting excited about and agreeing to play a game that fed on and exploited all my personal fears. I just could not suspend my disbelief enough to accept that. If I had been the protagonist, this show would have ended with me calling Mom and having her wire me money to get a flight out of Heathrow that afternoon.

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I'm of the opinion that every story in "Black Mirror" is basically taking place in the same world at different time periods in history, mostly the near future and the far off future (like "15 Million Merits"). 

A lot of the technology seems related, things implanted in the eyes, and the video game taking place in a fraction of a second outside of Connor's mind seems related to the technology in "White Christmas" where they would make the cookie think that it was experiencing days/weeks/years in time periods of minutes outside of it's experience.

So this particular story really bummed me out more than any other. At the end of the episode I just exclaimed, "Oh Connor..." and sighed. He was very "American" in that boisterous, goofy "Golly gee-wiz!" way and I think that was an intentional choice to portray him that way. I did figure that when he was on his flight home that he was still in the game, but I was saddened to see his mind corrupted and then damaged and his resulting death. That said, loved the fight between him and Sonya.

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Just finished watching "Playtest" for the second time, and this time knowing that everything that happened post-cellphone interference was in Cooper's mind, it was a MUCH different viewing experience. First, everyone's talking about how this is Augmented Reality, but this is so much more than that. It's "Inception" technology. If it follows through with the plot twists that we're outlined at the very end, everything that happened in the haunted house AND the flight home to visit his mom MUST'VE happened in the initiation phase, before the cellphone went off. The emphasis on the 0.04s it took is important. This technology is incredibly advanced, incredibly powerful, powerful enough to simulate physical sensations and complex textures, everything to make the user believe that it's truly reality, truly happening in real time. This is like hyper-driven dream software. 

Think about it. If you watch it again you can see that even the game inspector lady who talks in his ear is a projection of his own image of her. She tells him that it isn't possible to be physically harmed because that's all HE knows about it. Sonja is a projection of his own fear of women betraying him.

This series is so incredibly brilliant and it's a pity that so many people (mostly critics) seem to only be focused on the superficial aspects of it instead of looking/feeling deeper. There's so much packed into one episode, I agree that it's unfocused and manic and stuffed full of way too much but it's fucking awesome and this is the best show on TV I've seen since Breaking Bad.

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On 10/21/2016 at 9:22 AM, vendredi3 said:

I never imagined I'd find an actor more irritating than Jack Black.

Bravo, spawn of Kurt Russell. Bravo.

 

On 10/21/2016 at 5:04 PM, benteen said:

Heheh.  Wyatt's character was a likeable guy but was truly exhausting as the episode went on. 

It's utterly fascinating to me what a Rohrschach test Wyatt seems to be.  And some critics don't seem to realize, presumably until hearing from others, that their reaction to him could be anything other than exactly what was intended.  This is from the Vox review:
 

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Cooper has turned his entire life into a game, which can make it hard to feel sorry for him.

That’s sort of the point right? There are points in “Playtest” where you almost feel awful for him, like the brief flashes where he talks about his father’s death. But for the most part, the episode leans into his bro humor, his Americanness, to really stoke your dislike. 

 

Contrast that with the Atlantic's take:

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Episode two, “Playtest,” shares the season’s common thread of introducing a sympathetic or ultimately sympathetic character, Cooper (Wyatt Russell), someone not embedded in the power structures of the world. Black Mirror spends several minutes letting us see how likeable he is—even though careful viewers will deduce he’s probably a day-friend, not a week-friend, or a many-years-friend. 

Okay, so that one ends with a caveat.  But still, it can't both be true that the people writing and directing this episode intended to "really stoke your dislike" for him and "spend several minutes letting us see how likeable he is".  So I really don't know for sure what their intent was--maybe he was just supposed to be a certain realistic kind of character (one we recognize from real life but don't normally see on screen), and our reaction depends on whether we like such people.  I love it when a TV show or movie can pull off a trick like that.

And personally?  I liked him, all the way through.

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I'm not sure if it was the actor I disliked or the character.  Even before the test started, I found the character somewhat dull due to his inability to express himself without using the words fuck or shit.

I also didn't like the episode.  I felt as if I'd seen this story before.  It felt like a knockoff of a Philip Dick short story.

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This episode messed with my head... probably the most unsettling one I've watched so far. The part in the room where he can't remember who he is or what he looks like hit me really hard. It was like a terrible trip, or the kind of thing you experience in nightmares.

My only complaint is the ending. I felt like phone interference causing his death was a cheap way to wrap up the story. Surely if the consequence of electronics in the room is that serious (fatal), they would make sure they don't even bring them in? Or, as someone said, block the room? Felt like a plot hole. It would have been a lot more impactful, to me, if he had totally lost his sanity and ended up in the same situation as his father by the time they pulled him out of the game.

As far as the actor, I thought he did well. He played a really realistic guy, and being a backpacker myself, I know that's what a lot of Americans on the road are exactly like. He was personable and talkative but had nervous tics (pushing his hair back, looking down, talking TOO much) that were very true to life. That's how most people act at a bar when they first meet someone. Maybe it was seeing that realism on TV where people are usually a lot more polished that was a turn-off for some.

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On November 2, 2016 at 2:45 AM, Alex Ithema said:

 

Just finished watching "Playtest" for the second time, and this time knowing that everything that happened post-cellphone interference was in Cooper's mind, it was a MUCH different viewing experience. First, everyone's talking about how this is Augmented Reality, but this is so much more than that. It's "Inception" technology. If it follows through with the plot twists that we're outlined at the very end, everything that happened in the haunted house AND the flight home to visit his mom MUST'VE happened in the initiation phase, before the cellphone went off. The emphasis on the 0.04s it took is important. This technology is incredibly advanced, incredibly powerful, powerful enough to simulate physical sensations and complex textures, everything to make the user believe that it's truly reality, truly happening in real time. This is like hyper-driven dream software. 

Think about it. If you watch it again you can see that even the game inspector lady who talks in his ear is a projection of his own image of her. She tells him that it isn't possible to be physically harmed because that's all HE knows about it. Sonja is a projection of his own fear of women betraying him.
 

 

My take on the 0.04 seconds is that it shows that Cooper's "experience" couldn't have been caused by the software, as the upload had just started.  Seems to me that this is basically just an updated Jacob's Ladder scenario wherein someone's mind creates a fantasy involving elements from his life during his final moments.

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I really thought they should have gone with the first ending they set up- Cooper completely losing his mind as a result of the game. That would have made more impact on me than him just dying.

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I never imagined I'd find an actor more irritating than Jack Black.

Bravo, spawn of Kurt Russell. Bravo.

Heh. I like Wyatt, but he is relatively new to acting (he didn't really start his career in earnest until his hockey career didn't pan out) and it does show sometimes. He has this tic for emotional scenes where he starts kind of babbling and while it does work, it'd be nice to see him not do that.

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My take on the 0.04 seconds is that it shows that Cooper's "experience" couldn't have been caused by the software, as the upload had just started.  Seems to me that this is basically just an updated Jacob's Ladder scenario wherein someone's mind creates a fantasy involving elements from his life during his final moments.

Maybe he had an aneurysm that couldn't take the implant so it erupted? That could be possible, too.

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This episode also made me think of Existenz with the port in the back of the neck.  Cooper is a loser and a jackass who never stops talking, which is kind of a running theme with this show where the main character is flawed and even unlikable.  But it also made me care less about what happenend to him because he was so annoying through most of the episode.  I found it a bit of a reach that he just answered an ad and then waltzed right into this big video game company's hq and got to participate in this game test right away, when they had people right there (and probably lots of others answering the ad), but whatever.  I understand the need for the fake-out ending to tie in the whole business with his phone. Until then, I kept wondering why that was included, if maybe they uncovered the picture he took and were deliberately messing with him.  I'd think they would have had better protocols in place since cell phones were so potentially dangerous, like, don't allow any communication devices into the room under any circumstances even if turned off.  What happened to Cooper in the haunted house wasn't that scary, except for when Sonja showed up.  The scary part is what can happen when you allow outside sources to directly access and manipulate your brain, whether intentional or accidental.

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I didn't enjoy this as much as I did "Nosedive," maybe because I see the the scenario in "Nosedive" to be more "realistic" than this one.  Anyway, for sure I wouldn't let someone do a so-called medical procedure on me for a game, especially not without asking some questions about it.  Cooper just let them do whatever and didn't even ask what part of his body would be subjected to the procedure.  Maybe there are people like that but not me.

Were all those people shown at the gaming headquarters supposed to be employees working on other games?  At first I thought they were supposed to be participants in the same program as Cooper.

It also didn't make sense to me that all the stuff that happened in the horror game could occur in 0.04 seconds while they were actually still just downloading it to his port.  (This episode reminded me a lot of Matrix.)  When they downloaded the whack-a-mole game, Cooper didn't start seeing the game until the employee placed the little circles on the table, not during the download itself.  Whatever.

I didn't mind the acting until Cooper started seeing Sonja stabbing him.  He wasn't making me believe that he was (or thought he was) actually being stabbed.

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I honestly thought that the phone was part of the test, to see if Cooper would deliberately violate protocol to use his phone, and that was going to be the big ending of him possibly just being trapped in the game for the rest of his life. I didn't see his death occurring 0.04 seconds into the download, and I also thought that it wasn't a twist that I necessarily believed. This may be the weaker episode of the series for me. I'm a fan of video games, especially horror games, so some of the aspects like Cooper's supposed last test in the haunted house worked fairly well. Unfortunately, other aspects didn't quite meet that mark.

I didn't hate Wyatt Russell in the role, as I suspect Cooper was supposed to be a bumbling idiot, but he got on my nerves when he wouldn't stop shouting about something. I had to mute him at points because his voice was carrying through my room. However, I did really like his acting choices when he thought he was losing himself and becoming like his dad before his death. That cemented for me that he's really not a bad actor; more of an exhausting one with possibly a specific set of acting skills. I'd have to see him in another role to confirm my suspicion.

I think the main question is what will happen to Cooper's body now? Also, Sonja knows where he is and is expecting to hear the result of what happened in the company. Wouldn't she get suspicious when he doesn't call back, or would she just assume he blew her off and move on with her life? Also, I feel bad for Cooper's mom, who just wanted to talk to her son, who refused to pick up the phone for weeks. 

Interesting that Shou and Katie had a specific box on the paperwork labelled "cause of crash". Does that mean their case studies die often? Also, how much of that simulation had grains of truth? For example, when fake Sonja appeared in the haunted house and spewed information about missing people, is that information real or something he fabricated? I guess the question I wonder about is what was being downloaded into his brain at the same time he crashed. 

Eventually, I'll go back and watch again to uncover any deeper stuff that I clearly missed on this first go around. However, for the time being, I need to put this episode aside because it was getting on my nerves at points. 

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I too thought that the testers would know Cooper took a photo with his phone.  The room had to be monitored and it should have been blocked too if the testing was that sensitive.

but very cool immersion, as one said above, like inception.

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Sometimes this show is really interesting to me, and sometimes it is just irritating. This episode was the latter. About 40 minutes in, I was ready to watch anything else. I would compare watching this episode to the feeling I get when someone tells me about a dream they had.

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I thought the phone interference (as cause of death) appropriate as it ties into the message that the trip really is a form of interference, avoidance...the voicemail of actually having to deal. And Katie and co really weren’t all that concerned with one more dead body. They were just interested in gathering data, every possibility regarding the game. It highlights these test subjects as just that—easily disposed of, smaller sacrifices to the god of the game, that next level high, escape, or thrill. 

I think it’s interesting that Cooper’s so nervous initially. The jokes, the extra talking and so forth, and he just ignores all those misgivings. I always find that interesting in these sorts of shows. I just watched this one and Metalhead because a friend advised me to do so before a choose your own sort of BM movie drops in a day or so. 

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I don't know what show folks were watching - I saw absolutely nothing new here, just a poor mixture of '80s tropes  -- a little Dreamscape, a bunch of Nightmare on Elm Street.  Is he awake? Is that real?  Depends on the writer's whim. Who cares?  The pacing was terrible and there were no surprises. This had nothing new to say.

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This was a little too slow-paced for me. Also expected the "haunted house" to be more scary than a giant spider and a creepy man in black. The VR game testing setup was relatively well-done. Just wish there were more "scares".

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