The many, many Easter eggs in the Black Mirror Universe
Presented by: Alexis Sottile
It's been just over a month since Black Mirror announced that it would indeed "be right back" with a Season 5, at some undetermined time. A couple of weeks later we learned that the show was already filming, that filming of the second episode was primed, and that Charlie Brooker would be writing the third episode.
This was a shock just shy of realizing we'd all been living in a simulation, since in the last episode of Season 4, "Black Museum," Shuri, I mean Letitia Wright (we love you, Shuri!) found a creepy AF museum full of Black Mirror Easter eggs and torched it. It really seemed like Brooker was saying goodbye to the techno-horror world he'd created, and good luck to the rest of us, we'd just have to watch robots receive citizenship and wonder if self-driving cars will go all John Carpenter's Christine on us and quake in our space boots alone.
But, thank San Junipero heavens, it's all not true. So, in celebration of the safe return of Black Mirror, Prime Minister Michael Callow is going to.... here is a list of our favorite Black Mirror Easter eggs, as well as one thing we thought was an Easter egg, but which is actually something that very much currently exists in the UK (which, being at least five hours ahead of any US time zone, actually is a tiny bit in the future).
(Oh, and it goes without saying but what follows is extremely spoiler-y. )
1. The futuristic snack I thought might be an Easter egg but which really exists in the UK
Just to start off strong and wrong, here's the first thing that caught my eye when watching Black Mirror for Easter eggs. It's right there in the first episode, "The National Anthem," in the bar which serves as one of the locales from which average citizens are about to watch the Prime Minister and the pig...together. I thought to myself "Transform-a-Snack! How sci-fi! Clearly this snack must recur again and again in some kind of grand unified theory of snacking in the dystopian Black Mirror future." So... I looked it up. Nope, it's just a real, live, actual British snack, six different flavors of some kind of baked corn-based (?) snack food that comes in the shapes of wheels, axles and chassis that you can put together yourself to create a food car. A car made out of food. Ok, so this snack isn't from the future but I can see why no matter how bleak things get, the future citizens of England would definitely want to keep this snack around. (Episode's featured flavors: beef, and cheese & onion. Better that than pork rinds.)
2. That gorgeous Irma Thomas song from "Fifteen Million Merits"
It's not really an Easter egg until it recurs in the Christmas episode (and one episode per season) but I'm putting it here in Season 1 because I love Abi Kahn/Jessica Brown Findlay's performance of it here so much. By Season 3's "Men Against Fire," the usage of the song has become a creepy counterpoint to the action, culminating in the Season 4 version in "Crocodile," one of only maybe two episodes so bleak I won't rewatch them, even for science! But this version is pure and sweet, like Irma Thomas's own. So let's revel in that a sec before the next robot dog comes along.
3. UKN Network
Sleuths far sleuthier than I caught this one, but there it is, down at the far left corner, an e-mail from UKNewsNetworks, the same outlet for which our erstwhile reporter heroine Malaika went rogue trying to cover the rescue of Princess Susannah in "The National Anthem." When bereaved Martha Starmer checks her e-mail and is first contacted by the bot impersonating her dead husband, a few e-mails below there we see her news update from the #1 news network of Scary Future England.
I still can't believe something called UKNewsNetworks is made up and something called Transform-a-Snack is real, but that's one of the fifteen million reasons why research is important, kids. You might miss out on making a car out of food. UKN Network recurs again and again throughout the series, and we even see it's US analogue USN Network in Season 4's "Black Museum."
4. Furthermore, are we all just a dream Martha is having?
One thing that's hard to miss for any die-hard Black Mirror fan is that when Martha finishes uploading video of her husband Ash into whatever unnamed system is going to allow the bot to actually call her on the phone and speak with her, the program's loading icon is exactly like the one that precedes the title pages of Black Mirror episodes. It's sort of part of the moving logo of Black Mirror itself. Which, taken to it's looniest conclusion would mean that Black Mirror is something Martha is watching on her computer, or, at the very least, we ourselves live in the Black Mirror universe. If that's the case I'm totally fine with being Martha, living in a beautiful country home, and having a kind and gentle Domnhall Gleason robot in my attic. If that's dystopia, call me dystopic.
5. Geraint Fitch, Cleared of Wrongdoing!
I sure do hope we find out who Geraint Fitch is in Season 5. Whoever he is, all I know is, he's done nothing wrong. I knew it was important to watch the UKN network scroll in "The National Anthem," because we see the same name, and the same scroll in Season 2's "The Waldo Moment," a scroll which in full tells us that "Geraint Fitch has been cleared of wrongdoing following paparazzi scuffle." Hmmm... What it means for the Black Mirror universe so far, I'm not actually sure, but so far Brooker geraint tellin' us.
6. ABBA is surprisingly hot in the future
As soon as I heard the famed Hot Shot singer Selma Telse sing ABBA's song "I Have a Dream," I had a feeling this one might recur. And it does, though it's really easy to miss. In "The Waldo Moment," as the host of "Tonight For One Week Only" is practicing his monologue with the teleprompter, he goes on a short comic rant about religious beliefs, part of which has him saying, "ABBA believed in angels," a reference to the "I believe in angels" line of "I Have a Dream," from the second episode. It's quick, but if you're looking for ABBA references, you'll find them. Brooker, who was born in the '70s, actually seems to give a bunch of love to '70s music on the show. While Ash Starmer of "Be Right Back" claims to hate disco, he does love the Bee Gees, and his robot's failure to heart "How Deep is Your Love" helps nearly propel him off a cliff. How deep is Brooker's love for '70s music? I'd say pretty deep.
7. So many Easter Eggs in "White Christmas"
It's a holiday-palooza mash-up here as "White Christmas" brings us more Easter eggs than any one previous episode. Maybe it's due to it's extended length or it's pastiche of stories, or maybe it's just because it came out originally as a stand-alone episode in December 2014, almost two years after Season 2 was released in the U.K. in the winter of 2013 and two years before Season 3 debuted on Netflix. For whatever the reason, this 73-minute collage of interlocking tales was a regular basket of eggs.
First of all, for an episode so filled with goodies, it's impossible to ignore that when Jon Hamm is working for Smartelligence, his job involves sentient copies of consciousnesses being placed inside of eggs. The small blue light emanating from it's aperture gives it a slightly iEgg feel, but it's an egg nonetheless.
Ok, moving on! When the quite-complainy young woman who is about to have her consciousness copied is lying in bed awaiting her procedure, she's watching a weather report. At the bottom is a scroll with no less than two Easter eggs. One informs us that the prime minister from the first episode and his wife are divorcing. The second tells us "Victoria Skillane appeal bid rejected." She's the woman who is being tortured by voyeurs in "White Bear" for her own heinous voyeuristic crimes. (With both of these scrolls so clearly referring to Black Mirror world events, how can we not meet Geraint Fitch??)
Also, when Joe Potter finds his girlfriend Beth's pregnancy test, it is the same futuristic dancing-baby-GIF type of test that Martha Starmer uses to find out she's pregnant in "Be Right Back." AND in Jon Hamm's other job as a remote dating coach, one of the voyeurs (sensing a theme) tuning in to the livestream of his protege's night at the bar has the screen name "I_Am_Waldo," an obvious reference to "The Waldo Moment."
As if that weren't enough, serious students of Black Mirror have discovered that when Joe Potter flips through channels, he goes past "Hot Shots," from "Fifteen Million Demerits," "Tonight for One Week," from "The Waldo Moment," and UKN news. You can even see the reflection of a TV image of Selma Telse in his apartment, which really makes you wonder about social stratification in the Black Mirror universe. Does that mean he's living his fairly early 21st century-esque life at the same time that Bing and Abi are trapped in boxes and on bikes?
(Also, lest we forget, Potter's girlfriend Beth sings "Anyone Who Knows What Love Is" at karaoke, the song's second sighting.)
Oh, and one last thing. When Potter watches the news you can also see a ticker in which Liam Monroe from "The Waldo Moment" says his Twitter was hacked. So both Twitter and Transform-a-Snack will stand the test of time? Mental, as they say across the pond.
8. A Nosedive for Michael Callow
It's hard to see here, and I have other fans to thank for pointing out this one, but as Lacie checks her socials, you can see that trending in the sidebar is a futuristic tweet from poor prime minister Michael Callow, saying "kicked out of the zoo again. : ("
If they don't leave the poor man alone soon I'm going to begin wondering if his last name is a Dickensian name pun on the word "callow" for the type of humor they're throwing at him. Who am I kidding? It's probably a Dickensian pun. I'm calling it a double Easter egg.
Lacie also later meets cosplaying fans of the "Moon western" TV show "Sea of Tranquility," a special effects artist from which is almost hired to save Callow from his predicament in the first episode.
(P.S. Can I just put in my vote now for the crew of the USS Calister to somehow end up on "Sea of Tranquility" in Season 5? That's my hope.)
9. Play test your recognition of this actress
Look who it is, it's Selma Telse! Actualy, it's the actress Hannah John-Kamen, who played Selma Telse in "Fifteen Million Merits," and here she is again in "Playtest" as Sonja. It's odd that this is the first of only two times this happens in the Black Mirror universe, and it's probably because Brooker and his fellow showrunner Annabel Jones really wanted to see her talent in action more (her part in this one is much larger). But I can't help feeling like they're addressing her multiple identities by showing us very clearly that the favorite DVD in Sonja's apartment, the one she left out and lying on top very obviously in her bookshelf, is John Woo's Face/Off.
I mean, for the first actress to ever play two characters on Black Mirror to coincidentally have a film about people switching faces as her character's most obviously displayed film? All this moment is lacking is some slo-mo white doves to drive it home.
Also! The logo on the card-like objects that turn into the augmented reality gopher game at the Saito Gemu headquarters include the white bear symbol from the "White Bear" episode, which was also tattooed on the back of the neck of Victoria Skillane's accomplice. (Whose use of the symbol came first? Could he have lost his mind and/ or become violent from using the company's products?)
AND extremely eagle-eyed viewers have pointed out that the magazine Sonja shows Cooper includes a cover line on a company called Granular doing some tests. This both plants the seeds for the later focus on Granular as the maker of the bee drones in "Hated in the Nation," AND, in my opinion, might harken back to season one's "The Entire History of You," in which the implant that enables users to record everything they see with their eyes is called "a grain."
Also, TCKR Systems, the developer of the post-death consciousness cloud of "San Junipero," is first referenced in "Playtest."
10. Where's Waldo?
"Shut Up and Dance" is the other episode so bleak I don't care to rewatch it, but, nevertheless, it does have Easter eggs and luckily one can read about them without watching the whole thing again! So, in case you're wondering, there's a Waldo sticker on Kenny's laptop, and about a zillion references to other episodes on the news website we see there. Michael Callow, Victoria Skillane and "cookie technology" all get referred to, cookie technology being the term used for the consciousness-copying tech of the episode "White Christmas."
Also, though, something I noticed is that nefarious cake deliveries abound in Season 3. There's one here and then another creepy home cake delivery in "Hated in the Nation." So, it's all about cookies and cakes this season.
(I'd love to think these creepy cakes were a reference to the "Father's Day" segment in the film "Creep Show," and have an excuse to say, "I want my cake!" but this isn't Stranger Things, so it's just probably wishful egg hunting.)
11. I'm just gonna leave this pic of San Junipero right here.
The name of the bar in San Junipero, "Tuckers," is basically just TCKR Systems, the developer of the cloud itself, with some vowels thrown in. (We didn't think "San Junipero" could get smarter or better but it just did.)
12. Granular Lives!
At this point I must admit we've reached a bit of a saturation point with references to Michael Callow and Victoria Skillane. They are indeed referenced online in "Hated in the Nation," as they would be if this were a shared universe. However, the biggest new developments here are the revelations about what Granular actually does (makes robot bees!) (and maybe, in my humble opinion, the "grain" from "The Entire History of You"?), and also, we learn that Detective Blue Coulson has left her forensics job behind because her last case was Iain Rannoch, the killer who was the boyfriend of Victoria Skillane in "White Bear."
In further TV news ticker news, we also see that a court has ruled that "cookies" have human rights (thank God, because "White Christmas" cookie's life was brutal) and that the US has just introduced it's MASS military program, the one used to trick soldiers into not being able to believe their own eyes in "Man Against Fire." There is also a ticker reference to the Harlech Shadow game from "Playtest" and the "Reputelligent" system of social rating from "Nosedive."
13. USS Callister brings the cameos
USS Callister, aside from being one giant nod to Star Trek itself, as well as a commentary on fandom gone awry, has a few of it's own internal reference points as well. For one, the Callister, Inc. receptionist is shown to be using the dating app we later see the inner workings of in "Hang the DJ." Secondly, we see here our second example of an actress reoccurring in a different, and larger role later on in the series. This time the actress is Michaela Coel. We see her first as a flight attendant in "Nosedive," before she comes back here as Shania in "USS Callister." (No references to Face/Off can be found in this episode, although of course the whole plot revolves around identity theft.)
Lastly, but not at all leastly, the cameos by Aaron Paul (as the voice of a gamer outside the system) and Kirsten Dunst as a background actor in just one quick moment at the office are very easy to miss if you're not looking for them. (Dunst is currently engaged to one of the stars of the episode, Jesse Plemons.)
14. The Entire History of Arkangel
Here we have a complete and utter throwback to Season 1's "The Entire History of You," as well as to "White Christmas." The tech that fearful mother Marie embeds in her young daughter's mind appears to combine the memory-recording "grain" of the first one with the "blocking out" tech of "White Christmas." Some people seem to postulate that all three are the same, but I tend to think of Arkangel's version as a later development that combines the tech of the first two. A 3.0 model, as it were, especially because it's hard to believe that neither couple would have used the other aspect of the technology in their arguments had they had it at their disposal. The other Easter egg in "Arkangel" is that the disturbing war footage (used as an example of what can be blocked from a child's eyes) comes from "Men Against Fire."
15. Bad Memories
In "Crocodile" we see the logical conclusion (and further development) of the mind-recording tech we first saw in Season 1's "The Entire History of You." First it was (supposedly) recreational (though tell that to Liam from that episode), then we see it used to block out negative experiences and people in "White Christmas" (a supposedly therapeutic use?), then we see it tested on children (yikes) in "Arkangel," and finally, it's a law enforcement tool in "Crocodile," complete with a quite forward leap in the tech: the one used here isn't an implant, just a sort of nifty magnet type thingee that pops on and off easily. (No more gougings for removal like in "Entire History," phew!)
The scene shown is also where the car crash witness relays to detective Shazia his memory of the song playing from a passing car, "Anyone Who Knows What Love Is (Will Understand)," by now truly the official song of Black Mirror (though the fidelity of his mind recording makes me wonder if in the future no one buys music, they just download their own memories of it? Charlie Brooker, I can help you write this episode, call me!). Of course the song recurs in this episode, nearly completely overriding the sweetness of it's first usage, but hey, no one said this wasn't a dystopia. Even songs get ruined.
One more Easter egg here, and again it's a reference to "Fifteen Million Merits," when Mia is scrolling through her TV options, she passes up on "Wraith Babes." Your only good decision, Mia!
16. 998 rebellions
No real Easter eggs here except that we see in full the app we first glimpsed in "USS Callister." I'm just gonna leave this photo here anyway though. Anyone who knows what love is will understand.
17. White Bears
The white teddy bears at the end of this excellent episode are reminiscent of the white teddy bear lost by Jemima Sykes in "White Bear," and hence the title of the episode itself. Also, very keen watchers have discovered that the hard candy Bella eats is the same one Shazia has in "Crocodile." This doesn't help clear up the timeline too much though, since those candies pretty much stick around forever.
18. The Museum of Easter Eggs
The piece de resistance of Easter egg episodes. So many that entire articles have been written on just this episode alone, and many, many watchers assumed (myself included) that Nish's setting fire to the museum of Easter eggs was a farewell to the series as a whole. Well, not so fast there. It seems like Michael Callow will live to be tweeted about again! (Yikes!)
But, ICYMI, when the episode first aired, here is a run down of the major thematic Easter eggs (if you spot more, kudos to you, let us know!) in "Black Museum."
First of all, one of the interlocking back stories of the museum gives us a further development of the long, sad tale of "cookie technology" that began in "White Christmas." Here we see the stuffed animal that Carrie, a woman in a coma, is transplanted into by her husband Jack. The proprietor of the museum, Rolo Haynes, through his past work at TCKR Systems, had convinced Jack to first place his wife as a passenger in his own mind, another experimental usage of cookie technology, and then, once some internal bickering began and Jack met another woman, Haynes convinced him to place his wife inside the saddest little stuffed monkey in the world. In explaining the story to museum visitor Nish, he also tells how the UN had decided to grant human rights to cookies and limit the way the technology was used, something we saw alluded to in a previous ticker. Carrie, however, remains in the monkey.
(Side note: the use of a main character who through flashbacks of his own past as a creepy tech exec mirrors (dare we say black-mirrors) the format of the other most Easter Eggful episode, "White Christmas.")
The other example of cookie technology in the museum itself is the actual copy of Clayton Leigh, a death row prisoner who maintains his innocence who had allowed his consciousness after-death to be used by the museum, in hopes that the money made by this would take care of his family. (His case is also referenced in other parts of the episode.) The very idea of a preservable consciousness after death hearkens back to "San Junipero," and indeed Rolo Haynes talks about having worked at St. Juniper Hospital. Furthermore, the TCKR Systems company Haynes then goes to work for is previously referenced as the creator of the "San Junipero" project.
The other usage of cookies in this episode is the most horrifying one of the whole season: the creation of the souvenir cookies of Clayton's moment of execution. Despite Nish's success at the end of the episode, the continuing existence of these out there in the world somewhere, still experiencing pain, left us feeling it wasn't a true happy ending. (But again, this is Black Mirror, so we're lucky the stuffed animal got out alive.)
Aside from these, of course the museum itself is a cornucopia of eggs. We see Victoria Skrillane's mugshot, we see an ADI bee from "Hated in the Nation," the bathtub from "Crocodile," the netbook device from "Arkangel," we see museum wall text about "cookies and human rights," and the device worn by Cooper in "Playtest." There's something for every fan in this museum... everything except air conditioning.
Did you notice anything else that wasn't in this piece? (Is there a cake delivery I missed? Please tell me I missed a cake.) Let us know in the comments!