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A slippery moral dilemma and a superb turn from Andrew Scott make "Smithereens" watchable, even if its familiar story feels more like an early episode of Black Mirror than a fresh futuristic horror story.
Much of the "Smithereens'" success can be attributed to Andrew Scott's committed, textured performance.
"Smithereens" gets in a few interesting jabs, but Charlie Brooker's script is hampered by how thin the plot is, how long it takes for the action to get going, and how simplistic the big mystery turns out to be.
Probably the best of this season's crop, and it does it all without any unlikely fictional technology.
Slow to start, but once Topher Grace enters this episode you will be on the edge of your seat. Once again Black Mirror hits home with technology today.
The criticism and condemnation may be familiar, but it's freshened up in the form of a thrilling and occasionally heart-breaking hostage drama.
This swing-and-a-miss approach continues into the next two episodes, sadly...
It's too bad that wasn't what the episode was ultimately about. Though "Smithereens" finishes weakly, the road there is pretty good, but unlike road trip clichés, Black Mirror is more about the destination than the journey.
It's the strongest entry in the new season, and every performer is fantastic, but the 70-minute runtime does the thin plot no favors, especially when the thematic undercurrent hinges on something far too simple to justify it.
Smithereens is a personal look at the side effects of staring at your phone all day. Scott's cabbie on the verge of an emotional breakdown makes equally addictive viewing.
It ultimately feels like a sophomoric, slippery slope argument, with little nuance beyond "social media is bad," unlikely to edify anyone who's been following news of the tech world lately.
It's a gripping, old-fashioned thriller with shades of Taxi Driver that doubles as a vicious commentary on our crippling tech addiction, with sharp bursts of dark humor throughout.
What keeps it together is a seriously committed and devastating performance from Scott and the little truth bombs and sly jokes that Brooker sneaks into every corner of the hour.