15 Million Merits is part two of Charlie Brooker's mini series that is designed to make us feel very uncomfortable with the modern world, the first part of which aired last week. While I neglected reviewing it, it was definitely a chilling and well done piece of drama, enough to make me excited for the next installment.
15 Million Merits is set in an alternate reality, or is it just a future time? It's not very clear, and in fact nothing is explained. The citizens we are introduced to live in cells, and pedal on bikes all day, every day in order to earn points, or Merits, that they can spend on items for their cartoonish avatars, food in vending machines, and the option to skip the obnoxious adverts that pop up in front of them at regular intervals. One resident, named Bing, meets a girl and begins to feel something he's never felt before, so he decides to give her some Merits so she can have a chance at winning the reality show Hot Shots, to graduate from the mundane cycling the rest are subjected to.
We don't know why these people live like this, or how this system developed, it's never explained. But in reality, it doesn't need explaining. The whole structure of this world is very familiar. We already spend days working mundane jobs for money that we spend on pointless things, often immaterial things. The whole avatar concept is firmly in place on XBox Live, for example. 15 Million Merits is certainly an unsettling piece of television, but only because it seems so plausible.
The episode focuses mainly on Bing (Daniel Kaluuya), and to very good effect. His character transforms from silent and accepting of his role in society, to unsettled and angry, and Kaluuya give it his all every step of the way, playing a perfect docile human, to delivering an outstanding monologue towards the end of the episode, which itself is used to even greater effect as the show draws to a close.
15 Million Merits is an extremely well written, well acted and haunting piece of television. If it doesn't evoke unsettling feelings in you, or make you question where the world is headed, then you might as well just get on your bike.
My rating: 5/5