Spoilers below for the Black Mirror episode titled "Smithereens," so be sure to watch before reading on.
The latest season of Charlie Brooker's anthology Black Mirror recently hit Netflix to varying opinions, and is arguably the most polarizing season of the tech-savvy drama to date. Critics have largely been kind about the performances, in any case, with Season 5 once again netting Black Mirror some interesting and high-profile stars for the three latest eps. One such star is That 70s Show vet Topher Grace, who has an important role in the episode "Smithereens."
For the surprisingly modern-day episode, Topher Grace plays the head of the giant social media company, Smithereen, whose influence over his creation has long since been rendered irrelevant. He becomes the catalyst of a tortured man's final wish: to be able to confess accidentally killing his fiancée in a vehicle accident by looking down at a Smithereen update on his phone. The episode ends in a way that keeps viewers out of the loop, but no one should expect Grace to share what happened, or what Billy Bauer's final message was. In his words:
Well that's what's great. I get to go out with Charlie [Brooker] and get a little bit more than the viewer with what he tells you, which is great because you’re performing it. But when people ask, I think it’s probably better [to not answer]. What’s great about the system that Charlie works in is that Netflix has been so wonderful about letting him and Annabel do their thing and have their autonomy. And maybe this is more true of British broadcasting too, is that there are levels of ambiguity. And I don’t want to spoil any of that. It would be the American who would ruin it, right?
At least it doesn't look like Charlie Brooker and executive producer Annabel Jones left the "Smithereens" ending completely ambiguous among the cast and crew, since that might have been handling things a tad too preciously. So it seems as if there is an official resolution for how things went down for Andrew Scott's still-mourning Chris and Damson Idris' captive intern Jaden, even if audiences might have to wait for an easter egg in Season 6 to learn how it happened.
Technically, it's not such a slap in the face to get left in the dark about how the episode ends for its kidnapper and hostage, since viewers can easily take a guess about what happened. The likeliest outcome, with most things considered, is that the second shot was a success and Chris was taken down without anyone else getting harmed. Though justice would have been served in one way in that scenario, it's still a bummer of a resolution.
On the flip side is an even darker ending, though. What if the cop had accidentally shot Jaden instead of Chris? The latter would be left with a few seconds (before the cops opened fire on his vehicle) to be washed over with guilt about someone else's death due to his harmful actions. The biggest tragedy in either scenario is that Chris grand gesture of a confession ultimately did nothing but tear up more people's afternoons and lives.
In that sense, it's less important to note exactly what happened, and more important to take away the overall message and theme. Basically, that just about no social media update is so important that it should distract someone from doing anything that risks anyone's lives. Also, that major life moments are all relative, and that anything we do might just be a glance-worthy notification in someone else's life.
When speaking with THR, the subject of avoiding phones while driving came up, and Topher Grace was positive about that being a solid takeaway.
Everyone is going to be saying that once this episode comes out. And by the way, that’s a good thing. That’s a really good thing. The best is at the end when everyone is looking at the news and someone is sitting there in traffic and someone honks. Because if the other thing isn’t relatable, that certainly is.