Black Mirror S1E1 (The National Anthem): Ending Explained

Black Mirror Season 1 Episode 1, titled "The National Anthem," kicks off the anthology series with a gripping narrative that explores the intersection of technology and human behavior. The episode's ending, although unexpected, offers a commentary on society's relationship with media and the consequences of modern technology.

The episode follows the British Prime Minister, Michael Callow, as he faces a bizarre and distressing situation. Princess Susannah, a beloved member of the royal family, is kidnapped, and the ransom demand is shocking – the Prime Minister must engage in a live broadcast of a highly explicit and degrading act to ensure her safe release. Amidst the chaos, the Prime Minister's wife, Jane Callow, plays a crucial role in the unfolding drama.

Wife's Opposition, But No Choice Left

As the situation escalates, Jane vehemently opposes her husband's compliance with the kidnapper's demands. She refuses to accept the idea that the Prime Minister should engage in such an explicit act, expressing her disgust and disappointment. This dynamic adds an emotional layer to the episode, showcasing the personal toll the situation takes on the Prime Minister's relationships.

Michael Callow with Jane Callow - Black Mirror S1E1 - Channel 4 , Netflix
Image Credit: Channel 4 | Netflix

Despite his wife's vehement objections, the Prime Minister finds himself cornered. The pressure from the public, the media, and the perceived threat to Princess Susannah's life leave the Prime Minister with seemingly no other choice but to go through with the disturbing act.

The Twist

In a twist that catches both the characters and viewers off guard, it's revealed that the kidnapping was a ruse. The entire scenario was orchestrated by an artist named Carlton Bloom, who manipulated the media and the public for his own artistic expression. Princess Susannah is released unharmed, and the public is left to grapple with the realization that they were mere pawns in an elaborate performance.

Carlton Bloom - Black Mirror S1E1 - Channel 4 , Netflix
Image Credit: Channel 4 | Netflix

The ending of "The National Anthem" serves as a stark commentary on the power dynamics between media, the public, and those in positions of authority. The episode highlights how easily people can be manipulated by sensationalism.

The Kidnapper's Motive & Bizarre Demand

The mastermind behind Princess Susannah's kidnapping, the artist Carlton Bloom's motive transcends traditional political pressure or personal vendetta. Bloom orchestrates the entire ordeal as a piece of performance art, intending to manipulate the media and public perception for his own artistic expression. The act becomes a commentary on the lengths people will go for attention.

Princess Susannah's kidnapped - Black Mirror S1E1 - Channel 4 , Netflix
Image Credit: Channel 4 | Netflix

The kidnapper's demand for a bizarre and humiliating act is designed to shock and captivate the public's attention, reinforcing the theme of the episode – the manipulation of media and society for artistic expression. It also forces the Prime Minister into an impossible moral dilemma, highlighting the impact of technology on decision-making.

Societal Shift & Necessity of the Broadcast

While the episode doesn't explicitly delve into the long-term societal consequences, it does prompt viewers to reflect on the potential shift in the relationship between authority figures and the media. The episode raises questions about the public's role in shaping events and the extent to which sensationalism and media manipulation can influence decision-making. However, it stops short of declaring this as a new normal, leaving viewers to contemplate the implications.

The Society watching the broadcast - Black Mirror S1E1 - Channel 4 , Netflix
Image Credit: Channel 4 | Netflix

The episode also raises questions about the impact of technology on society, particularly how it can be used to exploit and control individuals. The widespread use of social media and the 24/7 news cycle contribute to the rapid spread of information and the public's susceptibility to manipulation.

In the context of the episode, the broadcast wasn't a genuine necessity for Princess Susannah's safety; it was a calculated ploy by the kidnapper to create a shocking spectacle. The twist reveals that the princess was never in real danger.

Impact on Relationships & Long-Term Consequences

As the Prime Minister goes through with the act to save the princess, the episode delves into the psychological toll it takes on him. The public's reaction and the Prime Minister's inner turmoil are a testament to the potential consequences of societal pressure and the relentless scrutiny of the media.

Michael Callow - Black Mirror S1E1 - Channel 4 , Netflix
Image Credit: Channel 4 | Netflix

The episode also unfolds the personal cost the Prime Minister pays for his actions. The strain on his relationship with Jane becomes evident, and the consequences of the harrowing ordeal extend beyond the public sphere. The final scenes, where they hold hands in front of the media, only to have Jane let go once they enter their home, capture the emotional fallout of the traumatic events.

Bad relations - Black Mirror S1E1 - Channel 4 , Netflix
Image Credit: Channel 4 | Netflix

"The National Anthem" not only serves as a commentary on societal dynamics but also explores the strain placed on personal relationships in the face of extraordinary circumstances. The Prime Minister's sacrifice to save the princess comes at the expense of his connection with his wife, demonstrating the profound consequences of choices made under extreme pressure.

The public's mixed reaction showcases the complexity of the situation. The Prime Minister faces both support and condemnation, leading to a lasting impact on his political career. Additionally, the strain on his relationship with his wife becomes a lasting scar, illustrating the personal costs of the traumatic event.

Wrap Up

"The National Anthem" sets the tone for Black Mirror by delivering a thought-provoking narrative that explores the darker aspects of technology, public opinion, personal relationships, and human behavior. The unexpected ending serves as a cautionary tale about the consequences of our reliance on media and the potential manipulation that can result. The complex and often devastating consequences arise when individuals are pushed to their limits.

As we navigate an increasingly connected world, the episode's message resonates, urging viewers to consider the implications of their actions and the role of technology in shaping our collective consciousness. "The National Anthem" leaves viewers with lingering questions, encouraging them to grapple with the complexities of media manipulation, the consequences of extreme decisions, and the enduring impact on personal and political lives.

Watch "Black Mirror" on Netflix.

Black Mirror S1E1 (The National Anthem) Ending Explained

Author: Ted Lasso

Author/Writer - Ted Lasso

Meet Ted Lasso, a Bachelor of Arts graduate with a unique passion for the world of Entertainment. With an innate talent for capturing the essence of TV shows & Movies, he crafts engaging articles, covering everything from latest Entertainment news to in-depth Fan theories. Ted's love for storytelling through the lens of Cinema and TV makes him a captivating voice in the world of entertainment journalism, ensuring you'll always have something exciting to watch next.

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