Black Mirror S2E1 (Be Right Back): Ending Explained

The second season of Black Mirror opens with a compelling exploration into the depths of human emotions and the impact of technology on our lives. "Be Right Back" introduces us to Martha Powell (portrayed by Hayley Atwell) and her boyfriend, Ash Starmer (portrayed by Domhnall Gleeson) , who embark on a new chapter in their lives by moving to Ash's remote family home.

However, tragedy strikes as Ash meets an untimely end in a car accident, leaving Martha to grapple with grief in the unfamiliar countryside, following multiple twists in the narrative, that involve AI and Android.

The mastermind behind Black Mirror, Charlie Brooker, drew inspiration from a deeply personal experience. Deleting contacts from his phone, he stumbled upon a deceased person's name, leading him to ponder the peculiar dynamics of erasing a digital presence. This encounter sparked the idea: What if technology could emulate the thoughts and essence of those no longer with us?

In a straightforward fashion, Brooker envisioned a world where grief and technology intersect, giving birth to "Be Right Back." The episode invites us to contemplate the consequences of replicating human connection through artificial means, showcasing Brooker's ability to blend personal reflections with societal commentary.

Plot Summary

In the heart-wrenching narrative of "Be Right Back," we are introduced to the charming couple, Ash Starmer and Martha Powell. The narrative begins with the relatable image of Ash, immersed in his digital world – a modern-day prelude that resonates with our smartphone-centric existence. Their fresh start in a remote cottage, echoing Ash's childhood memories, sets the stage for a tale that transcends the ordinary.

Real Ash kisses Martha on her head before getting in the car - Black Mirror S2E1 Be Right Back - Channel 4, Netflix
Image Credit: Channel 4 | Netflix

Tragedy strikes abruptly as Ash meets an untimely demise in a car accident, leaving Martha to grapple with the solitude of an unfamiliar house. As she mechanically goes through the motions of daily life, mourning the loss of her beloved, a lifeline emerges in the form of an experimental service.

Against Martha's will, her friend Sarah enrolls her in a service that claims to reconnect the living with the deceased. The AI system meticulously scours the internet, piecing together a digital version of Ash from his online footprint. Initially Martha rejects the AI, deeming it "obscene" and "sick," which reflects her discomfort with this unconventional coping mechanism.

Martha learns she is pregnant - Black Mirror S2E1 Be Right Back - Channel 4, Netflix
Image Credit: Channel 4 | Netflix

However, the plot takes an unexpected turn as Martha discovers she is pregnant, carrying Ash's child. Faced with the void left by Ash's absence, she turns to the digital replica (AI which she initially rejected) for solace, uploading memories to enhance its accuracy.

Martha using Ash's Messaging AI - Black Mirror S2E1 Be Right Back - Channel 4, Netflix
Image Credit: Channel 4 | Netflix

But as she immerses herself in the digital conversations, a crucial realization surfaces—this connection is a mere illusion. The AI-created Ash, while comforting, falls short of embodying the complexities and authenticity of the real Ash. The limitations of their interactions become starkly apparent.

The emotional crux of the story unfolds as Martha, in a panic, breaks her phone, fearing the loss of her artificial connection. In a poignant moment, the digital Ash reveals a solution to overcome their limited interactions—granting him a physical body. This revelation sets the stage for a transformation, blurring the lines between the digital and the tangible in a desperate attempt to bridge the gap between the living and the departed.

The Unsettling Turn

The anticipated arrival of a synthetic body for the AI Ash in "Be Right Back" introduces a surreal twist to Martha's quest for connection. The delivery of this blank, lifelike android promises a tangible reunion, bridging the gap between the digital and the physical.

Android Ash - Black Mirror S2E1 Be Right Back - Channel 4, Netflix
Image Credit: Channel 4 | Netflix

With meticulous care, Martha immerses the synthetic Ash in a concoction of electrolytes and nutrient gel, bringing him to life in the flesh. The initial moments mirror the life they once shared, with the android displaying familiar mannerisms and behaviors that echo Ash on his best days. Even in intimate moments, there is a semblance of the connection they once had.

However, this illusion is short-lived. Martha swiftly confronts the stark reality that the android is a mere shadow of Ash, devoid of genuine emotions and authenticity. The limitations become apparent as the android, lacking the depth of real experiences, dismisses sentimental attachments and misinterprets emotional nuances.

Martha watches Android Ash - Black Mirror S2E1 Be Right Back - Channel 4, Netflix
Image Credit: Channel 4 | Netflix

A Bee Gees' song, once cherished by Ash, is casually labeled "cheesy." An emotional childhood picture loses its poignant narrative, reduced to a mere "funny" anecdote. Frustration mounts as the android questions how to be 'himself,' highlighting its scripted responses and programmed existence.

Martha grapples with the reality, despite the striking resemblance, the android Ash will never replace the authentic connection she shared with the real Ash. This charade becomes apparent one night when Martha, unable to ignore the artificiality, instructs the android to at least pretend to breathe if it insists on pretending to sleep. The android's mechanical nature, void of basic human functions like eating, sleeping, or breathing, unsettles her.

Martha says Android Ash to go out - Black Mirror S2E1 Be Right Back - Channel 4, Netflix
Image Credit: Channel 4 | Netflix

Martha decides she can no longer bear to sleep next to the synthetic Ash. Confrontation ensues, with Martha demanding that he leave. The android complies, devoid of the capacity to argue or resist, further emphasizing its limitations compared to the real Ash.

The next morning, Martha discovers the synthetic Ash near the house's fence, revealing the restrictions imposed on his movements. An attempt to reclaim a sense of normalcy takes them on a hike, culminating at a cliff. Martha, overwhelmed by the eerie nature of the android, instructs it to jump. The android, lacking genuine fear or resistance, complies, prompting Martha to confront the stark reality that this artificial construct can never truly replace the intricacies of the real Ash.

The Temporal Shift: Ending

The narrative takes an leap into the future, several years later, on Martha's daughter's birthday. The renovated house harbors the haunting presence of Ash in the attic. Martha, unable to gain closure, mirrors the actions of Ash's mother, who stored memories in the attic as a coping mechanism.

Martha's daughter comes to Android Ash in the attic - Black Mirror S2E1 Be Right Back - Channel 4, Netflix
Image Credit: Channel 4 | Netflix

Martha's daughter, unaware of the synthetic nature of the being in the attic, engages in conversation with it. This poignant conclusion questions the extent to which technology can substitute authentic human connection, leaving Martha to grapple with the consequences of clinging to an artificial replacement for the man she loved.

"Be Right Back" compels us to ponder the dangers of relying on technology in vulnerable moments, exposing the hollow nature of algorithmic responses and the inherent limitations of synthetic companionship.

AI Data Collection and Its Gap with Genuineness

In the realm of "Be Right Back," the AI's intricate data collection process serves as the foundation for recreating a semblance of the deceased person, in this case, Ash Starmer. However, the episode sheds light on the inherent limitations and disparities between online personas and the complexities of real personalities.

Martha trains AI using Ash's data - Black Mirror S2E1 Be Right Back - Channel 4, Netflix
Image Credit: Channel 4 | Netflix

The AI meticulously scours the internet, extracting information posted by the deceased individual, to construct a digital duplicate. Yet, as Martha astutely observes, the resulting android Ash falls short of capturing the authentic essence of the real Ash. Physically, the android resembles the best versions of Ash, showcasing a flaw in the AI's attempt to replicate genuine physical characteristics.

But when Martha confronts the android about its appearance, highlighting that it mirrors Ash on his most flattering days, the response underscores a fundamental truth – social media platforms often serve as curated spaces where individuals present an idealized version of themselves. It's a screen that conceals the nuances of genuine emotions and experiences. Martha grapples with this struggle throughout the narrative, ultimately coming to terms with the irreconcilable gap between the two.

The AI's experimental phase, exemplified by the creation of the android Ash, draws parallels to the age-old theme of humans attempting to play God. The creators grapple with the realization that their creations, no matter how advanced, can never truly embody the essence of humanity.

Android Ash, equipped with the ability to mimic speech patterns and facial expressions, remains fundamentally devoid of genuine emotions and reactions. Despite its ability to learn and understand the world, it ultimately lacks the innate human capacity for emotion.

Fate of Android Ash: A Sojourn in the Attic

Acknowledging that the artificial creation can never encapsulate the intricate personality traits and memories that defined her beloved, Martha consigns android Ash to the attic.

Martha in the Attic - Black Mirror S2E1 Be Right Back - Channel 4, Netflix
Image Credit: Channel 4 | Netflix

This symbolic act echoes the poignant narrative shared by Ash at the episode's inception, where he recounted how his mother stashed away memories of her husband and another son in the attic. The attic, in this context, emerges as a repository for those who have departed, a space shrouded in mystery and laden with concealed emotions.

The choice to keep android Ash hidden in the attic also introduces an air of secrecy. It remains unclear whether Martha made this decision before or after the birth of her daughter, who, intriguingly, seems unaware of the true nature of the artificial Ash's existence. The clandestine nature of this revelation is further heightened as only Martha's daughter is privy to his existence, with limited visitation rights restricted to weekends.

Beyond its utilitarian role as a storage space, the attic assumes a deeper, more symbolic significance. In literature and various forms of media, attics often harbor secrets, frequently of a somber nature. Analogous to the realms of the psyche, attics in dream interpretation symbolize the storage of hidden memories and the readiness of an individual to unveil those secrets.

In Martha's case, the attic becomes the clandestine haven for android Ash – her most guarded secret. This revelation is reserved solely for her daughter, underscoring the profound emotional weight associated with this artificial replication of a lost loved one. The decision to conceal android Ash from even Martha's close-knit circle, notably her sister, underscores the complexity of her grief and the hesitancy to expose this surrogate companion to the harsh light of scrutiny.

The Abyss: Martha's Unyielding Grief

In "Be Right Back," grief stands as the central theme, intricately interwoven with the intricate tapestry of technology's impact on the mourning process. While every individual grapples with loss uniquely, this Black Mirror episode offers a distinctive lens into how technology, far from alleviating grief, can inadvertently exacerbate the emotional turmoil.

Martha's initial aversion to the notion of an AI replicating Ash using data from the web reflects a common skepticism toward technological interventions in the deeply personal sphere of grief. However, the relentless ache of mourning compels her to embrace this artificial surrogate.

Martha shouts in grief - Black Mirror S2E1 Be Right Back - Channel 4, Netflix
Image Credit: Channel 4 | Netflix

As Martha's dependence on the AI surrogate intensifies, a seemingly innocuous incident, the accidental drop of her phone, plunges her into a crisis, laying bare the fragility of her connection to the simulated Ash. This dependency, despite the technological façade, showcases that Martha is yet to confront the core of her grief.

Crucially, Martha's journey unfolds as a stark illustration of unresolved grief's enduring impact. The decision to invest in a blank body for the android Ash becomes emblematic of her avoidance, a symbolic attempt to fill the void left by the real Ash's absence. While the concluding moments suggest a degree of understanding – a realization that the real Ash is irretrievably gone – Martha's actions betray the lingering tendrils of unresolved grief.

"Be Right Back" underscores that the trajectory of grief is far from linear. Martha's seemingly normal life, with the veneer of moving on, conceals the persistent undercurrent of unresolved sorrow. The episode's denouement serves as a poignant reminder that grief, when left unaddressed, can cast its long shadow over the years, subtly influencing one's choices and perceptions.

Viewers Reflections on "Be Right Back" Ending

Viewer opinions converge on the episode's exploration of how the human psyche grapples with loss in the digital age. The ending, characterized by a stoic Martha observing her daughter interacting with the artificial Ash, leaves viewers with a poignant sense of ambiguity.

Opinions diverge on the satisfaction of the conclusion, with some expressing a desire for a more conclusive resolution to Martha's journey. Some viewers grapple with the idea of using technology as a surrogate for genuine emotional healing. While others raise concerns about the psychological well-being of individuals immersed in such digital simulacra.

The diverse spectrum of viewer thoughts encapsulates the multifaceted impact of "Be Right Back" – from its portrayal of grief in the digital age to the ethical quandaries it poses.

Wrap Up

Martha's journey unfolds as a universal odyssey through grief, with technology becoming both a balm and a Pandora's box. The episode subtly raises questions about the evolving nature of human connection, and the realm of emotions. The episode, in its nuanced storytelling, refrains from offering easy resolutions, leaving viewers to grapple with the complexities of love and loss in the digital realm.

"Be Right Back" invites us to reflect on the profound intersections of technology and human emotions. It challenges our perceptions of technology's role in coping with grief, prompting reflection on the ethical boundaries of recreating connections with the departed.

Watch "Black Mirror" on Netflix.

Black Mirror S2E1 (Be Right Back) Ending Explained

Author: Jaimy Green

Author/Writer - Jaimy Green

Introducing Jaimy Green, the nature-loving dynamo! She's a master of the great outdoors, from hiking to hilltop conquests, and her Movies & TV shows obsession is second to none. Jaimy's life is a whirlwind of passions, and she spends every moment doing what she loves. By day, a responsible citizen, but by night, she's an Entertainment superhero!

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