If you haven’t talked to a youth lately, then most of this episode is probably foreign to you. Here’s the gist, though: the dark, choppy waters of social media has become a terrifying landscape of anxiety, platitudes, and empty reciprocation. If you don’t like someone’s Instagram post, you’re sending a message. If you @ someone, you better be damn sure they want you to.
In the case of “Nosedive,” everyone can rank everyone based on personal interactions. Did you enjoy talking to someone? Bust out your phone and give them five stars. Hated it? Vote them down with a single, lonely, demoralizing star. Lacie Pound (Bryce Dallas Howard) has devoted nearly her entire existence to becoming a high-rated person, practicing her laugh in the mirror and giving everyone in her path a saccharine sweet dose of smiley teeth.
It’s a fascinating extrapolation of our online obsession with ratings. It’s the logical end of the mindset that forces people to delete Instagrams that don’t get at least 50 likes. Worse than that, society has become a systemic enabler for this behavior. People with higher ratings get cheaper access to better communities and friendlier customer service lanes and other exceptionally believable, depersonalizing perks. (You know, like keeping your job.)
The whole of the episode’s aesthetic is brilliant, both literally and figuratively. It’s impossibly bright and pastel-ridden, as if the picture-perfect homes of Edward Scissorhands or Pleasantville had made their way to this world. And it sets up the precise mood you need going into this episode. You expect an unrealistic level of happiness, and it is exactly that: unrealistic.
There’s no possible way this existence can persist, and that is the crux of this story. You really can’t focus on the actual mechanics of the system or it stops becoming interesting and starts becoming a hazy enigma of Huhs and Hows. But as you can probably guess from the name of the episode itself, the descent accompanying the tale is rapid, disastrous, and enthralling, especially as you realize it’s all powered by the power you give up.
A lot can be attributed to Howard’s performance who, as a real person, pretty much embodies the sensations this world garners in its viewers. And combined that with Atonement director’s Joe Wright’s insight into percolating emotions ending in explosive, dramatic results, we have something that turns from cringeworthy to overwhelmingly satisfying. It pushes a bit hard on external mores, but my gosh do you feel like a post-coitus cigarette by the end credits.