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|“||Do you confess?||„|
|~ Matt, forcing Joe to admit to his crimes|
Matthew "Matt" Trent is the protagonist villain of the Black Mirror episode "White Christmas". Supposedly the only companion of the other protagonist, Joe Potter, he's been living with him in an isolated cabin at an undisclosed location for the past five years; the bulk of the episode concerns Matt regaling Joe with stories of the crimes that resulted in him ending up at the cabin - but as time goes on, it becomes clear that a story is expected from Joe in return...
The episode begins with a man named Joe Potter awakening on Christmas Day in an isolated outpost somewhere in a snowy wilderness; he soon finds his only company in the outpost, Matthew Trent, making a Christmas lunch of roast potatoes for them. According to Matt, they've been at the cabin for the past five years, and in all that time, Joe hasn't said a word to him.
Despite the previous lack of communication between the two, Matt encourages Joe to discuss his past, claiming that nobody would ever end up stationed to the outpost without everything "having gone to shit" first." Curious, Joe asks about what Matt did to get stationed, and his companion proceeds to elaborate:
Matt explains that he had an illegal job as a dating guide, helping lonely single men find success in relationships. In this setting, all citizens are equipped with "Z-Eye" implants, augmented reality devices that can be used for a variety of purposes; in Matt's case, he was able to see through the eyes of his customers and communicate with them, providing them with step-by-step advice on how to seduce women. For good measure, he also allowed an audience of "experts" to provide guidance, all of whom were paying for the privilege of seeing the targets of this seduction getting naked. Though profitable, Matt freely admits that the job was ultimately just a hobby for him - though one he was careful to hide from his wife and the authorities.
One night, he had been advising a nervous young man named Harry, giving him tuition on how to pick up women at a Christmas party they were gatecrashing. After a number of false starts, Harry had managed to get the attention of a girl called Jennifer; despite Matt's tuition, their interaction seemed awkward up until Jennifer caught Harry talking to his panel of experts and decided to take him home with her - much to the surprise of both Matt and the experts.
Back at Jennifer's apartment, Harry was given a drink while his apparent lover went on talking. In the conversation that followed, it turned out that Jennifer was actually a paranoid schizophrenic, had recently given up on her medication and succumbed to despair - and was now trying to end it all. Matt attempted to encourage Harry to leave, but his customer was distracted by an increasingly debilitating cough that eventually resulted in him spitting up blood. Not wanting to die alone, Jennifer mistook Harry for a fellow sufferer thanks to his habit of apparently talking to himself, and had set out to put the two of them out of their collective misery: Harry's drink was poisoned.
Harry tried to convince her to let him go, but Jennifer had long since stopped listening to him and the poison had left her victim too weak to escape. Matt and his panel of experts could only watch in horror as Jennifer put a funnel in Harry's mouth and began pouring more poison down it, taking several gulps of it herself as Harry screamed helplessly in the background. Not sticking around to watch the results, Matt told the panel to wipe and destroy all the computer equipment that had been involved in the incident and logged off.
Unfortunately, Matt's attempt to dispose of his hard drive went wrong after blundering into some of his daughter's toys left in the corridor, prompting his wife to investigate. After finding out that he'd been involved in both a murder and a highly-illegal service for voyeurs, Matt's wife left him and took custody of their daughter. For good measure, she blocked him, using a special option on their Z-Eyes implants to prevent any further interaction: from then on, both would see each other only as anonymous grey silhouettes, and all attempts at speaking to each other would be made incomprehensible.
Soon after, Matt was stationed to the outpost - but doesn't explain precisely how or by whom.
As the two men enjoy their meal, they continue talking; after a bit of prompting, Matt explains that he had a day-job with an electronics company called Smartelligence, providing e-services to the recipients of "Cookies."
In this setting, it's popular to have digital copies made of human minds, each one recorded to an advanced computer chip called a Cookie after at least a week of implantation in the client's brain. Containing all the knowledge, memories and personality of the copied individual, Cookies can be used for a variety of applications, most prominently in running Smart Houses: because they know everything the original knew, a Cookie running a Smart House would be able to manage things exactly as the client would like them, from optimal temperature to cooking, from organizing the client's timetable to providing their favorite music. Furthermore, Cookies are incapable of sleep and possess none of the usual human bodily functions that would delay their work.
However, being copies of people who were expecting to have their lives made easier, Cookies aren't open to accepting their new station, which was where people like Matt came in.
In the example he provides to Joe, Matt was given a newly-made Cookie of a woman named Greta. After explaining the situation to the computerized clone, he provided her with a digitized body and a virtual control panel with which she could control her real self's Smart House. As expected, virtual Greta was adamant that she was the real Greta, and grew increasingly panicked as the situation became clear to her - prompting Matt to put her on mute until she'd finally stopped screaming.
He then gave her the option of complying with the real Greta's orders, but she refused point-blank. Untroubled, he adjusted her time settings so that she would perceive the next minute as three weeks: as a result, virtual Greta's interface automatically shut down, leaving her in solitary confinement within the white void of her program for nearly a month. Once the three weeks of virtual time had elapsed, Matt asked the near-frantic virtual Greta if she was ready to work, but despite her fear, she still refused. Matt simply adjusted her time settings again, this time giving her six months - ignoring virtual Greta's screams for mercy.
Back in the present, Matt explains that this is standard procedure with Cookies and a common part of his work: the trick lay in breaking the spirits of the Cookies without completely driving them insane. Too much time spent in solitary would leave them useless to a client, and the company would have no choice but to sell the Cookie to the games industry as NPCs to be killed in war simulations. Matt was highly-regarded for his skills, and knew just how much pressure to apply to the digital clones in order to destroy their resistance without sacrificing functionality.
After the six months were up, Matt found virtual Greta traumatized and completely broken. This time, she agreed to work for her real self, begging for something to do to keep herself occupied. Pleased, Matt left her to it, condemning her to spend the rest of her simulated existence watching someone else live her life.
Joe is disgusted to hear of Greta's fate, pointing out that what Matt does is essentially slavery, but Matt shrugs off the condemnation with ease. Remarking that Joe "wasn't what I was expecting," he asks what he did to end up here.
Reluctantly, Joe finally opens up: many years before he arrived at the outpost, he was in a long-term relationship with a girl named Beth - albeit fraught with difficulties, the least of which was Joe's drinking problems and a frosty relationship with Beth's father, Gordon. Following a drunken night out with her and his friends, Joe discovered a pregnancy test confirming that Beth was expectant, resulting in an argument over whether or not they'd keep the baby. With Joe growing more and more enraged as the discussion went on, Beth blocked him.
The following morning, a now-sober Joe tried to apologize to Beth, but she wouldn't accept any of it and left his home without lifting the block. In desperation, Joe tried to confront her in the street later, but this only resulted in Beth getting the police involved: from then on, he was subject to a restraining order. However, Joe soon realized that Beth was still in the habit of visiting her father's isolated home in the country, and secretly followed her there one winter day - where he saw that Beth had not only kept the baby, but given birth. The block also covered the child, but over repeated visits to Gordon's house, Joe managed to work out that it was a girl. Believing he could still be a part of his daughter's life, he continued his secret visits, spying on his daughter as she grew up.
After several years, Beth died in a train crash and the block was automatically lifted. Heartbroken, Joe took another winter visit to Gordon's house, where Beth's daughter was now staying... but when he tried to finally introduce himself, he saw at once that she was actually the daughter of one of Beth's colleagues. Stunned, Joe followed her into the house - and when Gordon tried to get him to leave, Joe lost his temper and struck him in the head with a snow globe, dealing fatal injuries. He left the house immediately afterwards, leaving Beth's daughter alone in the house with Gordon's body.
Still in a state of shock, Joe wandered into the next town and spent the next few months drinking himself to death and sleeping on the streets before the police finally found him. They informed him that, not knowing what to do about her grandfather's death, Beth's daughter had wandered out to look for help - only to get caught in a blizzard, leaving Joe with two deaths on his conscience.
As he explains this in the present, Joe begins to notice strange things about the outpost: he can't recall what work they do there, the scenery seems eerily familiar, and the lighting has begun to change. Finally, he happens to look out the window and sees the body of Beth's daughter lying in a snowdrift some distance from the house. Suddenly cold, Matt asks Joe if he confesses; tearful and consumed with regret, Joe does so.
Matt then cheers, seemingly no longer caring at all about the tragic story; gloating to someone unseen that "I told you I'd get it," Matt then turns to Joe and sarcastically apologizes, before promptly vanishing, leaving Joe trapped alone in the outpost.
As it turns out, "Joe" is actually a Cookie; the outpost is situated in a virtual environment, and the five years experienced by Joe never existed; in fact, they spent only seventy minutes together, but Matt altered the time settings to make it seem like years in order to make extracting a confession from Joe easier.
Both Matt and the real Joe are in police custody. With the former desperate for a means of escaping jail time for the death of Harry and the latter refusing to confess, the police were able to make a deal: in exchange for getting Joe to confess, Matt would have the slate wiped clean and be allowed to go free. As such, Matt gloats over his successes back at the police station, immediately fishing for his reward.
Unfortunately, Matt is not escaping from this incident unscathed: as punishment for serving as an illegal dating coach, he is being marked down on the Sex Offender Registry and from then on will be blocked - "by everyone."
As he leaves the police station, Matt finds that everyone outside has been hidden behind grey silhouettes, not only making it impossible to interact with others but also leaving his legendary charisma effectively useless as he can no longer be seen or heard by anyone. Worse still, his status as a sex offender leaves him instantly identified with a red silhouette.
Matt is last seen wandering through the crowd in a state of shell-shocked bewilderment, oblivious to the fact that a man nearby is looking at him with growing disgust - and holding a snow globe in an aggressive fashion, suggesting that Matt is about to be assaulted or perhaps even killed.
Arquette | Catherine Ortiz | Dogs | Dr. Haynes | Garrett Scholes | Jerome F. Davies | Kenny | Mia Nolan | Matthew Trent | Pax | Peter Butler | Robert Daly | Rolo Haynes | Stefan Butler | The Hackers |