Despite the standalone nature of each episode, there’s one character who links all the intricate plot lines, twists and technology of Netflix’s Black Mirror. And he’s called Michael Callow, a man you know better as “the one who had sex with a pig”.
Played by Rory Kinnear in The National Anthem, the first ever episode of Charlie Brooker’s dystopian anthology series, he’s the Prime Minister blackmailed into having sexual intercourse with a farmyard animal on live tv.
Amazingly, it transpired the PM did pretty well out of the ordeal, his approval rating soaring thanks to public sympathy. In fact, judging by an Easter egg in season five episode Smithereens, Callow stayed in power for many years after pig-gate.
Without giving away major spoilers, during Smithereens (the episode starring Andrew Scott), viewers can see a social media feed featuring a tweet reporting “Prime Minister Callow” is set to meet with EU negotiators in Brussels.
Since Smithereens takes place in 2018 – and The National Anthem was set during the show’s original transmission data (2011) – Callow has been in Number 10 for at least seven years since the #baeofpigs incident (which we’re assuming is only slightly more scarring than having to negotiate Brexit).
But he hasn’t had an easy ride. Callow’s name has frequently been mentioned in other Black Mirror episodes, giving is more insight into his crumbling life.
Here’s what the PM has been up to in recent years…
He got divorced
As hinted at the end of The National Anthem, Callow’s relationship with wife Jane never recovers. Judging from an online news story in season three’s Shut up and Dance, the couple end up splitting for good.
He got thrown out of a zoo
As if things couldn’t get any worse, a social media post in episode Nosedive from Callow reads: “Just got thrown out of the zoo again :(”
Was Callow still Prime Minister when it happened? And what on earth did he do? Maybe it’s best not to ask questions we don’t want an answer to…
He had to lead the country against a colony of killer robot bees
Well, that’s what we’re guessing here. During the events of Hated In The Nation – the episode where a swarm of robotic bees kills whichever person is most mentioned in tweets featuring the hashtag #DeathTo – Michael Callow is name-checked once more.
Alongside #DeathTo, Callow’s name is also trending. However, at this point it transpires that Chancellor of the Exchequer Tom Pickering is most at risk, his the most (un)popular name connected to the #DeathTo hashtag.
So why is Callow trending too? Our take: he’s still the Prime Minister and featuring in plenty of news reports at a time of national crisis. And we can guess Callow isn’t too unpopular, either. You might think a sitting prime minister is prime picking for the #DeathTo bees, but people are instead taking their anger out on the Chancellor.
Looks like the public forgave him for whatever he did in that zoo pretty quickly.
He won Celebrity Bake Off
After leading his country through several national crises, it looks like Callow enjoyed some time in the tent with Paul and Prue. And better still, he was star baker in his bout of Celebrity Bake Off.
At least that’s according to a news ticker viewers are shown during a flash forward in Bandersnatch – the one where we see Colin’s now-adult daughter Pearl Ritman trying to resurrect Stefan’s failed game for Netflix.