Unfortunately, like every episode (they can only be so happy, right?
), once the episode starts unfurling its evil grin, it turns into a harrowing look at how we live today: how our experiences might just be extensions of our apps, games, and smartphones. And how our grandest desires, even our most sublime dreams, might just be artificial manifestations of our smartphone dependency.
Through his phone, he can find love (Sonja), money (the video game company), and enrichment (traveling the world).
But there’s a blush of menace to it all, too, an idea that our phones can create soulless simulacrums for these abstract objects, taking away from an actual experience.
Throughout the episode, there are flashes where you could swear they’re about to do something nefarious.
But it never fully materializes, and they all trust Cooper to a certain degree — much more than he probably warrants and much more than he trusts them.
And, yes, looming over the entire episode is the threat that the protagonist might dig an implant out of his neck and thrust the episode into gore.
That he doesn’t call his mother is the poetic final strike against his character.If Cooper met Sonja in real life without the app, would his experience with her have changed?Is his trip to India about finding something in India or taking selfies with India in the background?He goes to India and Thailand, and skips around the world in an effort, he says, to find himself.Along the way, he meets Sonja (Hannah John-Kamen), a one-night stand he encounters in England, who actually gets to know him and lets Cooper come back and stay with her after he loses his money and gets stranded.The expectation, since is all about tech horror, is that Sonja or Katie and Shou are secretly evil — that the world is full of strangers who want to murder you. The twist is that it’s Cooper himself who turns out to be responsible for his own demise.Had he just followed the rules, he’d still be alive.For a show that serves as a warning about our dependence on tech, this is a sly little argument: that the greatest threat to yourself isn’t the strangers you meet through your phone, but rather your own dishonesty.Some of the most riveting moments in “Playtest” center on the framing of Cooper’s life as a series of games, with the centerpiece of this techno-fable concerning how he volunteers himself to a giant video game company.“Playtest” evokes this part of our lives through the manner in which protagonist Cooper travels the world.In the beginning of the episode, the camera follows him as he gathers what’s important to him: his passport and his heaving bag, yes, but really the only thing he needs is his smartphone.