Fifteen Million Merits is the second episode of the first season. It was written by Charlie Brooker and Kanak Huq, and was released on December 11, 2011.
A satire on entertainment shows and our insatiable thirst for distraction set in a sarcastic version of a future reality. In this world, everyone must cycle on exercise bikes in order to power their surroundings and generate currency called Merits. Everyday activities are constantly interrupted by advertisements that cannot be skipped or ignored without financial penalty. Obese people are considered to be second-class citizens, and either work as cleaners around the machines (where they receive verbal abuse) or are humiliated on game shows. With the exceptions of expressions like "Oh, my God", religion seems to be completely absent.
Bingham "Bing" Madsen (Daniel Kaluuya) has inherited 12,000,000 merits from his dead brother and has the luxury of skipping advertisements. In the toilet he overhears Abi (Jessica Brown Findlay) singing; he encourages her to enter into the X-Factor style game show Hot Shots, which offers a chance for people to get out of the slave-like world around them. Bing persuades her and, feeling there is nothing "real" worth buying, purchases the ticket for her. The judges (Rupert Everett, Julia Davis, Ashley Thomas) and the crowd enjoy her singing, but they state there is no room for an 'Above Average Singer' and instead give her the chance to become an adult actress on a pornographic TV station. After goading from the judges and the crowd, and drugged on a substance called "Cuppliance" (compliance in a cup), Abi reluctantly agrees.
Bing returns to his cell without Abi and any merits. When an advert showing Abi performing a sexual act appears on the screen, he can't skip it (as he doesn't have enough merits) and desperately tries to escape his cell, ramming the door until the glass breaks. He hides a shard of glass under his bed and forms a plan; he spends a minimal amount of merits per day and cycles every day, saving up until he can finally purchase one more ticket. He stands in the Hot Shots waiting room every day without expression until called to compete due to the show needing a contestant with a different ethnicity.
On stage, he interrupts his performance, draws the shard of glass and threatens to kill himself live on the show. He tearfully rants about how unfair the system is and how heartless people have become and expresses his anger for how the judges took away, corrupted, and sold the only thing he found that felt was real. The judges, instead of taking his words into consideration, are impressed by his 'performance' and offer him his own show, where he can rant about the system all he likes.
Bing accepts and is later shown finishing one of his streams in his penthouse. He pours himself a fresh orange juice and stands staring out of a wall-length screen of a window showing a view of a vast green forest stretching to the horizon in a cell much larger than his original.
- Daniel Kaluuya as Bing
- Jessica Brown Findlay as Abi
- Rupert Everett as Judge Hope
- Julia Davis as Judge Charity
- Ashley Thomas as Judge Wraith
- Paul Popplewell as Dustin
- Hannah John-Kamen as Selma Telse
- Kerrie Hayes as Glee
- Matt Stokoe as Guard