Black Mirror season 4 came out on Netflix about 20 hours ago, and I’ve just finished watching it. And boy do I have a lot of feelings.
The Twilight Zone of our generation did not disappoint. If you haven’t watched this season yet, or any of Black Mirror for that matter, first of all, go do that, and secondly, spoilers ahead.
Once again, Black Mirror took on the ethical issues of technological advancement in this season. Consciousness and the implications of duplicating it came up in multiple episodes.
Here are my episode rankings:
- “Black Museum”
- “USS Callister”
- “Hang the DJ”
I’ll go through them all one by one.
1) “Black Museum” (episode 6)
“Black Museum” was the ultimate wrap up to this season. It had Easter eggs of supposedly every episode since the beginning of season 1, according to Colm McCarthy, the episode’s director. I couldn’t find an Easter egg for every episode, but I did find a bee from “Hated in the Nation,” the iPad the mom uses to watch her daughter in “Arkangel,” a mask from “White Bear,” and some of the technological equipment and Tommy’s lollipop from “USS Callister.”
I knew that there was a twist coming in the episode, but I did not foresee that particular one. If anything, I thought that Rolo Haynes would kill Nish, not the other way around.
The issue of removing someone’s consciousness and its ethical implications was the focus of the twist. There was also the political issue of mass incarceration with the miscarriage of justice that Clayton suffers. And boy, did I feel for Clayton. His consciousness lives in a literal hell after he is executed. He is constantly tormented by looky-loos who come to the Black Museum. I also feel bad for Carrie, trapped in that stuffed monkey forever. At least we find out that after what happens to Clayton, it’s deemed cruel and unusual to extract someone’s consciousness in this hypothetical future.
There’s a theory that the episode is an allegory for the whole show. The theory goes like this: Charlie Brooker (the show’s creator and writer of each episode) is Rolo Haynes, the curator of the Black Museum. The Black Museum is the show itself, Black Mirror (hence the similarity in names) and the morbid curiosos that visit the museum are us, the viewers. I’m not sure that I buy into this theory; it seems a little simplistic, but make your own choice.
Also Letitia Wright (the actress who plays Nish) is beyond reproach in this episode. I still don’t know if she actually has a British or Southern accent.
Ultimately this is a top 5 episode of the whole series for me. I could watch a 20-hour version of this episode where every object in the Black Museum is chronicled.
2) “USS Callister” (episode 1)
I love this episode for its set design, costumes, and overall feel alone but Captain Robert Daly (Jesse Plemons) and Nanette Cole (Cristin Milioti) really take the cake. Also I would watch anything Jimmi Simpson is in (or as I refer to him, Mary, for all my Psych-o’s out there). In classic Black Mirror fashion, the viewer is led to feel bad for Daly as we see him walked all over at his job, but within the first 15 minutes, we see how disturbed he really is.
I also appreciate how this episode took on work place sexual harassment. Cole is warned by another female coworker not to give Daly too much affection as he can get kind of “stare-y.”
The ethics of taking someone’s consciousness is a concept that is again explored in this episode. Imagine how jarring it would be to wake up and realize you’re trapped in someone else’s fantasy and that it’s not really you — simply a copy of your consciousness.
The overall tone of this episode is actually quite comical despite the heavy subject matter. The back and forth between Cole and the other Callister crew members is gold. Milioti’s expressive eyes alone can carry an episode; she doesn’t even need to speak.
There didn’t seem to be any Easter eggs in this episode (although let me know if I’m wrong in the comments!) Only one thing comes to mind. Michaela Cole also played a completely different character in another episode of Black Mirror. She was the airport desk attendant in “Nose Dive.”
I would love to hear some opinions about whether or not this is a happy ending. I like how the writers poke fun at Internet troll culture with the ship that approaches the USS Callister in the last minute. Everyone I’ve talked to seems to think this is a rare Black Mirror happy ending, but all I can think about is how they’re essentially trapped on that ship for eternity and will continually run into other trolls.
3) “Hang the DJ” (episode 4)
San Junipero much? The two episodes have an undeniable connection as the only Black Mirror love stories & the ever-rare Black Mirror happy ending. But seriously, how cute are Frank and Amy? #Goals (sorry).
I know the whole point of the episode is that free will to choose who you love is important, but I wouldn’t actually mind a system that chooses your soul mate for you. It seems helpful to be honest.
Ultimately I think this episode can be summed up by saying true love conquers all 99.8% of the time.
4) “Metalhead” (episode 5)
“Black Museum,” “USS Callister,” and “Hang the DJ” are all incredible episodes, but “Metalhead” was simply ok. There are some intriguing aspects, like the fact that it’s shot in black and white. But ultimately the premise was never explained. Where did the robot dogs come from? Why would someone create robot dogs? A knife robot? Really? Also, the ultimate reason for their mission was to retrieve a teddy bear which seemed … dumb. Three lives were sacrificed for a stuffed animal.
5) “Arkangel” (episode 2)
The premise of this episode was interesting and very in line with the Black Mirror “technology takes away our privacy” theme, but it couldn’t really support an hour long episode.
Obviously, the viewers are going to demonize the mom for snooping on her daughter, but it seemed a bit much that the ending consisted of the daughter bashing in her mother’s face with the tool used to spy on her . During the credits, it said that the episode was directed by Jodie Foster, and I thought “yeah, that makes sense.”
None of the characters were that likable which I know isn’t the main goal of a Black Mirror episode, but I’ve found that it’s hard to enjoy a show when the characters are not liked. If the viewer can’t empathize with them, then they won’t care what happens to them, so the plot doesn’t matter. You can have a show with no plot (Seinfeld), but you can’t have a show with no characters.
The Arkangel technology, where memories can be stored and played back, was very similar to the technology in “The Entire History of You,” where the husband plays the wife’s memories against her will. I like when the episodes connect with similar technology.
One Easter egg: when testing the Arkangel equipment, the disturbing video shown to Sarah is the training video the soldiers watch in “Men Against Fire.”
Ultimately, I thought Arkangel was really only relatable if you’re a parent.
6) “Crocodile” (episode 3)
Ok first of all, does anyone know why this episode was called “Crocodile”? I heard it might be because of the term “crocodile tears” — because Mia is probably a sociopath and doesn’t actually feel remorse for the people she’s killed. That seems like a stretch considering it’s very apparent in all of the other episodes why they are named the way that they are.
Another Black Mirror theme: where the viewer starts off empathizing with the character (“the hit and run wasn’t her fault!”) but quickly realizes that the character is terrible. Also, the kick in the gut was the viewer finding out that the baby was blind so Mia didn’t have to kill it because it wouldn’t have seen her face. And again, the theme of our memories not being exclusively our own. Although that is a general theme of the show, the way it was explored in this particular episode was again very similar to “The Entire History of You.”
Easter egg: one of the adult movies Mia looks through is called “Wraith’s Girls” which is from “Fifteen Million Merits.” Also referenced in “White Christmas.”
All In all, if I could have a meal with anyone living or dead, it would be Charlie Brooker. And to think, this whole series started with an episode where the prime minister of Britain has sex with a pig. This show has come a long way.