Black Mirror Season 4 Continues to Warn Us About the Pitfalls — and Terror — of Technology

Black Mirror‘s fourth season dropped on Netflix Dec. 29th, 2017, just in time for everyone to binge-watch it over New Year’s weekend — which is exactly what I did. I’ve been a fan of the series since it debuted in 2011. The first two seasons were three episodes each. In 2015, Netflix commissioned twelve episodes, resulting in six episodes for seasons three and four.

In the fourth season, we’re introduced to new stories of technology and wonder: some of them are horrifying, some are hopeful, and all of them teach us a lesson.

Overall, while I still enjoy the series, I felt this season was too “gimmicky.” When Black Mirror first debuted, it was something different and intriguing. But as the seasons rolled on, I felt like we could predict the show’s formula.

I will be reviewing each episode from this new season below, so here’s your warning that there will be spoilers!

USS Callister
My Rating: 10/10

For me, this was my favorite episode this season. It runs as long as a full-length movie, but it moved quickly because I was so invested in the storyline. Known as the Star Trek episode, the story follows a computer programmer named Robert who has created his own video game where he gets to play the captain and hero over and over again. In reality, he’s a loser, bitter and hostile with his coworkers for not giving him the recognition he thinks he deserves. We find out his video game world is actually filled with digital clones of his coworkers, whom he resents. In this world, he plays God. For example, if any of them steps out of line, he can turn them into huge monsters as punishment. When Robert decides to bring in Nanette, a new employee, she starts a plan to free themselves from their captor.

This was a smart episode that addressed power and harassment. Although the episode was written and filmed before the Harvey Weinstein scandal, it really reminded me of what’s currently going in Hollywood and other industries. In this scenario, the abused and afflicted get their revenge against their abuser and Nanette, once the captive, is now the new captain of USS Callister.

“Arkangel”
My Rating: 8/10

Directed by Jodie Foster, this episode takes helicopter parenting to the next level. Marie is a single mother who implants a chip inside her daughter, Sara, similar to how pet owners implant locating microchips inside their animals. When the chip is on, Marie can track Sara using a tablet and also see what Sara is seeing. She can even put on a filter that blocks out disturbing images like blood. After awhile, Marie turns off the chip, but when Sara (now a teenager) lies to her about spending the night at a friend’s house, Marie turns the chip back on and finds her out with a boy. Marie’s concern only grows as she keeps the chip on without telling Sara. Eventually, Sara finds out about her mother invading her privacy and in a fit of anger, smashes the tablet over Marie’s face and runs away.

I thought the theme was interesting and this scenario is another example of how technology that is meant to do good goes wrong. It also addressed themes of privacy, family, and boundaries. Today, we can use our phone’s GPS to keep track of where are children are, but in “Arkangel,” we can literally be right there with them. It also showed me that although it can give parents’ peace of mind, technology like Arkangel will also not let kids grow and experience life on their own.

“Crocodile”
My Rating: 6/10

Wow. This was definitely the most dark and depressing episode this season (and maybe the entire series so far). The episode had two weaving storylines.

In one, after a night of partying, Mia and her boyfriend Rob hit a cyclist with their car. Although Mia wants to call the police, Rob convinces her to help him get rid of the body and bike by throwing both into a lake. Years later, Mia is happily married to another man with a son and a successful architect career. That all gets threatened when Rob appears back in her life. During a business trip, Rob visits Mia in her hotel room and tells her he’s still haunted by that day they killed the cyclist. Rob tells Mia he plans to a send a letter to the man’s widow and confess what happened, but Mia tries to convince him not to. When she can’t get him to change his mind, she kills him. At the same time, she witnesses a self-driving pizza van hit a man outside her hotel window.

In the second storyline, Shazia works for an insurance company investigating the pizza van accident. She uses a device called the Recaller, which can retrieve memories from the people she’s interviewing. After meeting with a few other witnesses, she locates Mia and uses the device on her. Although Mia tries to block out the memories of killing Rob, Shazia is able to recall the memories of Rob’s death along with the cyclist. When Shaiza tries to leave Mia’s home, Mia knocks her out and ties her up in a secluded area. Using the Recaller on Shaiza, Mia finds out the woman’s husband knows about her whereabouts. After she kills Shaiza, she goes to find Shaiza’s husband to kill him as well. When she does that, she also realizes their baby son is the house and has seen her face. Not wanting to be incriminated for his parents’ deaths, Mia kills the baby too.

Now, here is where I felt the episode got too gimmicky. It was already terrible enough that Mia had killed so many people—including a baby—but then we find out the baby was actually blind! There was no need to kill him. The police find out it was Mia when they use the Recaller on a pet guinea pig that was in the baby’s room and had witnessed the whole thing.

I felt Mia’s actions didn’t match with what we saw of her character earlier. She wanted to call the police after hitting the cyclist; and suddenly, she kills four people in a span of twenty-four hours. She’s a mother but still decides to kill an innocent baby. After I finished this episode, I had to take a short break from watching the series. Not only was it disturbing, but it also felt shocking for the sake of being shocking.

“Hang the DJ”
My Rating: 9/10

Anyone who has ever tried online dating (especially in today’s world of dating apps) can totally relate to this episode. Amy and Frank are set up on a date though a system called Coach. Even though they have a great time together, Coach is able to tell them they’ll only last for twelve hours. Amy and Frank are connected with other people through the algorithm. Amy goes through a string of lovers while Frank is connected with another woman for a year, although they are not compatible at all. When Amy and Frank are connected again, they decide this time to not check their expiration date and just enjoy their time together. But eventually, Frank’s curiosity gets the best of him and he checks the date. Initially set to five years, the date recalibrates to twenty hours. When Frank tells Amy what he did, she leaves him, unable to trust him. Amy goes back to dating until Coach reveals to her that her ultimate match has been found, and she has a chance to say goodbye to one person. She chooses to meet with Frank, and together, they decide to run off together. When they do, they realize they’re actually a part of a computer simulation designed inside a dating app. Meanwhile, the real Amy and Frank are checking their dating app on their phones and meeting each other for the first time—with a 99.8 percent match.

Although the episode didn’t shy away from the bleak world of online dating, I was pleasantly surprised to see it end on a hopeful note. Both Amy and Frank had to go through a lot of terrible dates and relationships in order to meet each other.

“Metalhead”
My Rating: 7/10

Filmed in black and white, this episode drops the viewers right in the action with no backstory or explanation. We meet three people (Bella, Tony, and Clarke) driving in a van in a post-apocalyptic world on a mission to retrieve something from a warehouse. When they find the box, they also accidentally activate a killer robot dog. The dog kills Tony and Clarke, and although Bella is able to escape, she is hit with shrapnel that includes a tracking device. Bella uses a knife to remove the device from her leg, but the dog is able to still follow her due to her trail of blood. When the dog finds her hiding in a house, Bella is able to kill it, but not before it sprays Bella with more shrapnel and more tracking devices, which hit her in the face and neck. Knowing she cannot remove the devices without killing herself, she transmits one last message to her walkie-talkie saying she won’t be coming back. As she raises the knife to her neck, the camera pulls back to find more robot dogs roaming the area. And back at the warehouse, the camera reveals what was inside this important box that they had risked their lives to get — it’s full of teddy bears.

Although this entire episode was scary and filled with tension, I thought the ending was too sappy. Since we weren’t given any backstory on the world and characters, I didn’t feel invested in whether they lived or died. It did make me wonder when Roombas would start planning to revolt against us.

“Black Museum”
My Rating: 9/10

This episode was formatted as a “story within a story,” actually three stories within a story. As Nish waits for her car to charge in the desert (gas stations no longer exist in this world), she decides to waste some time visiting the nearby Black Museum. She meets Rolo, the museum owner, who shows her around the place. Fans of the series will notice a couple Easter Eggs from previous episodes and seasons scattered around the exhibits. Rolo proceeds to tell Nish stories about some of the artifacts.

One is about Peter, a doctor who has an implant that allows him to feel his patient’s pain in order to diagnosis them quicker. He is also able to feel the other person’s pleasure. Soon, he starts to receive pleasure from the pain and becomes addicted to it — to the point that he afflicts the pain on himself and eventually kills another person to feed that craving. Another story is about Jack and Carrie, who have a child as a result of a one-night stand. Carrie is hit by a car and is in a coma. Her conscience is still here though. Jack, not wanting her to miss out on seeing their son grow, allows for her consciousness to be transferred inside his mind. She can feel/see/taste everything he does, including every hug from their son. But they soon find out that every partnership comes with conflict, and it’s made worse when you’re sharing the same body/brain. After starting a new relationship with a new woman, Jack decides to transfer Carrie into a stuffed teddy bear. The last story is about Clayton, a death row inmate who signs over his soul to Rolo so his digital consciousness will go on after his death and that his family will be taken care of. After he is electrocuted, his soul is transferred into a hologram, which is the main exhibit inside the Black Museum. Visitors can pull a lever to an electric chair and kill Clayton over and over until he is nothing but a shell of his former self.

As Rolo finishes telling Nish the story, he starts to choke as a result of Nish poisoning him. We find out that Nish is actually Clayton’s daughter. She and her mother always believed he was innocent, and she reveals that after her father was put to death, her mother took her own life. Now, Nish is here to free her father and get her mother’s vengeance. When Rolo passes out, Nish transfers his conscience into the “electric chair,” therefore freeing her father’s soul. As the Black Museum burns to the ground, Nish drives off with her mother telling her how proud she is of her. It’s revealed that Nish and her mother share the same consciousness like Jack and Carrie.

I thought this was an interesting episode, although I guessed the twist of Nish being Clayton’s daughter early on. The only thing that made me go “Hmm…” was after seeing all the artifacts in one room, did this episode confirm that all the stories we’ve seen so far take place in the same universe? If you saw this episode, let me know what you think!

1 Comment

  • Shara White January 18, 2018 at 10:05 pm

    I’ve been casually interested in this show, but now I really want to watch it!

    Reply

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