TV Review: Black Mirror (Season 4, 2017)

Charlie Brooker’s techno-horror anthology series continues with it’s fourth season, as six more episodes of Black Mirror are available on Netflix. In order, the episodes are:
USS Callister: a disturbed programmer has created virtual copies of his workmates to live out a sci-fi fantasy inside a videogame
ArkAngel (directed by Jodie Foster): an overprotective helicopter parent implants a chip in her young daughter which allows the mother to censor or monitor anything her daughter sees or does
Crocodile: a woman with a dark past is targetted by an insurance broker with the ability to filter through a person’s memories after the woman witnesses a minor car accident
Hang the DJ: a man and a woman are matched together by a dating app, in a world where relationships have strict expiration dates
Metalhead: a woman is pursued by killer robotic dogs as she attempts to retrieve something from a remote warehouse
Black Museum: along a deserted road, a young woman visits a museum where the owner tells her three stories about the pieces therein, all relating to some horrible crimes

The following are listed in positive/negative and viewing order, not necessarily in the order I enjoyed them.

+ USS Callister: a cross between the season 3 episode “Playtest” and a dark side of Star Trek, this was my favourite full episode of the season. Jesse Plemons and Cristin Milioti are both fantastic, and the intersections between the game world and the real world were the real highlight. I noticed a few similarity to the novel I have No Mouth And I Must Scream, some literal and some thematic, which really impressed me
+ ArkAngel: the idea of this overprotective, “helicopter” parenting is one I have lots of conversations with people about, and this, scarily, does seem like the next realistic step. I felt this had the most emotional story of the season, and it was interesting to see such a long-form story play out. Most of this series has taken place over relatively short time periods, so I enjoyed watching the daughter grow up alongside this technology
+ Black Museum: the first third of this episode, based on the short story “Pain Addict” by Penn Jilette was really enjoyable, and I almost wish it had been an entire episode by itself. Otherwise, I could see it making a good movie

Crocodile: taking numerous cues from the first season’s “The Entire History of You” this was interesting, but a silly ended ruined it for me. I’m never a fan of these ‘everything you say/see/do/whatever is recorded’ set-ups, because I find them too difficult to imagine or full of too many plot holes
Hang the DJ: this reminded me a lot of “San Junipero“, from season 3, and that episode was one of my least favourites episodes. I freely admit I prefer the episodes where technology is a detriment and/or has an unexpected or sinister side effect, or a generally more ‘warning’ tone, but even without that this episode left much to be desired. Like “Crocodile” before it, this also had an ending which ruined the smaller parts I had enjoyed
Metalhead: simply put, nothing about this episode clicked for me. The episode being fully in black and white did not add to the story, and came across more as pretentious artsy crap than an old school horror homage. I didn’t care for the story, the robo-dogs looked silly and (once again) the ending was a huge letdown
Black Museum: this was much too similar to the episode “White Christmas”, with the three-act, three-story structure before the not-so-shocking twist (or is the fact that there is a twist the real twist?). As mentioned above, I did enjoy the first segment, but the other two were a real slog to get through. I also didn’t really like that the titular museum had exhibits from previous episodes – I prefer to think of the episodes as being entirely separate, and the smaller connections (like the same pizza delivery company showing up in two) as more of a small easter egg
– overall, I found the references to the other episodes to be somewhat hollow. For example, the game technology in USS Callister was similar to that in the first segment of the Christmas Episode, and the entire episode of Hang the DJ was very similar to San Junipero. I understand that technology is only the basis for the episodes, and not really the focal point, but I was still nonplussed at the way it was all so similar

> Matt Hardy has brought his “Woken/Broken” character to the WWE, and the transition for him to being his videos is almost identical to the crack in the Black Mirror title card

Should you watch this show: Unsurprisingly, my least favourite episodes here were the ones which seemed similar to previous episodes. The first two episodes were the highlight, which meant I had to really force myself to get through the rest of the episodes (although the first part of the final episode may have been my favourite segment of the season). I am sad to say this was not nearly as good as the previous seasons, and whether you should watch it depends solely on how much you want to say you’ve watched it all. If you don’t care, then don’t bother.


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