In the lead up to the new year, Netflix released the fourth season of the cultural phenomenon that is Black Mirror. The science fiction anthology series has garnered a massive following with it’s realistic and dark depictions of the dangers of technology and society.
Season 4 is the second season now to be produced by Netflix rather than UK’s Channel 4, and much like the previous Netflix produced season, this one has already divided fans and critics alike. It’s time to dive into each episode of Season 4 so here is your SPOILER WARNING!!!
Episode 1: ‘USS Callister’
What an absolutely excellent way to kick off the new season! ‘USS Callister’ is proof that Black Mirror isn’t all about twist endings and gross out moments, but rather incredible story telling. In the episode we are introduced to Robert Daly, an introverted master coder and co-creator of a popular online “second-life” multiplayer game Infinity. Daly though is soon enough shown to be a twisted individual, uploading cyber clones of his co-workers to his offline version of Infinity, a Star Trek look alike where the sentient clones are trapped to follow Daly‘s every command in fear of physical and psychological torture.
The Good – First off, the depiction of Daly‘s USS Callister is one of the most beautiful homage’s to Star Trek I’ve ever seen. The colours, the costumes, the set are absolutely stunning and really helps the viewer get invested in the world. The performances are also excellent here, with Jesse Plemons, Cristin Milioti and Jimmi Simpson the standouts. Furthermore the ethical questions of sentient coding and humans vs digital clones are one that will keep your brain occupied for hours, because although Daly is an evil individual, is he hurting anyone? That’s for you to answer.
The Bad – It’s hard to flaw this first episode, however the idea that a genius coder like Daly isn’t aware of a game changing update in his offline system, an update he probably either helped create or at least signed-off on is downright silly. On top of that, the amount of breaking and entering the real Nanette does in the time Daly goes to get his pizza from the front door is both ludicrous and surely would’ve been noticed.
The Verdict – Brilliant episode that allows the viewer to get lost in a world that feels nostalgic. Easily one of the strongest of the season.
Epsiode 2 – ‘Arkangel’
While at the park for a play with her young daughter, single mother Marie takes her eyes off her child for a moment only for her daughter Sara to go missing. Sara is found shortly after, having chased a cat down the road, but the scare is enough to have Marie beta test the ‘Arkangel’ program, a chip that is inserted into Sara’s head that allows her mother to view what she views, filter unwanted content and track her every move. As Sara grows up, her mother moves away from the technology, but gets drawn back into using it one night when an adolescent Sara goes out until the early hours of the morning.
The Good – The concept of this episode is a really excellent one, with the debate of “helicopter parenting” still being one that goes on to this day. Although this episode has it’s moments, for one Marie accidentally watching her daughter lose here virginity, it’s the last 10 or so minutes of this episode is what really sticks with you though, with Sara realising that her mother has been watching her all along and snapping in a brutal scene. The final moments of a mother, who has always known the whereabouts of her daughter, having her daughter run away is absolutely haunting.
The Bad – The big issue to be had with the episode is the lack of following up of the ‘Arkangel’ program. When Marie enters the Arkangel center for the first time, the representative informs her that the program is soon to launch in the US, yet nobody else in the area seems to have this chip. We find out later that the program was banned in Europe and is set to be pulled in America after never full launching, yet nobody follows up with Marie to ask any questions investigating the program. You’d feel that in a world where a company was allowing parents to spy on their children, someone would either file a lawsuit or at the very least offer an answer to deactivating the chips.
The Verdict – This episode is definitely alright, it has it’s moments but never steps up into the upper echelon of Black Mirror episodes. It’s good but doesn’t delve deep enough past “overbearing mother” to be truly great.
Episode 3 – ‘Crocodile’
After a night of partying, Rob and Mia are driving through the mountains on the way home when they strike a cyclist. Rather than reporting the crime like Mia suggests, Rob insists on disposing the body in a nearby lake. Fifteen years later, Mia has a family and an extremely successful career, but is approached at her hotel room by a now sober Rob who wants to atone for his sins and come forward about their crimes. Mia murders Rob and disposes of the body, however a car accident outside the hotel leads an insurance investigator to start questioning witnesses, slowly making her way to Mia.
The Good – This episode is solid for the first 40 minutes or so, with a story that slowly unravels. The highlight definitely coming from Shazia, the insurance investigator, who is using a machine that can read memories to put together a case about the car accident. Each new person she interviews brings her closer to Mia and the tension leading up to Mia having her memories read is wonderful.
The Bad – Unfortunately this all falls apart once Mia lets her memories slip and reveals to Shazia what she has done. The subsequent murders and ending to this episode is some of the worst TV writing you will ever see. After Mia murders Shazia, she drives to Shazia’s house and murders her husband before stumbling across the couples baby and must kill the baby to tie up all loose ends. When the police arrive on the scene, in an awful twist they reveal the baby was born blind and then grab the pet hamster and hook it up to the memory machine. Not only is this machine shown to be complex for adults humans to properly create an image, we are lead to believe that a hamster can identify a human down to enough detail that Mia can be identified just moments later. Sorry, but that’s terrible.
The Verdict – An episode that is completely ruined by one of the worst endings the show has ever dished up. This ending is completely unjustifiable and you can make the argument that the writers are trying to state that there is “no perfect crime”, but this is the wrong way to portray it. This ending is so bad it makes this episode not just the worst of the season, but the worst episode of the entire series.
Episode 4 – ‘Hang The DJ‘
‘Hang The DJ‘ follows Frank and Amy, who live in a Utopian society that uses a dating program to pair up individuals for a set period of time until they eventually find their “ultimate compatible other”. Frank and Amy have a great date however are only destined to date for 12 hours. We follow the two as they have short and long term relationships with other people and begin to doubt the effectiveness of the dating system.
The Good- Pretty much everything about this episode is near perfect, from the chemistry between the two leads, to the world that is created all the way to the commentary on dating apps like Tinder. Frank’s one year relationship with Nicola is downright hilarious and the moments following Frank looking at how long his second relationship with Amy has left is heartbreaking. The ending has to be one of the most beautiful moments in TV since ‘San Junipero’ in Season 3.
The Bad- If you’re nitpicking here, you could say the “Utopian” community is very heteronormative, but it all makes sense when you take into account the way the episode ends. Other than that, you cannot flaw this episode.
The Verdict – With the success of ‘San Junipero’ in Season 3, we were shown that Black Mirror can do happy episodes and ‘Hang The DJ’ solidifies that theory. This episode is funny, sad, uplifting and downright beautiful. This is the best episode of Season 4 and possibly one of the best episodes of the show to date.
Episode 5 – ‘Metalhead’
Now onto easily one of the most divisive episodes of the series so far. ‘Metalhead’ depicts a post-apocalyptic wasteland where a woman named Bella is trying to survive while being hunted by robotic “dogs” that have seemingly one goal, to kill any human they comes across.
The Good- The most noticeable part of this episode is that it is absolutely stunning. The use of black and white adds a whole level of grit to the bleak wasteland, while the cinematography throughout the episode is probably the best of the series to date. There is plenty of intense moments in this episode, most memorably the reveal of the first “dog” in the warehouse and the reveal at the end that their are still children alive in this uninhabitable wasteland.
The Bad- The big gripe almost everyone has had with this episode is the complete lack of backstory and character that is displayed. The audience isn’t told anything about how the world ended up this way, the motivation of the “dogs” or any sort of character for Bella other than “person who wants to survive”. The world is bleak but we have no idea why it is this way.
The Verdict – This episode feels like no other Black Mirror episode before it due to it’s complete lack of context, however in a way it is the perfect depiction of what the show stands for, a look into the dangers of technology. This episode is dividing fans and critics for a reason, and although it definitely won’t be anyone’s favorite episode of the series, the belief that this is the worst episode of the season is only because it breaks so many conventions of such an unconventional show.
Episode 6 – ‘Black Museum’
Driving through the remote deserts of the US, British tourist Nish stops to charge her car and stumbles across Rolo Hayne’s “Black Museum”, a museum full of criminological artifacts. As Rolo takes Nish through the artifacts, flashbacks are shown of the stories of what caused these artifacts to become criminal weapons.
The Good – ‘Black Museum’ does what Black Mirror does best, serving up technilogical concepts that are straight up terrifying. The three stories shown here are brilliantly told in a way that reminds you why you fell in love with the series in the first place. The ending of this episode is also spectacular, with Nish revealing herself as not only the daughter of Clayton Leigh, but also as a complete genius who traps Rolo in his own inventions. It’s the kind of twist we haven’t seen in Season 4 and seeing Rolo, who truly is a despicable man, get his comeuppance is extremely pleasing.
The Bad – Although the episode does portray interesting stories, all three stories aren’t equally as interesting. The second story fizzles out about half way through while the third story, although important, doesn’t seem to touch on how the government would allow a shamed and potentially dangerous scientist the right to steal the consciousness of a convicted murderer. You have to suspend your disbelief beyond logic to really let this episode work.
The Verdict – ‘Black Museum‘ is a great reward for diehard Black Mirror fans, with heaps of Easter Eggs and a Simpsons “Treehouse of Horror” style structure. The episode is the perfect way to end the season, with a solid twist that will leave you excited for Season 5 while quickly moving past the flaws of the episodes you’ve just seen.
Black Mirror Season 4 was one of the most highly anticipated releases of the year and it’s fair to say that Season 4 was the weakest we have gotten so far. Although this season features some truly incredible moments and great episodes, the lows are some of the lowest we have gotten to this point. Diehard fans that were let down by the first Netflix season will struggle with this new season, while those who are experiencing Black Mirror for the first time might struggle to see what all the hype is about.