The darkest show on TV returns…
For anyone who lives in a cave, Black Mirror is a jet black sci-fi anthology series from the mind of Charlie Brooker. Despite containing six different episodes, each series of Black Mirror feels more like a loose concept album than a collection of singles, for this reason I have decided to do the whole series in one article rather than clogging up social media with six different posts. I am going to emit all mention of plot on the presumption that anyone reading this has already seen season 4. Let’s begin.
USS Callister – 8/10
Lots going on here. Director Toby Haynes eye for parody is impressive as Star Trek is beautifully lampooned. Jesse Plemons is by turns heroic and evil as a Captain Kirk stand in, but the whole cast performs well. USS Callister has a lot to say about fandom, profit vs genius and the dangers of an immersive online experience. Brooker manages to grab all those competing plot strands and drag them kicking and screaming into one satisfying whole.
USS Callister is not quite a classic episode of Black Mirror but it is one of the most ambitious and interesting. A solid starting point.
Arkangel – 7.5/10
It is testament to the pulling power of Black Mirror that the series is able to attract star names like Jodie Foster, albeit as director here. As so often with this show, Brooker frames this episode around one key question. Would you trade a total invasion of privacy in order to protect your children? This episode explores all the moral ambiguity that comes with that problem and manages to successfully tell a story that takes place over a number of years in less than an hour. The action is a little breathless at times but the conclusion is chilling and brutal, an ending that you might conceivably call trademark Black Mirror.
Crocodile – 6.5/10
The violent beginning of Crocodile is very promising but the episode eventually collapses under the weight of its lack of plausibility. The underlying message of Black Mirror is that human nature is just as terrifying as any piece of technology but in Crocodile, futuristic machinery takes too much of a back seat to personality. This is a shame because the acting is excellent and stylistically, Crocodile often looks beautiful. Even the worst Black Mirror episodes are still interesting however and Crocodile is no exception.
Hang the DJ – 8.5/10
Director Tim Van Patten has form in this area having directed memorable episodes of Game of Thrones, Sopranos, Boardwalk Empire and others and he uses all of his experience to turn a derivative sci-fi love story into something beautiful.
Hang the DJ wears its influences on its sleeve with The Lobster and previous Black Mirror episode San Junipero the obvious touch points. What makes this episode so wonderful however, is the performances from Peaky Blinders’ Joe Cole and Georgina Campbell. The two upcoming actors share an easy chemistry and help to sell this straight forward romantic fable. Certainly one of the most satisfying and successful Black Mirror entries to date.
Metalhead – 6/10
This will undoubtedly be the most divisive entry in season four and it is easy to see why. Filmed in washed out black and white with a screeching score, Metalhead takes a scenario normally applied in the action genre but filmed as an art house indie. Maxine Peake is a curious choice in the starring role but she does well to make sure that Metalhead is mostly compelling even without much dialogue or plot.
This cat and mouse thriller is chilling in moments and visually effective in others but the arty style didn’t really work for me.
Black Museum – 9/10
Black Mirror is one of the most imaginative and unique shows ever produced so it figures that the most Black Mirror episode of season four is also its best. Black Museum is almost like a greatest hits album with three different stories within the overall narrative and various allusions to previous episodes. The Easter eggs are fun but they don’t detract from what is perhaps one of the darkest episodes the show has ever produced.
The best Black Mirror entries are the ones that you think about when you wake up in the night in a cold sweat. Black Museum has numerous moments that could inspire such dread and claustrophobia.
So there we have it. Season four done. I do think that Black Mirror has lost something on its move to Netflix but its best episodes are always stunning and innovative. Charlie Brooker’s twisted creation is still one of the most important shows around.