By now it can’t be overstated that Netflix is at the top of online streaming and if it’s one thing we learned over the years, is that the media giant isn’t slowing down anytime soon. Why would they? with a variety of shows from Stranger Things Season 2, Marvel’s The Punisher, Marvel’s The Defenders, the divisive “13 Reasons Why” and now Black Mirror all released this year. After the acquisition of Black Mirror in 2015, the show maintained the quality of seasons 1 & 2 but after this season, some things have to change.
Note, this isn’t a complaint on Netflix or any of its representatives. After all Charlie Brooker is still in charge. It’s merely an observation and the fact that with twelve episodes in a year compared to half of that in two years and with some fourty minutes episodes along the way including an all-time low for Black Mirror in 2017’s “Metalhead”. One has to wonder if Brooker may consider reverting back to the old formula. After all, Stranger Things made its debut in 2015 with eight episodes and released nine more last year with polarizing results.
So with that being said, here are all six episodes ranked this season.
Play Dead To Get Through This One. (METALHEAD – EPISODE 5)
Metalhead might be Black Mirror’s worst episode since the series’ debut in 2011. “Nosedive” (Season 3) & “Be Right Back” (Season 2) are other noteworthy nominees. But this was just bad. Truth is it was heading close to being the best this season. But then a terrible twist at the very end just destroyed it.
Starring Maxine Peake as Bella. she and her colleagues go on a little run for supplies you would think in this post-apocalyptic timeline. Apparently the tech here is a robotic dog that is really brutal and merciless. The dog murders her colleagues while we spend the next thirty odd minutes watching Bella as she tries to escape from the dog.
Now this episode would’ve been so great given that it has no colour palette just plain black and white for the entirety of the episode mainly due to the amount of gore involved and that’s great. It kind of reminded me of Kill Bill Volume 1. I’m sure you know the scene I’m talking of. There was tension and genuine risk as you weren’t sure if she would survive. (Spoiler : she didn’t). But then at the end it’s revealed that they all risked their lives for stuffed teddy bears ALL THREE of them were going to collect for a kid. Pathetic.
There was no history of who created the tech, No reason why they’d gone rabid, no plot as to how the world became that way. Nothing. We were just fed scraps of bones and expected to swallow.
Foster’s Imagination Isn’t Too Friendly. (ARKANGEL – EPISODE 2)
I was in shock when I learnt Jodie Foster directed this episode. Mainly because I had never heard or seen any of her work till now and probably for good reason because this would’ve been the least engaging episode of the series.
Marie (Rosemarie Dewitt) is worried of her child (Sara) wandering about and getting hurt after just one incident, so she takes her to “Arkangel” a company that practices in a technology that when implanted into the mind, the user (Marie) can track and see everything the person does.
In one way, the episode works as a theme that we do actually need bad things to occur to us in life to acquire knowledge and from there gain wisdom. Especially in children, that’s how they grow.
When Sara gets older, she gets bullied because of the device in her head and keeps wanting to know more of what her other colleagues at school do. Be it hurtful or sweet. She pierces her self so she can see blood then gets upset when it gets blurred.
At the end, Marie tries to get the implant removed but can’t because it’s permanent. She’s advised to throw the tablet used to monitor Sara away but doesn’t because she’s overprotective. This of course leads to Sara finding out that her Mum still watches her after all this years, including her having sex with her boyfriend. Sara leaves home but not after beating her mom brutally with the tablet.
The episode didn’t work mainly because it played out like a teen drama with just a few good moments.
Killer Croc. (CROCODILE – EPISODE 3)
Mia Nolan (Andre Riseborough) and her friend Rob (Andrew Gower) are involved in an accident that kills a man. Rob decides to cover it up. Mia, through persuasion from Rob, reluctantly obliges to do the same. Fifteen years later, Rob approaches Mia at her hotel saying he feels guilty about what they did and is going to write an anonymous letter to the wife who till the present day waits for her husband to return home.
Mia, now an accomplished architect with a husband of her own and a boy refuses, saying it could be traced back to her. Rob has made up his mind. Mia has too. She kills him. An accident happens just below her hotel which brings Shazia (Kiran Sonia Sawar) from Realm Insurance in.
This episode just felt like “technology for technology purpose”. They tried to make it as sophisticated and as unique as possible but it was pretty clear and clearly forced. To make matters worse, the tech “the recaller”, wasn’t introduced until almost half an hour into the episode. The device as you can expect recalls the memories of an individual and is mostly used only for investigative purposes.
What made this a really good episode was how far one could really go to run away from their crimes. Mia just doesn’t kill Shazia; no. She also goes to her home and murders her husband and child. Turns out the child was blind so he couldn’t have said a word. She gets caught because she forgot to murder the guinea pig at their home.
It’s a remarkable episode and shows Black Mirror in’t afraid of going to some really dark places. It also was nice to spot some easter eggs ranging from “Wraithe Babes” to the song “Everyone Who Knows What Love Is” both from the Season 1 episode “15 Million Credits”.
Don’t Swipe Left Just Yet. (HANG THE DJ – EPISODE 4)
Black Mirror at it’s best. “Hang the Dj” is a phenomenal piece of storytelling that almost outdid my first pick where it not for its longetivity and somewhat lack of originality. It’s really just a one hour homage to last season’s “San Junipero”. I mean even the lead actress Georgina Campbell (Amy) looks a whole lot like Gugu Mbatha-Raw. But when you take that away and it stands on its own, it really is a masterpiece.
Also starring Joe Cole (Frank), “Hang the Dj” is a story of love. Beautiful love. In this world, couples are only together for a matter of time. Paired by a device called “coach”. They could be together for hours, months, days or years. Frank and Amy meet and spend hours together for the first time and because of how much they adored each other’s company, any other relationship they get paired with just didn’t feel the same.
They choose to escape the place where they’re quarantined together regardless of whom they were paired with at the time. As they climb the ladder to freedom, they notice that they are in fact in a simulation as they posited. It’s seen that this was a game and that out of a thousand simulations, there were “998 rebellions recorded” which leads them to being a 99.8% match.
This episode works amazingly well mainly because of the glaring chemistry between both actors and also because it’s very different. For starters, the episode takes place in a game, that’s were the technology lies and shows us in a way what love is. Finding that person and risking everything together. It was Black Mirror’s own version of tinder and also there were no repercussions of the technology. It’s truly an amazing story and one of the rare times, if ever Black Mirror had a happy ending.
Dark Arts. (BLACK MUSEUM – EPISODE 6)
M. Night Shyamalan would be proud. A quite triumphant twist. “Black Museum” follows a traveller (Letitia Wright – Nish) as she stumbles upon a museum while charging her car. Giving that this is Black Mirror that shouldn’t be a surprise. The museum is owned by Rolo Haynes (Douglas Hodge). As she tours the place, Haynes, a fantastic narrator I might add lets her know that this place is filled with crime decor that have been committed in the past, including the tablet from Episode 2’s “Arkangel”. As we progress, we see some of Black Mirror’s most famous episodes littered around as easter eggs for the audience to collect.
Haynes tells Nish three crime stories which he was involved in as a scientist, but it’s the final one of a man who was sent to the chair to die with his “data” restored by Haynes’ TCKR research that stands out mainly because he connects with Nish.
You see Haynes kept his data so customers coming to the museum could relive the electrocution of the man by doing it themselves. After years of doing it, the man becomes brain-dead. But unbeknownst to Haynes, the customer he gleefully reveals this story to is the man’s daughter all grown up and here to collect. She kills Haynes and blows the place up, picking up a couple of souvenirs along the way. After this, I’m really looking forward to see Letitia in Black Panther next month.
It’s probably the first time an episode in Black Mirror was done in this manner and also featured three forms of tech; the first one featuring the symphatic diagnoser could have been its own episode.
All Aboard The U.S.S Callister (U.S.S CALLISTER – EPISODE 1)
That’s the problem. “The U.S.S Callister” is without a doubt the best episode this season and it shouldn’t be that simple to judge. But even though season four wasn’t the best it’s still as entertaining as the seasons before, but improvements need to be made to avoid future entries not being well received. The finale, premiere and a last-minute save in “Hang the Dj” helped this season from being a complete mess.
Rating – 7.8