Technology is a double-edged sword, especially when it’s invented by Charlie Brooker.
Although it took a little while longer than we anticipated, Charlie Brooker’s nightmarish technology anthology series is set to return once more. The expectations are higher than they’ve ever been with Black Mirror as the episode San Junipero took home numerous Emmy awards this year and paved the way for greater awareness of the series.
Black Mirror has six new episodes ready to delight and terrify fans of the show. While there is plenty to talk about within each episode, this review will be only talking about the surface level details so there is no fear of spoilers. There is an eclectic group of episodes available so where exactly should you begin?
Netflix has an order to these episodes but given that it very much continues the anthology format of the previous seasons it doesn’t really matter which one you watch first. Each episode has a drastically different feel so there isn’t really rhyme or reason to watch one over the other. It will just be what grabs your interest. The most hyped episode of the new batch is USS Callister, so that’s where we’ll start.
Billed as a feature-length Black Mirror episode set in space, USS Callister might be the most ambitious episode of the season. From the look of all the promotional material, USS Callister seems to be set in a Star Trek-like universe, bringing, even more, excitement to the table. The episode stars Jesse Plemons known for his roles in Fargo and Breaking Bad. Rounding out the cast includes Cristin Milioti, Jimmi Simpson, and Michaela Coel. The real highlight of the episode, outside of its outrageous nods to other science-fiction television shows, is the way Plemons and Simpson play off each other. It’s a fun episode that really shows the strengths of Black Mirror. As the most highlighted episode of the season there may be a question as to whether this is Black Mirror‘s new San Junipero, but none of the episodes this season really reach that high.
The first of the new episodes to be showcased by Netflix was Arkangel. Directed by Jodie Foster, the episode focuses on a relationship between a mother and a daughter, told over the course of many years. Arkangel really comes across as a neat indie movie, that isn’t too far away from our current day. The star of this episode is Rosemarie Dewitt who gives the best performance of all the season four episodes. At the center of the episode is a sophisticated surveillance tool that could all too real in our current world. It is certainly one of the strongest of the new episodes.
Black Museum was the first episode I watched from the new season (figured I’d watch something else before diving right into USS Callister). This is presented as a compendium episode, with three interconnected stories, much like the White Christmas episode with Jon Hamm. Each story sort of builds into the next one. It’s set within a US roadside attraction, sort of a crime museum that shows high-tech misdeeds. There are plenty of easter eggs on display in this episode so keep your eyes peeled. This is also one of the most gruesome/bleak episodes of the fourth season. It stars Douglas Hodge and Letitia Wright, who is about to have a breakout year in Black Panther, Avengers: Infinity War, and Ready Player One.
The next highest profile episode is by director John Hillcoat (Triple 9, Lawless). Crocodile focuses on Mia (Andrea Riseborough) in a thriller that has something in her past coming back to haunt her. The episode features some fantastic cinematography as they filmed on location in Iceland. Exactly how it plays into the story will be a mystery for now, but Crocodile is about a new device that can access your raw impressions of events.
Hang the DJ will most likely be compared to San Junipero in tone from this collection of episodes. It is also my favorite of the season. Directed by Tim Van Patten (The Sopranos, Game of Thrones), Hang the DJ is a story about characters who are using an advanced dating system. The system is able to map out a series of relationships for you in advance. The focus is on Georgina Campbell and Joe Cole as they are paired with a dizzying array of possible partners. Hang the DJ also features the best soundtrack of the season with music from Sigur Rós. It just sort of sneaks up on you and will most likely be the most talked about episode of the season.
Finally, is the B&W experiment from director David Slade (Hannibal, American Gods). Metalhead is a tense story about survival that is actually the first episode of Black Mirror to be entirely filmed in black and white. Whether this is just because of artistic direction or because of how violent Metalhead can be will certainly be a debate for some time afterwards. It is also the shortest episode of the season coming in at a brisk forty minutes.
Black Mirror continues to be a fascinating anthology series that offers vastly different stories within a season. There isn’t an episode in this bunch that doesn’t offer something intriguing. Each one is worthwhile in its own right whether they be thrillers, indie dramas, or space epics. Charlie Brooker has once again impressed with his writing and Black Mirror continues to fill a space that was vacated long ago. Of course, it has inspired countless other series to try to take away its throne, but with episodes like Arkangel, Hang the DJ, and USS Callister on hand, Black Mirror is tough to beat.