Television these days can be a tad overwhelming. I don’t mean that I’m put off by the generally bleak subject matter, the gut wrenching violence, or the abundance of child-unfriendly goodness television has to offer. On the contrary, I’m overwhelmed by the sheer number of options available to watch! It’s not easy having a life with stupid adult responsibilities while also staying up to date on shows that are currently relevant to the current zeitgeist.
This brings me to a viewing selection that needs to be at the top of your list (if it’s not already there) – Black Mirror on Netflix. Black Mirror is an anthology series that can be watched in any order or quantity without feeling like you’ve committed the carnal sin of missing an episode. If you’ve read any of my previous reviews of comic book standalones, you know that I’m a huge fan of anything I can enjoy noncommittally. Black Mirror brilliantly offers short seasons of (almost) entirely self-contained episodes. They are all geared towards a science fiction setting which is generally quite similar to our world only a few years in the future.
Netflix gave us a late Christmas present by releasing the fourth season on Friday, December 29th. This season, the second since Netflix took it over, was six episodes that I eagerly consumed with my only regret being the knowledge that more won’t come for a long time. Below is how I thought the six episodes stacked against each other. I’m not going to summarize the episodes as it is very worth your time to go watch them. Instead, I’ll try to justify why I ranked it the way I did and what stuck with me after the credits rolled.
OBVIOUS SPOILER WARNING FOR BLACK MIRROR SEASON FOUR!
#6 – “Crocodile”
The third episode of the season, “Crocodile” is DARK…. like, crazy dark! It’s fascinating to think they have the technology to harness memories in such a way. I loved how the memories themselves were subjective so little things like color could be changed with just a suggestion. The depths Mia goes to in an attempt to protect all she’s gotten since the hit and run accident have no limit. I didn’t see the twist coming of the boy being blind and the purpose of the guinea pig… it left me needing a hug.
#5 – “Arkangel”
The second episode of season four was directed by Jodie Foster. If you’re a parent, this episode will unnerve you. Honestly, it’ll probably unnerve you regardless! The whole concept of seeing everything your child sees and having an element of parental control to what they experience is just scary. At first when Sara was little I thought it was very cute. I remember wishing I could see the eyes of both my kids when they were younger (they are a tad older now so not anymore… no one wants to see that crap). It crossed from cute to creepy pretty quickly once the grandfather had his incident. The episode did a fantastic job capturing her aging and how her sheltered state impacted her social development.
#4 – “Hang the DJ”
From what I’ve seen, the fourth episode “Hang the DJ” has been one of the critical favorites. I can see why but didn’t love it as much as the rest of the critics. Don’t get me wrong, it’s an awesome episode that’s closer to a love story than the rest of the season. The concept of a system-selected “date” being used as a systematic way to find your soul mate is weirds me out. In the end, Black Mirror used its trademark storytelling twist to turn expectations around which was satisfying because it wasn’t implemented in an entirely predictable way. Also, this episode was a welcome change of pace if watched immediately after “Crocodile” – the sweet, goofiness of it all will help you rebound from the murder of a blind toddler.
#3 – “Black Museum”
Another change of pace, this episode of an anthology series was an anthology in itself. The final episode of the fourth season had a fun, yet twisted, way of bringing many of the items/themes of its predecessors together in a macabre light. I didn’t really like the segment with the doctor becoming hooked on pain. It was super predictable and relied more on gore than the show typically does. Then the segment with the monkey was as crushing as it was goofy. I was won over when it all tied together as a calculated revenge story.
#2- “USS Callister”
The first episode will undoubtedly be the favorite for most people. Honestly, it was a close call for me to put it in the number two spot. On the surface, the episode is a fun homage to the original Star Trek. I was shocked how fucked up the whole thing ended up being! What was remarkable is how small details about the “family friendly” show remained even while the characters were being overtly manipulated to appease the fragile ego of the universe’s architect. This episode was a great balance of humor and jaw-dropping darkness which made it the epitome of what Black Mirror has come to be.
#1 – “Metalhead”
The season’s penultimate episode was definitely a change of pace, visuals, and tone that drove home the anthology nature of this show. I’ve seen some people rank this one much lower but I loved it. My natural affinity for post-apocalyptic settings allowed “Metalhead” to sit just right with me. I particularly loved how no time was wasted trying to explain why the world was the way we were seeing it, where the robotic ‘dogs’ came from, or anything else involving the survivors. When it boils down to it, those story details didn’t matter because this was a tale of predator and prey. The fact that the predator in this instance was a small robotic quadruped made this even scarier because technology resembling it exists today. In the end, there are no happy endings in apocalyptic scenarios (I wrote a short book about that same theme!). For everything Bella went through to survive, in the end she never stood a chance.
Have you checked out Black Mirror? Which episode was your favorite? Sound off in the comments or email us directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Belligerent Barnes