With the end of 2017, Black Mirror is back again with another six-episode season of the horrors of technology, set in the not so far future. I think the reason people love Black Mirror, is because of how it is basically ‘The Twilight Zone’ of our generation, the eerie music, bizarre settings and characters, ultra futurism, with a mix of murder.
I spent the release day bingeing the whole thing in one shot, which I do with every show so umm, here we go. These are my own opinions on the episodes of this season, plus if you haven’t seen this season yet I suggest you click away as this is packed with spoilers; other than that, enjoy my thoughts on this season of Black mirror
Episode 1: “USS Callister”
For the first episode, this one for sure is one hell of a rollercoaster beginning into this season. What you see here looks a lot like a “Star Trek” re-imagination, but sadly, this is not the “USS Enterprise” all ‘Trekkies’ have grown to love.
Center, is Jesse Plemons, from a number of super successful shows, as Captain Daly, who in the beginning of the episode started out as our protagonist who we instantly felt connected to as he was just a mere ‘computer geek’ who created the very popular game in their world known as ‘infinity’. While in real life he was an underappreciated and disrespected CTO of the company. Our connection to Daly quickly went sideways as we found out how he created an undetected version of Infinity where he was known as the “asshole God” who had power over everything as the main player in the game.
The twist was when we first saw the characters of Daly’s private version of the game, it was just the people from his reality, but once we realise how these copies of his co-workers were actually digital copies of the exact person DNA and all, with the recollection of everything up until they were placed into the game, we no longer feel sorry for him.
When we thought that nothing could get worse, Daly inputs the DNA of the CEO’s son into the game, just to throw him out of the ship airlock just to torture him and force him to play by Daly’s rules.
Towards the end we do get that intensity of a true Black Mirror episode, which we don’t really in some of the other episodes, but once the other ‘players’’ master plan of vengeance works, justice, to some extent has been restored as physical world Daly is trapped in the deleted sim to rot away on his desk with a carton of unfinished chocolate milk.
This episode was really giving the message of how technology has come to a point where people are given the chance to “play god” but it just goes to show how it’ll just come back to bite you in the butt. So from now on, just be nice to other people, you don’t want a copy of you trapped in a virtual fantasy of your enemies, and to you computer geniuses, stick to non twisted coding, or whatever it is you do, its just less hassle.
Episode 2: “Black Museum”
I would say this episode is more of an excuse to combine all the ideas that weren’t big enough to make their own individual episodes for one big Black Mirror wormhole of short films.
I would say this one is definitely one of the more prevailing episodes of the season and one of my favourites, as it has the prefect amount of intrigue and mystique, a cookie and slightly suspicious character, a valid protagonist and one big twist where everything comes together and falls into place to make one interconnecting series of events that lead to a perfectly sadistically satisfying conclusion, the perfect recipe.
The stories that the ‘guy from the tenth floor’ came across were tragic, and all as a result of technology attempting to defy natures course. Firstly, the doctor who got roped into being a literal Frankenstein, with an implant that allowed him to feel his patient’s pain through the connection of a detachable headpiece to help with diagnosis. This was revolutionary to the medical industry; up until the experiment resulted in the ‘Frankenstein subject’ feeding off of his patient’s pain for pleasure, to the extent where e started cutting off his own limbs all while avoiding fatality, and even murdering others, just for the rush.
Secondly was the tragic story of a happy family who’s mother figure was hit by a car and struck into comatose, but then ‘ the guy from the tenth floor’ obviously barged in with another experiment, where he could use a device to transfer the mother’s consciousness into her husbands body, a good idea at first, but then the literal voice inside his head became too invasive. His wife’s consciousness ended up in a teddy bear and remains in the teddy bear, as her consciousness is eternally stuck in the inconvenient vessel of a stuffed bear with two phrases, eternally.
Lastly, the death row inmate who was said to be wrongfully convicted of murder and electrocuted and revived, just as a soul without a vessel, stuck in a display at the black museum where visitors could pull a lever to replay the reality of the convict’s electrocution over and over again, for their own amusement.
These stories all tie up when we realize that the protagonist is actually the convict’s daughter who was the only customer of the black museum that day, and was out for successful vengeance for her father’s torture. Like the first episode, we are also left off with a justice not entirely positive, but we still celebrate her success, even after all the tragic events.
Episode 3: “Arkangel”
I really loved this episode, because it is exactly how parents are, they want to know everything their kids are doing at all times for their own ‘protection’. This episode was a great use of ‘technology gone wrong’ to prove a point to all overbearing parents, while the technology is used with good intentions, the concept just resulted in inevitable failure.
The technology used in this episode is called “Arkangel” which is a tracking system implanted in a child’s brain, it tracks their physical locations on a map, health status, vital signs as well as literally letting parents see things through their children’s eyes, so that they can see everything they do as well as ‘filter’ what they want them to avoid seeing, this filter blurs out and mutes or muffles any situation in the child’s eyes where any sort of stressful content is at hand to protect the child from realities cons.
The tech serves its purpose when parents can see that their child is doing something they’re not supposed to, like have one too many cookies or have a tracking device that makes sure they wont wander off or get lost; but when the little girl is home alone with her grandfather who’s having a stroke, she couldn’t call for help because the scene was blurred out of her vision.
As she gets older and gets towards the end of her teenage years the mother realised that the system no longer serves a purpose to her, so she decides to shut it off. ‘Withdrawal symptoms’ instantly kick in in less than a day and the mother has to take out the Arkangel tablet again once she starts suspecting her daughter lied to her about her whereabouts or what she was doing. The mother is obviously faced with what some ‘western’ area teenagers experiment with at that age which is, live feed of her daughter having sex and trying drugs for the first time. Obviously because the system is so advanced, it instantly notifies her that her daughter is pregnant, so being blindsided by her ‘mama bear’ mode she instantly grinds up a morning after pill into her daughter smoothie to end the pregnancy without her daughter’s say.
Overall this episode really shows how the best of parental intentions can go very wrong when the parent goes too far, we end up seeing a mother who has a relationship with the device and not her daughter who is completely extracted from the equation to ensure that she is completely protected at all costs. I think this episode was portrayed very appropriately to prove a point in need of proving a long time ago.
Episode 4: “Hang the DJ”
I started off this episode saying “Finally, a nice and calm episode without any toe curling intensity”. It was the right amount of endearing and chemistry between the two main characters, but the concept didn’t feel as strong as the other previous episodes.
Everyone is living in this world sheltered from the outside by a huge wall where couples are assigned to each other for a certain amount of time, ranging from minutes to years, to assess your compatibility in hopes of finding “the one” for you. We very quickly realise how this is basically what modern day dating apps like tinder are doing. After our main characters spend their 12 ‘spark flying’ hours, they are separated for about a year where they both are stuck in loveless relationships with no chemistry longing to reunite with each other, fling after fling they start to plan that once they reunite, to “buck the system” and escape this ‘bubble world’
The episode scopes out of what is revealed to be a virtual dystopia that the couple along with every other couple exists in a phone based dating app, where if the couple decide to rebel together this reveals you to be the perfect match.
I was content with this rare ‘happy ending’, but its very clear that the writers were trying to recreate a version of “San Junipero” (an episode from a later season), but failed in achieving that same level of quality and dramatic weight as well as a connection to the characters.
Episode 5: “Crocodile”
In most Black Mirror episodes the storyline is usually very stark, but this episode was too stark in my opinion, the idea of the episode was more of a psychological series of shocking events, but there had to be a technological aspect warped into the storyline as a cohesion to the Black Mirror ‘theme’.
The woman in the photo is surprised by an old love interest from her past that apologetically threatened to come out with the truth from their past and own up to the family of a young boy who happened to be riding his bike when the couple then crashed into him and killed him accidentally. With the fear of getting time in prison, they disposed the body in the nearby body of water where his corpse was never to be found.
Because the woman had been at the height of her career, this newfound news he was threatening to reveal would ruin her, so she kills him. While disposing of her ex-love interest’s body, she coincidentally happened to be around the scene (as it happened right outside her hotel room) of a traffic accident caused by a self-driving pizza delivery truck, this lead her being a witness on the investigator’s list.
The piece of technology used in this episode allows people’s recalled memories to be viewed on the screen of the device used for police investigations. Once the investigator gets to the main character for a witness investigation, her question sparks her memory of that night where she murders her ex as well as the murder of the child on the bike from her past, which is vaguely shown on the screen. This leads to her thinking she has to murder the investigator, but then finds her house and kills her husband along with their baby who would potentially identified her and traced the murders back to her.
This episode didn’t really have a purpose or an underlying message in comparison to the other episodes, what I got out of it was that, fear in itself drives you to do bad things, the truth is always the solution instead of letting fear eat you alive. Overall this episode was a bit too dark for me, but if you’re a fan of ruthless murder and gore, then enjoy ☺.
Episode 6: “Metalhead”
I’ll just say this now, I didn’t like the way this episode played out, it did have a message that could have been portrayed in a very different way which would have emphasized the importance of the message. Like most other Black mirror episodes this episode did have a message, which was not constantly thrown at you throughout the episode, which is good in my opinion, but with that, the way this episode was set in a dystopian future ruled by ravaging robo-dogs, the way it played out didn’t serve justice to the concept.
I think a back story would have been a great addition to the story line instead of being thrown into the action with character we have no connection to whatsoever due to the sans-backstory. The entire episode is a waste of an episode as we just follow a woman with the aim of escaping the robo-dog the size of a toaster trying to obliterate her.
We can really see in the scene when the woman climbs up the tree to avoid the dog, and it’s running out of batter, is sort of exactly that scene from the first Hunger Games where Katniss does the same thing. It was really evident that the writers couldn’t really get the juice out of this concept for the episode. Overall it was kind of boring, sorry!