A Review Of Black Mirror Season 4

6 Jan 2018

It has come. The time of the year where I get to talk in depth about one of my absolute, all-time favourite programmes. Yes, the new series of Black Mirror was unveiled to the world on the 29th of December and I'm pretty sure I almost broke our TV with how quickly I tried to watch it. If you've been living under a rock for the past few years and have no idea what Black Mirror is, it's an anthology series, so none of the episodes link (or so we thought), and it's themed around futuristic technologies and the consequences and anxieties of using them. It's pretty dark, harrowing and a little bit scary at times, but it's also downright mind-blowing.

I've been the biggest fan of this programme ever since it started on Channel 4 in 2011. When Netflix bought the rights to it, I thought 'here we go, it's gonna go to the dogs,' but I was so wrong. If you've just started watching it or want to know a little more about what's in store for you, then you can take a look at my review of season 3. But like that review, I'm going to break this season up into mini reviews of each episode, followed by my overall opinion on the season as a whole. As always, there'll be no spoilers, so you can have a little read, even if you haven't caught up yet!

Episode 1 - USS Callister
This wasn't my favourite of all the episodes, but I think it was a really strong start. This episode focuses on a man that designs a VR game and co-owns the company that produces it. We get the vibe that he's a really nice guy, but in reality, he has his own version of the game where he uploads the DNA of the people that have 'wronged' him into his Star Trek-like world aboard the USS Callister. The opening is absolutely brilliant and looks like it has come right from a sci-fi classic - from the fuzzy filter to the aspect ratio. It just works so well! For me, the underlying theme for this episode was toxic masculinity and shows how a belittled man is a dangerous one (in a completely fictional sense, of course). I thought the main character looked very Trump-like, which may have just been me, but it definitely worked for him and his behaviour throughout the episode. There were tense moments, a really strong storyline and I loved the colouration - there were just other episodes that stood out more to me.
Episode 2 - Arkangel
This episode was directed by Jodie Foster and if that doesn't make you want to watch it, then I don't know what will! What a queen. Anyway, this episode is about a mother who almost loses her baby daughter during birth, so signs her up for a trial of Arkangel. This is a tracking device that is inserted into the child for life and allows the mother to see what they are seeing, find their location and blur anything distressing that they may be looking at, amongst other things. While this might sound like a parent's dream come true, it all goes to pot. I found this episode to be super thought-provoking about how much of a child's life, whether they're 5 or 25, should be kept private. You feel for Sara, the daughter, but you also feel for her protective mother, so it's an episode that really tests your morals. On a positive note, the story has a wonderful and satisfying arc back to the beginning of the episode, which pleased me a lot. This was such a fab episode and one that I'd definitely recommend watching to get a flavour of what Black Mirror is all about.

Episode 3 - Crocodile
Unfortunately, this was one of my least favourite episodes. I didn't hate it, but it wasn't up there with the best for me. It's all about the butterfly effect, and begins with couple driving into a cyclist, then throwing his body into a lake. Years later, this comes back to bite them and results in the main character doing some awful things to cover up the secret, getting more and more tangled in her own web. While that all sounds great and like the synopsis to a fab crime show, this is Black Mirror and is about technology, so where is it? Oh wait, there was that insurance woman who used a machine to recall people's thoughts. Totally played a huge part, not. The tech felt so forced and as if it was just put there because Charlie Brooker knew that without it, this wasn't a Black Mirror episode. I'll admit, some parts were really disturbing, which is something I love about this show, particularly the ending, so if that's something you're into, then maybe you'd enjoy this episode. But for me, it wasn't a winner.
Episode 4 - Hang the DJ
Holy heck, I don't even know where to start with this episode. This was my tip top favourite from the whole season, even though it was one of the more cute and happy episodes, like San Junipero, but man, it was SO clever. It follows two people that are in a bubble-like dating world that they aren't allowed to leave. They've joined a system that sets you up in a relationship for a set amount of time, which varies from person to person, in the hopes of finally being matched with "the one." This concept reminded me a lot of The Lobster - great film, you should watch it - in that it explored the anxieties around finding your other half. The ending of this episode though is the crowning glory. I was sat on the sofa with my mouth wide open and I almost got a little bit teary. It was literally that good. I'll be honest, I didn't like the two main characters together and thought that they were an odd match, but this is Black Mirror - anything's possible. Like I said before, I'm all about the dark and disturbing parts of this show, so it's a surprise that this is my favourite episode of this season, but it's so so great. Charlie Brooker is a genius, that's all I have to say.

Episode 5 - Metalhead
In contrast to that last little review section, Metalhead was my least favourite of all the episodes. This episode sees a woman being chased by a killer robot security dog after trying to steal something from a box in a warehouse. And on the surface, that's it. There really isn't much more story to tell you. I think the main thing that helps this episode to stand out from the others is that it's in high contrast black and white, and I think that this is to outline how apocalyptic the world is at that time. It makes everything look pretty bleak, so it's either that or the fact that the colour production guys wanted to hide how bad the dog animations were. Also, the ending left me totally baffled. After doing some research, I've managed to form some sort of answer about what's going on and what the message is, but originally, I was just sat there like 'what the hell was that?' Sorry Mr. Brooker, not your best work!
Episode 6 - Black Museum
Last, but by no means least, was Black Museum, my second favourite episode from the season. This episode made me want to write really good stuff and be super clever about linking things together. It follows Nish, a girl that goes into a roadside crime museum and the stories she is told by the owner. This episode is ridiculously harrowing and so dark that I'm almost a little bit shocked that there's no warning at the start, but that is exactly what I like. I really don't want to give too much away, but it's very similar to the narrative of White Christmas, the 2014 special. It's also the most meta episode to date. There have been a few nods to seasons and episodes gone by in several other episodes, but this one has it all. It's got artefacts from White Bear, the artist who hung himself from National Anthem, the bathtub from Crocodile, a mechanical bee from Hated In The Nation, a graphic novel based on Fifteen Million Merits and so much more - you just have to keep your eyes sharp. This relates back to what I was saying about episodes not linking, or so we thought. Do all of these characters live in the same world or is Nish from outside the Black Mirror universe looking in? It's such an unbelievably well written episode and I was practically screaming at the ending. Seriously, it's utter brilliance. However, I will say - trigger warning for anyone affected by self-harm, violence, medium gore and claustrophobia.

Overall, this was an amazing season of Black Mirror. J and I managed to find enough time together to binge-watch it over 3 days and I thoroughly enjoyed it. However, it was not as good as the second and third seasons, in my opinion. It was all so well written and utterly genius, but I loved practically every episode from the second and third seasons, plus, nothing compares to how deeply affected I was by White Bear. That being said, I'm still obsessed with the show and I'm really looking forward to seeing the future instalments. I'm also obsessed with Charlie Brooker and I'm currently watching and reading everything I can that features him, purely because I want to get inside his mind. I'm always in complete awe with the ideas he comes up with and the stories he weaves together. Please, Charlie, give me just a smidge of your talent!

Whould you like to comment?

  1. Thanks for this! I haven't seen every episode up until now, but probably the vast majority. I tend to enjoy them a lot, though they can be a bit of a challenging watch. x