One doesn’t really need to talk too much about why Black Mirror is one of the best shows of 2017. The thing is, great as the episodes were, they didn’t leave me challenged and unsettled as previous seasons.
For a change, I’ll try and rank the episodes in reverse order of my enjoyment.
Arkangel tells the tale of a mother who, after she wanders off, has her daughter implanted with a chip that allows parents to track their children, see through their eyes, and even monitor their stress levels.
As a commentary on technology and the nanny-state, Arkangel (the name of the chip, not the episode) soon becomes too troublesome and Marie stops using it. However, as Sara becomes a rebellious and sexually active teen, Marie starts to monitor her daughter’s life once more with disastrous consequences. “Written by Charlie Brooker and directed by Jodie Foster” should be a sentence to make your heart cum but the episode was definitely the weakest in the series. Foster added nothing any metteur-en-scene couldn’t have offered.
Metalhead is perhaps the best example of how utterly forgettable this season was. It featured breathless, relentless suspense as Maxine Peake ran for her life from a metal dog across what looked like the Yorkshire Moors but this monochrome horror commentary on drone-warfare to
4. U.S.S. CALLISTER
The one everyone was looking forward to most and perhaps the brightest episode yet… in terms of colour, if not themes as toxic masculinity invaded the space, office space and virtual worlds.
Breaking Bad and Fargo’s Jesse Plemmons provided a sometimes uncanny James T Kirk impression aboard the USS Callister but, while enjoying a great twist – that Jesse’s put-upon character was, in fact, an evil bastard – much of the episode felt like padding and the stakes were so low because the team won their freedom so easily.
3. BLACK MUSEUM
This three story, anthology-within-an-anthology (within a list-within-a-list) was intriguing and came dowsed in the kind of Americana I love. Thrilling while we were on the ride but, ultimately, it felt like a bit of a rehash of ideas. I can’t recall those rehashed ideas but Black Museum felt a little derivative.
Great casting and acting from Letitia Wright and nice to see one story adapted from Penn Jillette’
Set in Iceland, Crocodile contained some of the only genuine shocks in season four. From the inciting incident on that lonely road to the disturbing lengths, Mia went to keep her two dark secrets. I loved the memory harvesting tech being used to gather evidence in insurance claims and all of the very realistic technology in a near future which will surely come to pass soon.
1. HANG THE D.J.
This year’s San Junipero, Hang the D.J. stood head and shoulders above its peers. Frank and Amy’s situation – that of being paired up by a dating program that puts an end date on relationships – ended with a thrilling finalé and genuinely tear-jerking denouement.
Director Tim Van Patten (Deadwood, The Wire, The Sopranos, Game of Thrones) should be commended for eliciting stellar performances from Georgina Campbell and Joe Cole.
The fact that Brooker brought us another story about living in an illusory world just adds fuel to my fire that storytellers KEEP coming back to this idea, from the 3,000-year-old Hindu Vedas to the Wachowski sisters’ The Matrix.
Why do storytellers keep shouting this from the rooftops?
Because it’s true. We really do live in a computer simulation. That’s all. Now, fuck off.