The fourth season of Charlie Brooker's mind-bending anthology series "Black Mirror" was released to the world on Dec. 29 and fans of the series have likely already binged the six-episode season. However, if you're on the fence about watching the series, don't fret. Being an anthology series, the current 19 episode lineup is easy to binge as each episode, ranging from 45-90 minutes in length, offers a completely new story with each episode having a different set of actors, setting and tone from the last. Therefore, there's no need to worry about seeing previous seasons for continuity's sake.
I will try and not spoil any big plot points or signature "Black Mirror twists" but with that in mind, MINOR SPOILERS AHEAD
Episode One: "USS Callister"
The premise of episode one garnered tremendous amounts of hype prior to its debut, and rightfully so. Billed as a Star Trek parody (or in this case, "Star Fleet"), fans were eager to see Black Mirror's take on the popular franchise.
The episode follows timid and reclusive coder Robert Daly who, uses a Star Fleet mod of his own videogame to trap digital copies of his coworkers in the game in order to live out his twisted, tyrannical power trip fantasies as "Captain Daly", the brave and handsome Captain of the USS Callister who is both (forcibly) adored by his loyal crew and feared by his enemies.
"USS Callister" offers a great look into the classic trope of a "wolf in sheep's clothing" as well as the potential dangers of highly advanced simulations and gaming. Not surprisingly, episode one completely taps into the Star Trek nostalgia of longtime fans with nearly identical themes, costumes and character archetypes to all in all, kick off season four with a pretty considerable bang.
Episode Two: Arkangel
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Black Mirror's take on "helicopter parenting", season four's second episode, directed by Jodie Foster centers on, like most Black Mirror episodes: a new technology in the not so distant future.
Centering on Marie (Rosemarie DeWitt) and her daughter Sara (predominately played by Brenna Harding), right away we are introduced to Marie's protective tendencies after almost losing Sara at birth.
Enter the "Arkangel System" an implant inserted in the heads of children so that parents can see what they see and therefore closely monitor their children at all times. As is the case with many previous episodes, this new technology becomes more invasive than helpful and paired with a tense ending, "Arkangel" rightfully raises questions about personal freedom and overprotective parents.
Episode Three: "Crocodile"
Focused on issues of privacy and how far people will go to cover up past mistakes, "Crocodile" begins with a hit and run by main character Mia (Andrea Risenborough) and her friend Rob (Andrew Gower), which definitely got my blood pumping.
Fast forward five years and the signature Black Mirror technology comes in the form of the "Recaller" a device that allows people to see the memories of others. Without spoiling what happens, lets just say things go bad for Mia and we get to see the dark side of humanity as we find out exactly how far people will go to cover up mistakes, both past and present.
While definitely not my favorite episode, season four's third episode offers beautiful camera shots of Iceland's natural and arctic scenery while also offering a gruesome and exciting Black Mirror twist in the final minutes.
Episode Four: "Hang The DJ"
Halfway through binging the entirety of season four and I was thoroughly entertained. However, I was still looking for that episode that really impacted like many others before it have. My prayers were answered after seeing Black Mirror take on dating apps (cough cough, Tinder).
In a world where relationships are mathematically assigned by artificial intelligence "Coach" in order to one day find "the ultimate compatible other", "Hang The DJ" is one of the rare uplifting episodes of Charlie Brooker's masterful anthology.
Likely looking to capitalize on the massive success of fan favorite and award winning season three episode "San Junipero", "Hang The DJ" has the same sort of romantic tone yet dare I say, is superior to its predecessor.
The performances are exceptional and the chemistry between main characters Frank (Joe Cole) and Amy (Georgina Campbell) is natural. As a result, "Hang The DJ" is most likely my favorite episode of season four and is arguably one of the best in the series as a whole.
Episode Five: "Metalhead"
A different approach than any other Black Mirror episode, "Metalhead" is shot completely in black and white. Why? I'm not sure, but that's really not important.
Seemingly set in some sort of post-apocalyptic world where robotic AI has become dominant, episode five follows "Bella" (Maxine Peake) as she, for reasons unknown, is hunted down by dangerous dog-like robots inspired by real life quadrupedal robots currently being developed by Boston Dynamics.
Aside from some great vintage-looking cinematography, "Metalhead" was sort of a let down, especially after the high standards set by the previous episode. Excluding an exciting and tense ending, "Metalhead" fell short both in terms of character development and plot.
Episode Six: "Black Museum"
In many ways, season finale "Black Museum" is the perfect finale for Black Mirror's fourth season. A collection of three eerie and exciting slightly interconnected stories being told by museum curator Rolo Haynes (Douglas Hodge) to traveler Nish (Letitia Wright) are enough on their own to keep viewers on the edge of their seat.
This episode focuses on the many technological devices throughout the Black Mirror universe, especially those of which have been involved in crimes. As Nish walks through the museum we see items such as Captain Daly's DNA device, the mugshot of "White Bear's" Victoria Skillane as well as the killer bees of season three finale "Hated in the Nation".
As we see callbacks and easter eggs to previous episodes, seemingly innocent Nish's true motives come to light and culminate to one of the most satisfyingly brutal final moments in Black Mirror history.
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