Black Mirror Season 4 Review
These are our immediate, un-researched thoughts on Season 4, as it was just released a few weeks ago. We WILL be covering each of these episodes in-depth in the future. In our full breakdown podcasts, for each episode we do a detailed recap, set-up, behind-the-scenes info as well as explanations and an overall psychological study of the episode. WARNING: Below are !Spoilers! for the entirety of season 4 and all six episodes.
But for now, here are some fun easter eggs and our raw opinions on the best television show there is, Black Mirror. —C
"USS Callister" (4:20)
USS Callister is visually breathtaking. Most notably the primary color scheme of their 60's era Star Trek themed costumes as well as the opening fuzzy, colorful, authentic vintage scene. It plays just as a nostalgic episode of the early Star Trek series would, and then when the cookies are free, the set turns to resemble a 2009 J.J. Abrams, modern Star Trek look, with blue tones and lots of pretty lens flares.
The most horrifying part of this episode is when Robert Daly takes Nanette's face away. Michael says in the podcast that it reminds him of the scene in The Matrix where a man's mouth is taken away (as you can see in the graphic I made below). It's not only the simultaneous loss of all your senses, but also the realization that you're not a real person. The dance of watching the cookie intelligence come to understand that they are not real people is fascinating and horrific.
In the scene where Alana, the receptionist, is being rude to Robert Daly, who is trying to get through the front door, she is on her phone and, coincidentally, on the dating app (resembling tinder) from Season 4 episode, Hang the DJ.
Happy Endings seem to be everywhere in Season 4. And we see the very first one here with USS Callister, when Robert Daly bites it at the end.
Expert Opinion: Michael points out that if these cookies are real beings with full sentience, they would probably be much more psychologically drained and honestly, almost to the point of insanity. We've talked about social isolation and brainwashing doing massive damage to a person before on Unpopular Culture. It seems unlikely that the character-copies in Robert Daly's Star Fleet simulation would be so functional and normal, given the fact that they are subjected to such torture and isolation.
What does a future free in the internet galaxy mean?
When the group of cookies is finally free, and the show visually turns to J.J. Abrams version of Star Trek, they are essentially free and digital copies. They are essentially free in the internet. Kind of like Tron, all of the computer programs are living, intelligent individuals much like the cookies clones in USS Callister. From the real world perspective, they're all code and not truly human. But from their point of view, they are fully sentient human beings. Star Trek is the story telling vessels that introduced this idea to begin with, by creating the holodeck. On all of the ships, there were these rooms called holodecks that were used for simulations. They even raised the question of - What happens to the computer that think they are real? Like Black Mirror is doing now with these cookie clones.
What we're calling the Extreme Over-Parenting episode. In many ways, this technology really does already exist. Parents in this day-in-age give their kids smartphones in order to keep better tabs on them. Smartphones do, after all, include trackers. In the case of the Arkangel episode, this mom is relatable at first. This technology doesn't seem wrong—it seems helpful. Who wouldn't want to know where their toddler is at all times? The episode also presents to us many times where the censoring function as well as the direct optical feed is actually helpful, rather than harmful. For example, when she is only 2 or 3 years old and flipping through television shows, the Arkangel device censors the violent military footage. Which, is a blatant scene and Easter Egg from Season 3 episode, Men Against Fire.
Or, how about when the grandfather almost dies in front of the young girl, but the Arkangel device sends an alert to the mother who is then able to see what is happening through her daughter's eyes and come home to help the grandfather. Or, when the Arkangel device tells the mother that her daughter's health is lacking in a specific area. These are helpful, wonderful tools for parents. Or, so it seems right now.
This episode was directed by Jodie Foster, and has an indie-movie vibe, similar to earlier episodes like Be Right Back, visually.
Michael says that stifling your child in this way (censoring), though, would deprive them of vital learning opportunities. And in this episode, it's ironic, because she grows up to be obsessed with the things that her mother wanted to shield her from: like blood, violence, and sex.
In the end, she ultimately bludgeons her mom's head in. The moment when the mother runs after her, covered in blood, and screaming for her daughter down the road, I was reminded of the movie Carrie, and the mirroring of overbearing parenting that lead to violence in the end.
Also, an important note: This episode represented the EC (Emergency Contraception) incorrectly. When Sarah, the daughter, goes to the clinic after her mom slips her an EC pill, so she throws up, the doctor says that Sarah is no longer pregnant. This is claiming that by taking the EC pill ( or Plan B pill), you can terminate a pregnancy and this is false. EC pills help to prevent a future pregnancy, but if you are already pregnant, it will not terminate the pregnancy.
The technology of this episode was the memory reader, and easily the most interesting part of the episode, in our opinion. It's also one of the only pieces of technology in Black Mirror that looks old. Maybe that means that this is an earlier version of similar technology (like in Season 1 episode, Entire History of You). It also hooks up to people's temples, like the technology used in both USS Callister and San Junipero, as opposed to in their brains or eyeballs, like Entire History of You, Playtest, or Arkangel.
Above, you can see how different the technology is, and how the Crocodile version seems to be an earlier, less evolved version.
Overall, we at UPC felt as though the technology (though fascinating) took a backseat to the main story of Mia, the accidental serial killer, and that wasn't necessarily the best choice. As viewers, we would have loved to have seen the technology and the idea of collecting subjective memories take the driver's seat.
Hang the DJ (37:03)
Ah, the love episode: The San Junipero of season 4. This one will forever be known in the future as the online dating episode! While contemplating the pros and cons of online dating in the podcast, we talked about what makes two people successful in a relationship. People in arranged marriages have said that yes, they didn't love the person in the beginning but they learned to love each other strongly because they were both working on their relationship, all the time. They say their love isn't based on chemistry, but instead their shared work and relationship building. And they truly learned to love each other. Kind of the opposite of the concept of "love at first sight."
What's so wonderful about this episode of Black Mirror is that it takes a clear stance on what makes a successful couple. By defining that two people are each other's "one true love" because of their rebellion together, is a phenomenal and new way to define love.
Expert Opinion: In the podcast, Michael brings up a theory in evolutionary psychology that states that relationships have natural drop off points. One after 4 years, one after 7 years. The idea being that one year is about enough time to procreate, have a baby, and then walk away. Four years is theoretically enough time for you to have your child, and help it grow just enough to walk and be mostly self-sufficient. This theory obviously focused around our core needs as human, specifically reproduction.
Whew, sounds like a lot of work. So, why not let 1,000 simulations of yourself do the work for you?
The two characters in this story had undeniable chemistry. It was believable, cute and so electric. Michael says the most heartbreaking part of the episode is when they are forced to be with the second people for one year. I disagree, in that I think the most heartbreaking part of the episode is when he looks at the device timer earlier than she does and it starts to "recalibrate" until the time goes from 5 years to less than 24 hours.
Were they simulations or were they real people? Help us answer this question, because we're not sure. Were there 1,000 identical cookies of the couple? Or was there one simulation that went through the process/simulation 1,000 times.
Overall, this was one of our favorite episodes, because the technology was the central focus, and the story about a couple of people took a backseat (a close backseat, but still a backseat).
In the podcast, Michael says he hates this episode because the protagonist's decisions are consistently questionable. Especially when she is in dire need of escaping, but chooses to sit and stay too many times. When she is on the radio trying to reach someone for so long, she then stays on the radio for entirely too long while saying nothing.
The dog is not so scary as a villian, except for maybe when it found and integrated the kitchen knife as a replacement for it's arm. Also, did you know that this dog basically exists, built by Boston Mechanics?? (Minus the intent to kill all of humanity, hopefully.)
That whole thing was in pursuit of a box of teddy bears?! Why? The best thing we can come up with is the need to grasp onto humanity. Ok, so you go on a suicide mission for a teddy bear? Hmm.....
Maxine Peake, the main actress in Metalhead is most known for her role in the British version of Shameless. In the beginning of the episode, there is an easter egg hidden for a split second on the screen of the van that the man breaks into outside of the website. It lists out the names of many Black Mirror episodes and also reads, "WHY did you bother PAUSING this you freak."
Stylistically, it was beautiful. The black and white colors as well as the slow silent pans in the middle of action scenes. It was gorgeous, and if there were a chronological timeline on which every episode of Black Mirror fit, many argue that Metalhead would be the very last one. Because it depicts a sterile world in which technology has truly taken over and that's the end of that.
Also, Charlie Brooker said in an interview that there are deleted scenes in which people can be seen controlling the dogs, and that these scenes were in color. So maybe that means that the entire Metalhead episode is from the perspective of the dogs/players.
Black Museum (1:01:30)
Calling this an archive of easter eggs. A literal museum to capture the little details of all of our past episodes. Among these easter eggs include the shattered, bloody tablet from Arkangel, the man with the shotgun and White Bear mask, the killer robot bee from Hated in the Nation, the Egg that the original cookie who had to make toast was forced to live inside of in White Christmas, and even the DNA cloning gadget from USS Callister. All of these things being in the same episode is confusing.... This exclusively proves (though Charlie Brooker consistently denies) that each of these episodes take place in the same world. And that's hard to imagine that these worlds exist together. On the podcast, we contemplate whether or not it's because they are happening at different times (like the argument we made with Crocodile being one of the earliest on the so-called timeline).
The first part of the Black Museum triptych story was about a doctor who became addicted to pain after receiving a device that allowed him to feel the pain of others without being hurt. Michael makes the point that he thinks for the doctor, being addicted to pain is a sexual fetish. Fun easter egg: the same actor that plays this doctor, is the one who is in The Entire History of You as one of the suits that interviews him. In particular, the one that awkwardly says "We really hope to.... look forward to.... seeing you again."
The second part of the story is about transferring consciousness. The depiction of the optical video is much more realistic in this storyline than in Arkangel, for example, that looks like a video feed. We liked that they came to the conclusion of many laws in this episode. There is a plaque on the wall that says "Cloning Without Consent." Also, Rolo Haynes references that after he put the woman into the teddy bear, they made it a law that you have to be able to express at least 5 different human emotions. Also he makes the statement that it is illegal to delete her. So, at this point in the timeline, in this Black Mirror universe, whatever government exists: decided to make many laws about their rampant technology.
The third story about Rolo Haynes and the road-trip woman that killed him was..... lacking for us. The function of these two characters was to tell the other two stories, similar to White Christmas. But we had spent such little time with these two that it feels confusing when she takes a turn of character suddenly.
Also, in the episode, there is a wall of faces that many interwebs believe are the faces of the creators of the show, including the face of creator, Charlie Brooker. AND, Netflix just this week changed it's Black Mirror thumbnail image to the below wall of faces that was in this very episode, Black Museum.