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‘Black Mirror’ Season Four: Highs, Lows and Hidden Details

| Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Andrea Savage | The Observer

It’s 3 a.m. I’m bleary-eyed, slightly disoriented, and I’m pretty sure a small animal could comfortably live inside the mess that is my hair right now. But I’m triumphant: After nearly six hours of textbook binging, I finished season four of “Black Mirror.”

“Black Mirror” is a strange show to binge watch because every episode stands alone. The show generally centers around technology’s impact on the world, and there are countless Easter eggs across the series that fans love to decode, but each episode features entirely new actors, plot lines and settings. You can’t quite get comfortable watching “Black Mirror,” and that seems to be a purposeful artistic choice.

Season four is the show’s second season as a Netflix original series. The six episodes that make it up range from warm and blissful to horrifically dark. This diversity inevitably leads to every “Black Mirror” fan’s favorite question: Which episode was best?

The strongest episodes of the season are undoubtedly the premiere, “USS Callister,” and the finale, “Black Museum.”

Jesse Plemons, of “Friday Night Lights” and “Breaking Bad” fame, stars in “USS Callister” as Robert Daly, an antisocial and ultimately psychopathic computer programmer. Resentful of his coworkers and their apparent apathy towards him, Daly steals DNA in order to digitally recreate his peers and abuse them in a “Star Trek” themed computer game. The costumes and meticulous effect details alone make this episode worth watching, but fans have also flagged the episode as a timely commentary on power relationships and gender issues.

“Black Museum” closes season four on a disturbing but impressive note. The episode centers on the remote museum owned by Rolo Haynes, a specialist in neurological technologies. Many of the artifacts housed in the museum inspire questions about the ethics of technology. The episode’s brilliant twist is arguably one of the most unexpected endings in the entire series.

Another standout episode is “Hang the DJ,” which many have deemed the “San Junipero” of this season. “Hang the DJ” takes place in a world where a computer program called Coach helps individuals find their soulmate. Although this episode lacks the action and danger that traditionally makes “Black Mirror” so addictive, it proves an enjoyable light spot between two of this season’s strangest episodes, “Crocodile” and “Metalhead.”

“Crocodile” is nearly unanimously deemed the worst episode of the season. It follows Mia Nolan as she kills several people and covers up their deaths, all to save her own reputation. The episode’s title is presumably a play on the expression “crocodile tears,” tears that are insincere or fake. “Crocodile” is the show’s first gratuitously violent episode and only loosely uses technology in its plot line.

The shortest episode of the season is “Metalhead,” which seems to have garnered some mixed opinions. “Metalhead” is shot entirely in black and white and illustrates a post-apocalyptic world where surviving humans are terrorized by killer robot dogs. The premise, while interesting, provides very little background. The episode feels more removed than its companions. These observations are seen as strengths to some, however, and it could be argued that “Metalhead” is innovative from an artistic point of view.

Perhaps the most lukewarm episode of the season is “Arkangel,” an episode about an overbearing mother’s misuse of technology. The technology is fascinating, but the plot fails to realize its potential.

“Black Mirror” continues to include Easter eggs in nearly every episode, with “Anyone Who Knows What Love Is (Will Understand)” by Irma Thomas appearing once again this season. Season finale “Black Museum” is the culmination of previous Easter eggs — the museum’s artifact cases contained references to nearly every episode in the series.

If you enjoy binging as much as I do, all four seasons of “Black Mirror” are available on Netflix now. Try to find all the cleverly hidden references as you watch, and decide for yourself: Which are episodes stand out and which fall flat?

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About Maggie Walsh

Maggie is a senior studying Anthropology and Irish Studies. She is assistant station manager at WVFI, Notre Dame's student-run radio station.

Contact Maggie