BLACK MIRROR Season 4 (2017)

Review by Derrick Carter

Running Time: 5 hours 48 minutes

Directed by: Toby Haynes, Jodie Foster, John Hillcoat, Tim Van Patten, David Slade & Colm McCarthy

Written by: Charlie Brooker & William Bridges

Starring: Jesse Plemons, Cristin Milioti, Jimmi Simpson, Michaela Coel, Rosemarie DeWitt, Brenna Harding, Owen Teague, Andrea Riseborough, Andrew Gower, Kiran Sonia Sawar, Georgina Campbell, Joe Cole, Gwyneth Keyworth, George Blagden, Maxine Peake, Jake Davies, Clint Dyer, Douglas Hodge, Letitia Wright, Aldis Hodge & Babs Olusanmokun

Over the past seven years, Charlie Brooker’s BLACK MIRROR has gained a large fanbase. After getting seven episodes (two seasons and a holiday special) in the UK, Netflix picked up BLACK MIRROR and granted Charlie Brooker the freedom to make a 12-episode season. Wanting to dedicate more time and care into his new stories, Brooker split this into two six-episode-long seasons. Season 3 made waves in 2017 and won over more fans. After lots of hints and speculation, Netflix dropped BLACK MIRROR Season 4 at the tail-end of 2017! As with all my BLACK MIRROR reviews, I’ll briefly cover each episode before giving my thoughts on the season as a whole…

USS CALLISTER: BLACK MIRROR’s fourth season immediately kicks off with the best episode of the bunch. A woman awakens in a STAR TREK-like universe only to discover that this brightly colored sci-fi adventure isn’t all that it appears to be. What starts off as a campy TREK spoof quickly morphs into something else entirely. I won’t dive into further details for fear of ruining some of the fun, but this is very much a BLACK MIRROR story through and through. The mixture of campy humor and sinister creepiness is a blast to watch, while the production values look extraordinary. This is not only Season 4’s best episode, but I also consider it to be one of the top five episodes of the entire series! A+

ARKANGEL: Season 4’s saddest episode arrives in this cautionary tale about extreme helicopter parenting. After her daughter briefly goes missing and then reappears, a single mother injects experimental technology into her child’s brain so she can monitor her at all times and block potentially harmful content from her eyes. However, this technology begins to backfire as her young daughter shows warning signs of mental distress and things take an ultimate turning point years later. ARKANGEL doesn’t simply lambaste helicopter parents, but also gives an empathetic insight into their concerns. However, it also shows a gripping downward spiral of bad decisions, awful mistakes, and terrifying technology (that honestly doesn’t seem that far off). Though this episode isn’t one of the all-time best, it does stick out as one of the series’ most depressing tales and that’s quite a feat. A

CROCODILE: This seriously bleak ditty follows two different storylines that are bound for tense collision. A woman desperately tries to cover up a dark secret, which involves a couple of skeletons in her closet. Meanwhile, an investigator is hired to look into a car accident and puts clues together from memories of the people who witnessed it. The episode jumps back-and-forth between these two narratives until both main characters are in the same room and bad things happen, very bad things happen. This episode actually had one shocking bit that made my jaw drop and exhibits particularly cruel irony. The darker-than-dark CROCODILE is perfect and one of the season’s biggest highlights! A+

HANG THE DJ: The season’s weakest episode takes a light-hearted sci-fi look at romance. In a future where an automated Siri-like system controls the length of relationships, a couple meet up for 12 hours and fall madly in love with each other. Though the system and rules seem stacked against them, this couple attempts to break and rebel against the broken system. Much like last season’s SAN JUNIPERO (which was a hit among many fans for some reason), HANG THE DJ doesn’t feel like your typically dark BLACK MIRROR episode. The concept behind this episode is cool and there are great bits of comedy, but the pacing lags and the ending is disappointingly stupid. While some folks might consider this to be a great episode, I felt that the light-hearted tone, occasionally slow pacing, and silly twist ending worked against it. It’s not bad, but it’s just okay. B-

METALHEAD: Season 4’s last spot of perfection sticks out from the usual series tropes for a number of reasons. METALHEAD’s plot is very simple. The visuals are shot with a grim black-and-white style, that reminded me a bit of scenes from David Lynch’s ERASERHEAD. The 38-minute running time also makes this the shortest BLACK MIRROR episode so far. All of these unusual qualities turn out to be great benefits because this episode is thick with dread, full of suspense, and gives us a creepy tale of cat-and-mouse. The term dog-and-cat would be more fitting to describe this story though, because it follows a woman who’s desperately trying to survive being pursued by a weaponized robotic dog that just won’t let up. Lots of quiet tension, an unusual monster (inspired by real-life robotic dogs), disturbing visuals, and a bleak atmosphere make this into another perfect episode. A+

BLACK MUSEUM: Season 4 ends on a high note with a mini-anthology episode. A woman stumbles upon the deserted Black Museum (which displays true crime technological memorabilia). Guided by the creepy (and crass) museum owner, we watch three different tales of madness and wonder. With 20 more minutes, this episode might have served as its own crazy sci-fi/horror anthology film. As a BLACK MIRROR episode, it’s a ridiculously entertaining finale to an overall great season. This is basically BLACK MIRROR mixed with TALES FROM THE CRYPT as each of the three stories (and the wraparound segment) all focus on cruel twists of fate, horrific ideas, and scummy people getting what they deserve (alongside innocent casualties). The only flaw that keeps this episode from being perfect comes in a final reveal during the last minute that feels like one twist too many. Still, this is a great episode that I immediately rewatched after it ended.  A-

BLACK MIRROR’s fourth season contains the best batch of episodes since the first season (back in 2011). This season’s structure is particularly strong too as we get a perfect episode, a great episode, another perfect episode, an okay episode, yet another perfect episode, and an almost perfect mini-anthology to cap everything off on a high note. Even the worst episode in this season is okay and more than watchable. If you’re a BLACK MIRROR fan, you’ll likely be delighted by the latest selection of twisted tales. If you haven’t watched an episode of BLACK MIRROR and you dig dark sci-fi anthologies (like TWILIGHT ZONE), then you should binge this series as soon as humanly possible! Here’s hoping that Netflix renews BLACK MIRROR for many more seasons, because this series has never been better!

Grade: A

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